Why Is Cast Iron Pan Sticky After Seasoning? – 5 Common Reasons

Did you notice that your cast iron pan’s surface is getting a bit sticky? Is this happening before you even got the chance to cook something in it?

Then, it is obvious that the seasoning is contributing to the stickiness of the cast iron skillet.

Sometimes, improper seasoning methods can cause a sticky layer to form. Do not continue to cook with a sticky cast iron pan.

Not only will the dishes not come out cooked right, but you will get excess residue stuck to the pan and may have to re-season it all over again.

It is a good idea to set it aside, stop the seasoning process if you notice the stickiness during it, and start to look for the major causes.

Why Your Cast Iron Pan is Sticky? – 5 Reasons

A well-seasoned cast-iron pan has a mirror-like sheen to it and feels extremely smooth to the touch. Even though it has oil on it, this is not discernable nor does it feel sticky to the touch.

Therefore, what you need to do is figure out what went wrong in the seasoning to make your cast iron pan sticky.

In our opinion, the following are the main issues that can make a cast iron pan sticky after you have seasoned it:

You Used Too Much Oil

One of the main reasons why your cast iron pan can be sticky, especially right after you seasoned is because you used too much oil.

When you have too much oil, it is not getting cooked properly when you are heating the cast iron pan.

The aim when applying oil is to have a thin layer of oil on the surface. Think of it like laminating the seasoning with the oil, layer by layer. That is why seasoning also involves applying oil and baking the pan at least two to three times.

Additionally, when you have a thin layer of oil, it absorbs oxygen better and forms a better seal on the pan.

With a thicker layer, the oil does not absorb oxygen and transforms into a sticky, congealed, or hardened mess. You will then have to scrape this off and restart the process of seasoning.

How to Correct This

A good way to avoid this from happening is to bake your pan upside down in the oven. This means that you layer it with oil first and then place it upside down in the oven and let it bake.

Any excess oil will simply drip off the pan as you cook it. Make sure to add a baking tray underneath the rack to catch the excess oil.

You Used the Wrong Oil

Sometimes, your pan may get sticky because you used the wrong type of oil.

Not all oils are made equally and certain oils are not suited for the high temperatures that you have to use to bake the pan. In this case, you should reconsider the oil you are using.

A common mistake that many people make is to opt for olive oil. Unfortunately, olive oil has a very low smoke point and it will burn easily.

This will leave a black residue on the pan and cause it to become sticky. This is why you need to be mindful of the oils you use.

How to Correct This

Luckily, you do not have to opt for any specialty oils; you can make use of the following different options:

  • Peanut Oil – Smoke Point – 450 degrees – Peanut oil is a good choice because it is not only easily available but also has a neutral flavor. This means you will not have any issues with taste transference with the pan. It also makes a good seal and does not burn as easily as olive oil.
  • Canola Oil – Smoke Point – 400 degrees – This is another oil that is readily available in the market. Good quality canola oil also has a neutral flavor that lends it well for use as a seasoning oil. It also contains a lot of healthy fatty acids that absorb oxygen well and create a good seal.
  • Coconut Oil – Smoke Point – 450 degrees –Coconut oil is a good choice as it is extremely healthy, containing a lot of healthy fatty acids. Much like with canola oil and peanut oil, it can be easily found in the supermarket. Despite the smell, when cooked at high temperatures, coconut oil does not have a scent or a taste that lingers.
Note: Please be mindful of food allergies for you and your loved ones when you are picking a food oil to season your pan with. Many people have nut allergies and even trace amounts of oils can be an issue for them.
Also read: Best Oils to Season Cast Iron skillets

You Didn’t Apply Enough Heat

Another reason why your cast iron pan has become sticky after it is seasoned is that you did not apply the right heat temperature when you are cooking the pan.

Cast iron pans need to be popped in the oven and effectively baked in order for the oil to create a seasoning seal.

The high heat and temperature also encourage the oil to polymerize or harden properly. However, at the wrong temperature, this will mean that the oil is unable to do so.

The result of this will be that you only create a sticky, messy layer that will not protect the pan properly.

How to Correct This

The best way to correct this is by making sure to heat your cast iron pan at a temperature of 350 degrees F or higher.

Be mindful of baking at a higher temperature since many oils have a smoke point of 400 to 450 degrees F.

You can also increase the chances of getting the right temperature by allowing your oven to preheat for 15 to 20 minutes before you place your pan inside it.

Note: While cast-iron pans are completely oven-safe, make sure you’re not putting the pans with handles made of plastic or silicone or any other material that can not handle high heat.

You Didn’t Leave it In the Oven for Long

Not leaving your cast iron pan in the oven for too long can also contribute to causing stickiness in the pan.

In this scenario, even if you have the right oil and the right temperature, if you do not give the oil a chance to polymerize, you will only get a sticky seal on your pan.

The right temperature and the cooking time will both contribute to helping the oil create a seal. Plus, you have to leave it in the oven for the correct cook time every single time.

If you are looking for shortcuts, this is not the area where you want to cut corners.

How to Correct It

If you want to cook your pan correctly, you have to make sure that you leave it to bake in the oven for an hour.

Then, you have to give it another hour to cool down properly before you apply the oil for the next layer. This step will have to be repeated twice or thrice so it can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours or longer.

This is why you have to be very patient when it comes to seasoning. In fact, many people recommend that you dedicate an entire day, just to season the pan. A properly seasoned pan is definitely worth the time effort that you put into it.

You are Seasoning on the Stovetop

This is an issue that many people do not consider when it comes to seasoning the pan but the stickiness could be happening because of the cooking method you are using.

Based on your expertise, you could be cooking it improperly. While you can season it on the oven or the stovetop, the stovetop method can be a bit challenging, especially if you are seasoning the pan for the first time.

In fact, baking in the oven is recommended so that you are able to cook the pan and allow it to come to temperature and evenly from all sides.

With the stovetop cooking method, the bottom of the pan heats up first and then the sides. This can lead to an uneven seal to form on the seasoning. In this case, you will see sticky residue and bubbles forming.

How to Correct It

To correct it, you can either salvage the layer or wash it and try to season it again with some oil.

Then this time, you should try it in the oven to avoid any mistakes and to ensure that the cast iron pan is cooked at an even temperature.

Now that you know the reasons behind why your cast iron pan is sticky after seasoning it, you can avoid the mistakes and season it properly.

How to Correct the Stickiness of Cast Iron Pan After Seasoning

After you discover the cause, you can make sure to avoid it in the future.

However, it is a good idea to learn what to do to correct the stickiness. Luckily, you have two easy options that you can use for your cast iron pan.

Salvaging with Salt

This method involves using a salt and water paste to gently scrub the pan and remove the first layer from it.

All you have to do is take a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt and add it to the pan. Add some water, and stir until it forms a paste. Use a cloth and give the pan a gentle scrubbing.

Now, rinse it with water and then wait for it to dry properly before you attempt to oil it and season it again.

Restarting the Process

In some cases, the stickiness might have been too large or kept coming back, even after the salt scrub.

If that happens, you should rinse out and clean the pan completely, dry it out, and start from scratch. This can mean that you lost a lot of progress, but it ensures that you are able to fix the issue properly.

With the help of these tips, you can learn about what causes stickiness in your cast iron pans and how to fix it as well.

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