Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (2024)

Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (1)

To make my cast iron pans, skillets, and pots non-stick, I follow a two-step process. First, give my cookware a proper cleaning. Second, season cast iron the right way.

I’ve done this process of cleaning and re-seasoning cast iron cookware many times before. Follow along with this guide, and I’ll explain in detail why your pans are still sticky after seasoning and what you can do to fix it.

Keep reading if you want to learn:

  • Why is your cast iron sticky after seasoning
  • How to fix sticky cast iron after seasoning
  • Additional notes

Why is Your Cast Iron Sticky After Seasoning

Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (2)

The only reason why your cast iron is sticky after seasoning is because you seasoned it the wrong way. A well-seasoned pan has a smooth surface, and it doesn’t feel sticky even though it has a layer of oil on it.

So what you need to do first is give your cast iron cookware a proper clean since it’s still sticky after seasoning. Here’s an article on how to clean a cast-iron skillet if you don’t know how to take care of your cookware. Second, season it using the methods described below.

But first, let’s identify what caused your pans to become sticky in the first place:

You are using too much oil

One of the main reasons why your cast iron cookware became sticky in the first place is because you used too much oil when seasoning.

When there’s a thick layer of oil on the surface of cast iron, your cookware becomes sticky. The only way to fix this issue is to clean and re-season your pans and pots all over again.

Your aim is to have a smooth, mirror-like surface both on the interior and exterior of your cookware. A thin and smooth layer will create a non-stick coating that will prevent food from burning.

After you are done with the re-seasoning, take your pan and test it out if it is still sticky. Fry an egg. If it sticks to the pan, it means something went wrong. Move on to the next cause explained below.

You are using the wrong oil

If your cast iron cookware is still sticky after seasoning, it’s likely because you’re using the wrong oil for seasoning it.

According to the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, you should avoid using saturated fats.

Suppose you intend to use butter or olive oil for baking your cast iron. It’s not the best option. Both burn easily at low temperatures, and that is not ideal for seasoning. It will leave residue on the cookware, which will become sticky.

There is plenty of other neutral oil you can use, but more on that later in the section on how to fix cast iron pan from sticking.

You didn’t apply enough heat when baking your cast iron cookware

One of the reasons why your cast iron cookware is sticky it’s because you baked it at the wrong temperature. Most likely at a lower temperature than it should.

To create a seal, you need to bake cast iron in the oven at a high temperature. This will make the oil polymerize. This process will create a nice thin non-stick layer of oil.

You didn’t bake your cast iron cookware as much as it needs

If you don’t let cast iron bake for long enough, it can cause stickiness. It doesn’t matter if you used the right amount of oil or if you used the right type of oil. It would be best if you let it sit in the oven for at least an hour.

If you want to create a seal, you need to follow the proper steps to prevent cast iron from stickiness. And baking your cookware long enough is one of those steps.

The right amount of oil, correct temperature, and time spent baking are three main factors to good seasoning. Later in the article, I’ll explain to you how to correct this issue.

You are seasoning on a stovetop when you should be using the oven

Yes, you can season cast iron cookware on a stovetop, but I don’t recommend you do that unless you have experience with that.

The seasoning on the stovetop may seem more manageable, but actually, it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s challenging if you’re doing it for the first time.

I recommend you bake your cast iron cookware in the oven to avoid uneven seasoning.

When seasoning on the stovetop, the bottom of the cookware heats up first. It creates an uneven seasoning process which is terrible, especially for pots and skillets.

In the restaurant, I used to season some of my pans on the stovetop. I did that because I used these pans for the only purpose, like pan-frying a steak. Other than that I highly recommend you to pop it in the oven and don’t worry about it.

How to Fix Sticky Cast Iron After Seasoning

Since you know what can cause your cast iron to become sticky, we need to fix it. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around it. You’ll have to wash your cookware first since your first seasoning did not yield the wanted results. Only then can we move on to apply oil and bake it in the oven. Follow these steps below to avoid sticky cast iron pans.

1. Clean Your Sticky Cast Iron Pan

Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (3)

Yes, you’re going to need to clean your sticky cast iron pan first. Only then, move on to seasoning your cookware. This step is crucial since your first attempt didn’t create a proper seal. You ended up with a sticky layer on top of your cast iron cookware, and that must be cleaned.

So here’s what you need to clean a pan:

  • steel wool or a stiff brush
  • Kosher salt
  • Rubber gloves
  • A paper towel or a clean, dry cloth

Instructions on how to clean your sticky cast iron cookware:

  1. Soak your pan in hot soapy water for at least 10 minutes,
  2. Remove the water,
  3. Add a few tablespoons of kosher salt.
  4. Scour cast iron until all fat is removed
  5. Rinse cookware under warm water
  6. Use a clean towel or clean, dry cloth to dry it out
  7. Put the pan on a stovetop over medium heat for three to five minutes to remove any excess moisture.

2. Use a Small Amount of Neutral Oil to Season Cast Iron

The best way to avoid thick layer building on cast iron surfaces is to apply a small amount of oil. This will prevent your cookware from becoming sticky.

Some oils are more suited than others to use for seasoning. As I mention before, I highly suggest you avoid saturated fats. Olive oil or melted butter is not suitable for cast iron, so make sure to avoid it.

Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (4)

Here are the best oils to use for seasoning:

  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Linseed (flax) oil
  • Canola (rapeseed) oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Refined coconut oil

Instruction on how to apply oil to the cast iron:

  1. Pour a few tablespoons of your chosen neutral oil into the cereal bowl
  2. Take a clean, dry cloth and dip it carefully into the bowl filled with oil
  3. Rub it onto the surface of your cast iron both to the interior and exterior.

3. Bake Cast Iron in The Oven

At this point, you should have your cast iron clean, and the oil should be applied to the cookware.

Remember, do not cut corners. Use the oven to season your cookware properly. Yes, it takes more time to season using this method, but the results are much better.

Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (5)

Instructions on how to bak cast iron in the oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place a tray lined with aluminum foil on the bottom rack
  3. Place your cast iron cookware on a middle oven rack upside down. A tray is going to catch any oil dripping from cast iron
  4. Bake it for an hour
  5. Take out your cookware and let it cool
  6. Again repeat the process of applying oil and baking another two times

These steps are essential to prevent your cast iron pans from becoming sticky after seasoning. If you don’t have enough time to spend on seasoning your pans, properly plan your time ahead. It’s going to take at least three hours to do it properly.

Additional Notes

  • If you seasoned your pan correctly and you don’t want to mess it up, there are certain ingredients you want to avoid. Acidic ingredients such as tomatoes and wine can be harmful to your cast iron cookware.

The Bottom Line

As we can see, there are several reasons why your cast iron cookware is sticky after seasoning. But that should not discourage you from using it. Try to identify what could have caused your pans to become sticky. And make sure to follow along with my guide. It’s a sure way to season your cookware correctly.

Fix Your Sticky Cast Iron Cookware With This 2-step Process (2024)


How do you fix a sticky cast iron pan? ›

If the seasoning in your pan is sticky, this is a sign of excess oil built up on the cookware. The Fix: To remedy stickiness, place the cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven and bake at 450-500 degrees F for one hour. Allow to cool and repeat if necessary.

Why does my cast iron skillet have a sticky residue? ›

It sounds like you used too much fat or oil when seasoning your skillet. Once you apply the oil, you want to wipe all of it off so that only the thinnest layer remains. (Note that Jeff Rogers' technique for seasoning cast iron recommends you wipe the excess oil off twice.)

How do you strip a cast iron skillet without an oven cleaner? ›

  1. Fill your container with a 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water. ...
  2. Place the cast iron in the vinegar solution for no more than 30 minutes. ...
  3. Remove from the vinegar and scrub with steel wool and/or a steel brush while rinsing.
  4. Repeat as necessary, but not for longer than 30 minutes at a time.

What oil for cast iron seasoning? ›

All cooking oils and fats can be used for seasoning cast iron, but based on availability, affordability, effectiveness, and having a high smoke point, Lodge recommends vegetable oil, melted shortening, or canola oil, like our Seasoning Spray.

Can I use steel wool on cast iron? ›

Do not use scouring pads or steel wool on cast iron skillets as these will remove the seasoning. Dry the skillet immediately with a clean rag or paper towel to prevent rust. Do not let your cast iron skillet air dry. Lightly oil the skillet using a small amount of your high temp oil on a paper towel once it is dry.

Can you overheat cast iron? ›

Don't overheat it. Sticking your skillet into a roaring fire might seem like a good way to heat it up in a hurry, but overheating or uneven heating can cause your skillet to take on a permanent warp, or even crack. Same goes for pouring cold water into a red-hot pan. Don't do it.

Why is there black residue when I wipe my cast iron pan? ›

The black residue on a cast iron skillet isn't harmful; it's just a part of cooking with a cast iron pan. A black seasoned coating shouldn't rub off easily or affect the food, as it should form a useful non-stick surface for cooking. If residue starts to build up, however, this can affect your cooking.

Can you use Dawn to clean a cast iron skillet? ›

It is totally fine on enameled cast iron, and on plain cast iron, too. It's not going to destroy your seasoning. With enameled cast iron, you're done: Wash and dry.

Does vinegar strip cast iron? ›

The vinegar solution will dissolve the rust, but once that's gone, it can penetrate further and start eating away at the original cast surface of the pan, the ultimate death sentence for your skillet.

Will baking soda and vinegar clean a cast iron skillet? ›

Make a paste of six tablespoons baking soda and three tablespoons of water. Scrub down the pan with steel wool. Add vinegar and scrub some more to get rid of all the rust. Rinse with warm water, then wipe down completely.

Does vegetable oil make cast iron sticky? ›

Cause #1: Too Much Oil Will Make The Surface Sticky

If you've just finished re-seasoning your cast iron skillet and it feels sticky to the touch, this is a simple sign that you've used too much oil. You need a surprisingly small amount of oil to get the job done properly.

How much oil do you use to season cast iron? ›

You'll only need about ⅛ teaspoon of oil to season your cooking surface, but you want to start with more, to make sure you have even coverage before wiping away any excess. Use a clean paper towel to rub the oil in concentric circles, then take a fresh paper towel and wipe up all the residue.

How do you fix uneven seasoning on cast iron? ›

Splotchy, patchy, or uneven cast iron is caused by using too much oil during the seasoning process. To fix it, scour the pan with steel wool to remove old seasoning. Wash and dry the pan. Apply a thin layer of oil, wipe the pan down with a towel, and heat it in the oven at 500 degrees for an hour.


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