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Sticky cast iron after seasoning

I just seasoned my cast iron skillet with veg oil for an hour in a 400 oven. I took it out this morning and it's sticky everywhere instead of smooth. What's the deal? What did I do wrong and how to fix it?

asked by CanadaDan over 2 years ago
8 answers 36308 views
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added over 2 years ago

The seasoning is the result of the oil polymerizing and becoming hard. If the oil is sticky, the polymerization isn't complete. That is caused by one or more of the following:

1. Using too much oil (thin layers are best).
2. Too low a temperature.
3. Not enough time.

Warm the pan and and wipe off the sticky residue (it may just wipe off when the pan is heated; if not, scour it off with salt and a paper towel). Season again, using just enough oil to lightly coat the pan. You might try a higher oven temperature and longer time in the oven than your first attempt.

Here's a useful site on the science of cast-iron seasoning.


Amanda recommends using organic flaxseed oil (expensive!) but the method works with canola and other oils as well.

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amysarah is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

Great link! I have several of my grandmother's old cast iron skillets, all in need of re-seasoning, but I've never found directions that clear before. Also helps to know the science behind it. I'm glad that far less costly canola oil works. In her previous post (re removing the crud/rust,) she uses avocado oil for cleaning. Can you suggest another less costly oil for that as well? (Given how traditional it is, there must be a lot of people with cast iron pans, but less durable wallets.)

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

Amysarah, in case you are a Costco shopper, they have Chosen Foods 100% non gmo 34oz avocado oil for $10.69. It's $24 on Amazon and even more at Whole Foods. It's a great avo oil.

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Stephanie Bourgeois

Stephanie is the Head Recipe Tester of Food52.

added over 2 years ago

Sounds like it may have just been a bit too much oil. You can try putting it back in the oven for an hour but the stickiness should lessen by washing it in hot water.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

Charlotte and Stephanie are right on. The link to the Canter method is my bible of seasoning. Once your seasoning is polymerized, your pan will be heavenly and the "don't use soap or water on CI" won't apply. Kenji from Serious Eats writes about the wives tales of CI as well as Canter.

Just a thought...you didn't use spray on oil did you?

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added over 2 years ago

nope regular veg oil. i'll try a higher temp, maybe 450 for an hour and a half. having some trouble getting the sticky stuff off but i'll wash (yes, with soap) a few more times and see what happens. salt didn't seem to help...thanks everyone

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trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

Like the other posters suggest, probably too much oil. Usually the instructions (some pans have seasoning instructions molded into the bottom) say to wipe the excess oil out of the pan as it's cooling (between cool enough to touch but still quite warm). You can warm the pan back up and wipe out the oil before your next cooking.

I'm not a big fan of seasoning at such a high temperature. This is mostly because I season with oils that have a low smoke temperature (like olive or grapeseed). I usually season between 250 to 300 for 1 hour, wipe out the excess oil, leave the pan in the warm but off oven overnight to cool. If I'm using lard or other animal fat, I might go to 400, depending on the fat. Personally, I'm not a fan of CANOLA and other more modern oils and try to cook with oils that can grow in my local climate (even if we don't grow olives here commercially, they do grow quite well in my garden)

But I'm going from personal experience, there are a lot of 'proper ways' to season cast iron, but then again, there are also a lot of 'proper ways' to bake bread. Many of these proper ways have wonderful scientific analysis (which personally I adore) but when it comes down to it, it's your kitchen and your pan. Find something that works for you and stick with it.

Of course, if you have a pan that needs just a quick fix on it's seasoning, you can do my favourite thing which is to fry a bunch of bacon, then fry onions in the remaining fat. Or onions slow fried in excess of olive oil for a more vegetarian approach.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

If you don't season at a high temp, you won't end up with polymerized fat which is the true seasoning of cast iron. Bacon is cured with sugar, so it's not good for seasoning. I use beef tallow or pork lard from pastured animals. If you haven't read the Canter method linked above, you should. It's right up your DIY alley. :)

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