Seasoning cast iron skillet: what went wrong edition
August 9, 2015 2:01 PM   Subscribe

I used the oil and bake method here. I let it dry overnight. This morning I pulled it out and there are some areas that are sticky and some that are just dull. Please assume I followed the directions as outlined. What could have gone wrong and how do I redo it? Thank you.
posted by harrietthespy to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Usually this is not a thin enough coat of oil which is the sticky patches. It may b that your pan isn't totally flat and oil collected in places. You can just do it again and this time use less oil than you even think you need (you can always season it a second time). I've had cast iron my whole life (and paging mudpuppie who basically lives and breathes this stuff) and I find their assertion that a skillet will wind up "shiny" to be a little ... well it's not what I think of as shiny. Their picture looks right but I have in the past used too much oil and wound up with the sticky patches you've described.
posted by jessamyn at 2:07 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think that method is likely to work very well, because the temperature is too low. To season the pan, you need to polymerize some oil. You are definitely not going polymerize vegetable oil at 325F. It also sounds like you may have had too thick of a coat of oil and then it gathered in some areas and left others bare.

This article recommends 450F, others recommend even higher.
posted by ssg at 2:09 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think it's you're fault, that link gives a pretty terrible way to season cast iron. What you're trying to do is polymerize oil to get a very hard, very thin shell that fills up the pores in the metal and creates a more even surface. To do this, you need need to heat the oil above its smoke point and do it in very thin layers - like you should wipe on the oil and then wipe it all out before you heat it, either at high heat on the stovetop or at more like 450f in your oven. For now just scrub the pan with soap, heat gently to make sure it's bone dry, and then use lard or a "drying" oil like flax seed in a very thin application. Do two thin cycles and then keep cooking oily things.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:13 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here is the method that I used to season cast iron I got about a year ago. It's worked quite well.

Preheat your oven to 200F. Put the skillet in and let it until it's heated through. Pull it out and turn the oven up to 450F-500F. Rub in flax seed oil with paper towels. There shouldn't be any pooling of oil. To make extra sure you may want to put some foil on the bottom of the oven and put the skillet in upside down. Bake it at 450-500 for an hour, then turn the oven off and let it sit until cool. To really get a good coat on do this 2-3 times.

Like peachfuzz says, this will set up a thin, hard layer of polymerized oil which is what you're going for. Preheating the skillet to 200F before applying the oil helps to open up the pores in the iron, allowing a better application of the oil.
posted by lharmon at 2:24 PM on August 9, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Doing it upside down, with a big enough pan (pizza pans tend to work especially well) underneath to catch drips, is the easiest way to prevent pooling. And yes, 325 is too low. The Kitchn is fine for some things, but if you want science look to Kenji Lopez-Alt and his cast iron summary which basically includes the advice to mostly just use the pan, if you want a good season on it.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also agreeing with peachfuzz. But as I have recently been struggling with two new pans, and wondering why, I realized that the most important thing about my wonderful well-seasoned wok and my ancient cast-iron le Creuset braiser is that I used them - almost every day and for everything. Once, a well-meaning house-guest cleaned the wok up completely to the raw steel, and thus ruined a decade of seasoning. Apart from wiping it with an oily cloth and heating it to the smoking point once, the only thing I did was to cook in it, and after 3 months, it was back to normal. Now, after another decade of use, it's a treasure.

When you buy new pans, they are treated with a mineral oil you don't want to eat. So that needs to go off. Then, you need to season it. But don't worry. Don't worry about lumps, color, texture or anything. Everything will be good if you use your pan regularly for the first couple of months. After that, you can relax. Back when I got my wok, and then later the braiser, I didn't have a lot of pans, but I did a lot of cooking. I used the wok for stir-fries, but also for bolognese sauce and for hamburgers and steaks. I used the big braiser for everything you can imagine as long as 20 people were eating it (I cooked for parties to supplement my income) Now, I am struggling with my new pans because I have too many options. They are sitting in the cupboard and gathering dust because I am lucky enough to be able to choose the optimal cook-ware for whatever I'm cooking. So my plan now is to introduce a three-month dogma for each of the new pans, using them for most cooking until they are properly seasoned.
posted by mumimor at 3:09 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Everyone above has good tips that you should follow. You also want to basically wipe ALL of the oil off before you put the pan in the oven. You want it to look dry. The oil is still there -- promise -- but if you can see it, you've used too much.

I like to use blue shop paper towels that you can get at the hardware store for this. Regular ones can leave lint behind. Some people advise using coffee filters, but I find the blue paper towels to work the best.

Even after a few rounds of seasoning in the oven, you're going to be building up that nonstick coating over time as you cook in them, so don't expect complete perfection in the beginning.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:11 PM on August 9, 2015

Best answer: PS: You want to scrub the sticky stuff off before starting the seasoning process again. Don't bake it in! You can use a scotch brite pad, and it will take some elbow grease to get it off.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:12 PM on August 9, 2015

Best answer: Ps- failing flax oil, soybean oil is pretty good. That's what they use in Crisco cooking oil, and you can find that almost anywhere in the US.

Lodge pans, by the way, are seasoned with a soybean oil mix, and are ready to use- to the extent that a modern Lodge pan's pebbly cheap surface will ever be ready to use.
posted by wotsac at 3:55 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all great answers. Thank you!
posted by harrietthespy at 3:59 PM on August 9, 2015

Best answer: In my experience, the oven part just gives a starting point, but the really good seasoning comes from use, especially cooking things like bacon or steaks. I'd keep my expectations low for the initial seasoning (once you solve the too much oil issue, of course).
posted by Dip Flash at 4:47 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Did you bake it upside down or rightside up? You gotta do it upside down, with a larger pan or tinfoil beneath to catch any drips.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:32 AM on August 11, 2015

I have my Mom's cast iron pans. I use them a lot, rarely season them. I scrub with a metal scrubbie if necessary, but cast iron is slightly porous, so if I use any detergent at all, it's quite sparingly. If a pan gets dry and/or rusty, I make something oily or greasy, mostly bacon, because then the cast iron works better and I have tasty bacon. My point is: you don't have to be fussy or worry about it.
posted by theora55 at 2:20 PM on August 11, 2015

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