Cast iron is praised by chefs, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. The stuff lasts for ages and is supposed to be non-stick if seasoned. But sometimes, even after seasoning, cast iron is sticky. You haven’t even tried to cook with it yet; it’s just icky. So what can you do to repair the stickiness after seasoning?
If your cast iron is sticky after seasoning, then too much oil was used. One remedy is to bake it for about an hour again without adding new oil. Another fix is to clean it first before re-baking. If you don’t use dish soap with your cast iron, consider using kosher salt as a scouring agent.
Cast iron is cast iron, except it isn’t all the same. Not only have manufacturing techniques changed over the years, but there are also variations in making the alloy.
So yes, your cast iron might be sticky due because you used too much oil. But it can also be because your tried and true seasoning method isn’t working for this cast iron piece. Some need to be hot when oiled.
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How to Fix Sticky Cast Iron Cookware
We have already ascertained that the main reason cast iron is sticky is that it has too much excess oil. If you try to cook with sticky cast iron, your food will be cooked, but it will also stick to the pan.
It will also make it harder to clean cast iron and the surface of the iron will blacken and char more. These easy fixes will have you using your cast iron effectively and very quickly with no fuss.
Bake Sticky Cast Iron Pan
The best way to fix a very sticky skillet or cast iron pan that has become sticky is to bake it. High temperatures are seasoned cast iron’s best friend. How hot should sicky cast iron pans be baked?
- Your oven should be turned up to between 400 – 500 F (204.4-260 C)
- Place the pan upside down on the top rack of the oven
- Leave it in there for a good hour
- Once finished, do not immediately remove the cast iron. Instead, leave it in the oven with the door cracked so it can slowly cool down
- Repeat the process if it is still sticky
Re Season a Cast Iron Skillet When It Is Sticky
If you cooked with your sticky cast iron pan, or it remains sticky after re-baking, then the wisest thing to do is not to throw it away but re-season your pan. Before plunging it into more oil or the oven, give it a good scrub before beginning the seasoning process.
How to Clean Sticky Cast Iron Skillet
Some find hot water and soap enough. Others need to lightly scour with steel wool. You can scrub with or without soap. Although these days, most people do use a small amount of soap to clean cast iron.
Another popular scouring agent for cast iron is kosher salt. The reason kosher salt makes a better souring agent than table salt is the size and shape of the flake. Or, according to Popular Mechanics, if the situation is truly dire, use a chain-mail scrubber (also very useful to get all the oil rust off).
Once you have finished removing all the sticky oil residue, black residue, any lingering food, and rust, you must make sure your cast iron is completely dry before seasoning.
Make sure you use a thin lay of oil applied with a paper towel. For a standard cast-iron skillet, the size of a quarter will do.
However, if the cast iron piece is a new pan to you, you might want to change your seasoning technique. For some, it is the type of oil. For others, you need to heat the cast iron pan first before applying the oil.
The initial seasoning of cast iron cookware is extremely important, especially from acidic foods, cooking liquids, and moisture. Learn how to protect the surface of the pan (the entire pan inside and out) in this article How to Season New Cast Iron Cookware.
Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron
Cast iron needs to be well seasoned with a neutral oil with a high smoke point. A lot of people use vegetable oil or canola oil because it is already too hard. However, some chefs are swearing to organic flaxseed oil. They say it gives a finish like using old-fashioned lard (when pigs forged, rather than fatten in feedlots) due to the high omega- 3 fatty acids.
After coating it with oil, wait a few minutes, then buff as much excess oil off before popping it in the oven.
Should you use olive oil to season cast iron? Olive oil’s smoking point is not high enough to react with the cast iron to produce a smooth surface, choose an oil to withstand a very high temperature and smoking point.
Not all “good oils” are equal when it comes to cast iron seasoning and providing the iron with a protective layer. You do not want to use the wrong type of oil, extra oil, or not enough heat. We hear about bacon grease, coconut oil, and peanut oil, but which should you choose? This article Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron will help you understand which oils are best for a cast iron cooking surface.
How Hot Should Cast Iron Be When You Season Your Cast Iron
Cast Iron Temperatures: When Does Cast Iron Seasoning Start to Break Down?
The seasoning on a cast iron pan is essentially a thin layer of polymerized oil. This layer can start to break down at high temperatures, but the exact temperature can vary based on the type of seasoning oil and other factors. Here’s a general guideline:
- Smoke Point of the Oil: The seasoning’s stability is often related to the smoke point of the oil used. Once the temperature surpasses the smoke point, the oil can start to break down. Common oils used for seasoning and their approximate smoke points are:
- Flaxseed oil: 225°F (107°C)
- Coconut oil: 350°F (177°C)
- Vegetable shortening: 360°F (182°C)
- Lard: 370°F (188°C)
- Olive oil (extra virgin): 375°F (190°C)
- Canola oil: 400°F (204°C)
- Grapeseed oil: 420°F (216°C)
- Sunflower oil: 440°F (227°C)
- Peanut oil: 450°F (232°C)
- Avocado oil: 520°F (271°C)
- Temperature Range: While the smoke point provides a reference, the seasoning on cast iron typically starts to break down at temperatures around 500°F (260°C) to 600°F (316°C).
- Other Factors: The thickness of the layer of seasoning, the age of the seasoning, and how well it was initially polymerized can also influence its resilience to high temperatures.
Be cautious when using a cast iron skillet under broilers or on grills, where temperatures can quickly exceed these limits. If the seasoning does break down, the pan can be re-seasoned to restore its non-stick properties.
Learn about How Often Should Cast Iron Be Seasoned in my in-depth article.
Should I Cook With a Sticky Cast Iron Pan?
Cooking with cast iron offers many benefits, but if you feel your pan is sticky, it’s a sign you need to season your pan again. It’s not advisable to cook with sticky cast iron, as food can adhere and burn more easily.
A sticky surface can also affect the flavor and texture of your dishes. Before you continue cooking with cast iron, ensure you clean a sticky cast iron thoroughly and re-season it to restore its optimal cooking properties.
Why Is Cast Iron Not All the Same?
Cast iron is an alloy of iron. Like baking a cake, the exact process and quantities of the ingredients vary to make cast iron. For example, cast iron can contain anywhere from 2 to 4 percent carbon.
There is also silicon, and the amounts added impact its hardness. Even the amount of heat used when creating it will determine its malleability.
Also, the age of the cast iron cookware makes a difference. Cast iron cookware used to be produced by a method called sand casting. You can see this process broken down by clicking here. For cookware, once the item was finished, it was hand sanded until it was smooth.
However, this changed in the 1960s when Wells Manufacturing Co began manufacturing cast iron. The machining process is different from sand casting, allowing cast iron to be cheaper, but it also results in a slightly textured surface.
In my article, Dutch Oven History you will learn more about the history of cast iron cookware.
Is Antique Cast Iron Cookware Better Than Modern Cast Iron?
If you ever want to ignite an internet fight that has nothing to do with politics, declare modern cast iron superior to antique. There will be some that agree with you. Then there will be people who will hunt you down, wielding their great-grandmother’s Griswold skillet.
Those that think modern cast iron is just as good blame people’s seasoning techniques and buying poor-quality cast-iron cookware. They may have a point. After all, the antique cast iron still in use tends to be the high-quality brands, such as Griswold, that have stood the test of time.
Quality antique cast iron in good condition can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. But if you are willing to scrub for your life and season like a boss, you might have great luck reviving an inexpensive antique that’s not looking its best. Of course, it will take some serious labor, but perhaps embrace the chain-mail scrubber to help you out.
Click on each image to check out the products as well as other styles, colors, prices, and what others have to say…
Beloved Modern Cast Iron Brands
If the modern cast iron you got for three bucks is not serving you well, consider upgrading to a more beloved brand when finances allow.
Recommended modern cast iron brands include:
FINEX is ultra-modern seasoned cast iron that is considered heirloom cookware. What does that mean? If you care for it the piece will be handed down through generations.
It features a unique shape, coiled pot handles, and branded lid knob and it is seasoned in the factory with flaxseed oil. Finex Cast Iron is Made in the USA.
Lancaster Cast Iron
Don’t be fooled by the color and the lightweight of Lancaster cast iron cookware it really is seasoned cast iron and can be used exactly the same way as traditional cast iron.
The color will darken with use and can be used on all heat sources including campfires. Made in the USA read more about this lightweight cast iron by clicking the image above.
Some modern cast iron can’t be put under a broiler or has problems with temperatures over 400 F (204.4 C). The better cast iron can handle intense heat and will happily sit under a broiler.
So do some research when buying modern cast iron. However, no cast iron, even the kind that arrives pre-seasoned, will do well unless appropriately seasoned.
Lodge Cast Iron
The Iconic brand Lodge is still manufactured on US soil. The brand has spent decades perfecting its products. Lodge Manufacturing was the brand that started the trend of seasoning cast iron products before they leave the plant.
This seasoning process is today’s standard practice. Lodge has its own secret blend of seasoning that is applied to every piece of cast iron cookware before shipping. Check Lodge cast iron by clicking the image above or head over and check out my in-depth Lodge Review.
Want to support our country by buying products made at home? Check out my list of Cast Iron Cookware made in the USA.
Smithy Cast Iron
Another USA-made cast iron manufacturer is Smithy. Their cast iron is also a unique color and will darken with use. Note the smooth polished finish still needs proper seasoning but helps food release and resist burning. To see more about Smithy cast iron cookware click the image above.
To Finish – Cast Iron Sticky After Seasoning (How to Fix Sticky Cast Iron)
Cast iron cookware is more than just a way to make your food taste better. It’s also an investment in the future and in quality time spent cooking with family and friends.
The reasons why you have residue on your cast iron and some seasoning tricks that work better for certain cookware are numerous.
It depends on how you cook, what you cook with, altitude, climate, the age of your cast iron, or even the composite of the cast iron alloy. All these minor variables can impact the way your cast iron interacts with the world.
Whether you’re looking for antique cast iron or modern, it will only work if properly cared for and seasoned before use.
I hope this guide on how to season cast iron to avoid a sticky or tacky surface has helped you get started caring for your own kitchen and camping treasures!
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