Uneven seasoning on cast iron is caused by using too much oil in the seasoning process. The quickest way to fix uneven seasoning on cast iron is to remove the current layer of seasoning by scouring the pan with steel wool, reapplying the seasoning using a thin layer of oil and baking it at 550 degrees for one hour.
If you really want a full proof method to avoid uneven seasoning on cast iron, keep reading for all our tips.
What does uneven seasoning look like?
Uneven seasoning is quite easy to spot.
Texture – When a cast iron pan is seasoned incorrectly, the texture will change throughout the pan. This will appear rough in some areas and smooth in others.
Color – Uneven seasoning will vary in colors, you’ll notice different colors such as black, brown and grey across the pan, but also a difference in reflection, some areas of the pan will appear shiny, whilst some will appear dull.
Feel – If you slide your fingers across the pan, it should feel consistently smooth. If any areas feel rough, or sticky, then this is a prime indicator that your cast iron pan is seasoned unevenly.
The picture below is a prime example of an uneven seasoned cast iron skillet.
What does a correctly seasoned cast iron look like?
It can be challenging for those who have never seasoned before to imagine what a good seasoning looks like on cast iron.
Correctly seasoned cast iron will have a silky, glossy look to them; they will be smooth with no rough spots and have a hard black coating.
When you run your fingers across it, it should feel consistently smooth. If it feels rough across the pan but looks like it’s seasoned, then the layer of seasoning is not thick enough and it will need another layer.
How to prevent uneven seasoning on cast iron
Uneven seasoning on cast iron is frustrating; chances are, you have given it your best, but it still has an uneven finish. As a result, it may look dull, splotchy, spotty, or even brown.
The truth is, you may be missing some crucial steps when seasoning your cast iron cookware.
1) Use flax seed oil
One of the biggest mistakes is using vegetable oil or olive oil. Although this isn’t a bad option, it’s not the best.
Flaxseed oil is the preferable oil for seasoning; it contains high amounts of omega-3, it has high amounts of unsaturated fats, and it’s got a low smoking point, these traits of flaxseed oil help with the polymerization process of seasoning.
It doesn’t just help with the seasoning process though, Flaxseed oil creates a very stable surface, so it will not flake off into your food after a few uses. Perfect for preventing uneven seasoning on cast iron.
2) Preheat your cast iron pan
Often people forget to preheat the pan, which is a mistake; I must admit it’s not a big mistake. But it does affect the outcome of the seasoning and can cause uneven seasoning on cast iron.
Cast iron is slow to heat compared to other materials used for pans, and it distributes unevenly. So heat all your cast iron pan first, which will allow the oil to heat up evenly, creating an even seasoning.
3) Use a thin layer of oil
I know it seems tempting to splash tons of olive oil all over the pan, ensuring you cover every single spot.
However, this doesn’t work. If you use too much oil, you will end up with uneven seasoning on cast iron.
Essentially, what happens is too much oil prevents the polymerization process from working as intended, leaving an uneven coating of seasoning.
Make sure that you are using a skinny layer of olive oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil. I recommend flaxseed oil, but I will cover that later on. To apply flaxseed oil, use paper towels to wipe it on and spread it evenly around the pan
4) Turning your cast iron pan upside down in the oven
A common mistake I always see is people do not turn their pans upside down in the oven, probably because it’s not an obvious thing to do.
When you don’t turn it upside down, the excess coating of oil gathers unevenly and then coats the pan unevenly. This leads to extra food sticking to your pan and uneven seasoning on cast iron, which you do not want. The aim here is to create a perfect nonstick surface.
By turning the pan upside down in the oven, you allow any excess oil that you used to drip off, leaving a perfectly even coating spread throughout the pan.
I recommend that you place some foil underneath the pan. This will prevent excess oil from dripping onto the shelves below, which becomes incredibly hard to clean.
5) Season your cast iron pan six times
Many people often season once. However, some like to strengthen every couple of days and keep building it up until they are satisfied. I understand why, as depending on the size, it can be heavy, so I recommend that everyone knows what size cast iron skillet they need.
Personally, the correct way is to season it three times to add layers of seasoning; this creates a smooth final layer of oil.
I tend to season it back to back, wipe flax seed oil on which paper towels, bake it for an hour, and repeat three times. I also think this helps spread the evenness of the seasoning.
Yes, it may be a bit tedious to do this, but it’s a couple of hours out of your day for long-lasting results, which gives the best durable frying pan. So don’t skimp out on this bit. Instead, save it for a day when you are not busy. After doing this, I guarantee you will not have uneven seasoning on your cast iron.
How to remove bad seasoning from cast iron
If you have uneven seasoning on your cast iron, here are some tips to remove it.
1) Use salt and vinegar: Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt (or sea salt) and scrub the pan with this mixture using a sponge.
2) Use steel wool: Scrub your cast iron with fine-grade steel wool to remove uneven seasoning.
3) Use a pot scraper: Scrape the surface of your pan with a pot scraper to remove uneven seasoning.
Below is our FAQ with all the common questions related to uneven seasoning on cast iron.
why does my cast iron look bronze after seasoning?
If your cast iron looks bronze after seasoning, then this is perfectly normal. This just means the seasoning isn’t thick enough yet. Every layer of seasoning will make the patina darker and darker until eventually it turns black and matches the color of the cast iron.
So if you want that black patina, and I would highly advise you get the black patina for extra protection and cooking benefits, then you’ll want to repeat the seasoning process a few more times.
Why is the black coating coming off my cast iron skillet?
There are a few reasons why the black coating may be coming off your cast iron skillet. The first and most likely reason is that you have burnt food stuck to the cast iron pan which is beginning to flake off as you cook.
The second reason is that you have been using cooking oils at a temperature higher than their smoking point, this will result in carbonization and lead to black flaking, although this is unappealing this isn’t harmful.
The final reason is that your using metal utensils and scraping the layer of seasoning repeatedly whilst cooking, this causes the seasoning to breakdown and flake off.
Why does my cast iron skillet look dry
Seasoning has a shiny effect because it’s essentially a plastic layer that’s bonded to the pan. The thicker the seasoning, the shinier your cast iron skillet gets.
There are two possible reasons why your cast iron skillets looks dry:
1) Not enough seasoning – You didn’t use enough oil when seasoning your pan, and thus the layer of seasoning is extremely thin and causing it to look dry, essentially its still an unseasoned cast iron pan.
2) Worn away seasoning – Every time you cook with your cast iron, your seasoning will gradually wear away, once it’s worn away too much, it will begin to make your cast iron skillet look dry.
why is my cast iron seasoning mottled?
Mottled cast iron seasoning is a symptom of uneven seasoning, if you haven’t seasoned your cast iron properly it will become splotchy and patchy causing it to have a mottled look.
Simply strip the seasoning off, and re-season your cast iron correctly using the tips outlined in this article.
Why is my cast iron season bumpy?
Bumpy cast iron seasoning is also a symptom of uneven seasoning, this tends to happen when you’ve used too much oil in one go, causing each layer to be uneven, building up to a bumpy seasoning.
Simply strip the seasoning off and re-season making sure you have your cast iron upside down in the oven to allow excess oil to drip off.
What happens if you over season cast iron?
If you over season cast iron, it can create a sticky residue that is difficult to remove. You can rinse the pan with hot water or scrub it out with baking soda and soap if this happens.
Why is my cast iron dull after seasoning?
If your cast iron is dull after seasoning, this is because it doesn’t have enough layers of seasoning. It doesn’t mean you have seasoned your cast iron incorrectly, it just means you haven’t seasoned it enough times.
To fix this, continue to season your cast iron a few more times .
Why is my cast iron pan sticky after seasoning?
Any correctly seasoned cast iron cookware like a cast iron griddle or cast iron pan should be a dark, almost black color with a thin sheen of oil on the surface as opposed to a thick layer of oil. If you have an excessively sticky layer of seasoning that won’t come off with soap and water, it’s probably because you didn’t bake the pan upside down in the oven long enough and some of the oil hasn’t polymerized.
The key to avoiding sticky cast iron is always placing your pan upside down in the oven combined with patience. You need to allow time for all of the seasoning to cook off, and excess oil to drip off.
How often should I season cast iron?
If you’re using your cast iron pan on a daily basis, it’s probably best to re-season a few times a month. If you only use the pan once in awhile, seasoning once a year is probably sufficient.
Cast iron skillets are one of the most versatile tools you can have in your kitchen. They’re great for searing meats, sautéing vegetables, baking cornbread, and more. However, you’ll need to maintain your cast irons seasoning every now and again if you want it to last and prevent rusting.
How do I stop cast iron seasoning getting ruined?
There are a few ways you can prevent your cast iron seasoning from getting ruined:
1. Cleaning cast iron correctly
If you’ve got some food stuck on your cast iron, you’ll need to clean it off as some foods are acidic food and will eat away at the seasoning, when cleaning the cast iron don’t use anything too abrasive to clean it off such as steel wool, as this will scrape the seasoning off quickly. Dish soap and a sponge will suffice.
2. Don’t put your cast iron in the dishwasher.
You should never put your cast iron in the dishwasher. Dishwashers are very harsh on a cast iron skillet due to the soapy water being used for a prolonged period of time, and you don’t want to expose your cast iron to that kind of stress.
3. Don’t soak the cooking surface for too long.
When food is stuck to the cooking surface, I always soak it with dish soap for around 5 minutes, anything longer and the dish soap will begin to strip away the seasoning, and rust will begin to form. 5 minutes is enough time to loosen the food and allow you to clean it off with a sponge without damaging your skillet.
4. Don’t use a self cleaning oven
A self cleaning oven is powerful enough to strip the seasoning away in one go, always avoid using this unless you intentionally want to strip the seasoning to reseason cast iron.