Last month I went over to my friends to cook a meal for everyone. Upon using the cast iron skillets, I was surprised to see a dull, splotchy frying pan. This is what you call uneven seasoning on cast iron.
It was at that moment, I realised that my friend did not know how to avoid this problem. But it’s quite simple.
After showing him and fixing his splotchy issues, I decided to write a post to help you season your cast iron skillet using cooking techniques and how to get rid of that uneven finish. This will work on frying pans or skillets, if you are unsure which you have then check out my skillet vs frying pan guide.
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How do I 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. It may look dull, splotchy, spotty or even brown.
The truth is, you may be missing some important steps when seasoning your cast iron cookware.
Here they are.
1) Stop Using too much 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 then all you are going to end up with is an uneven seasoning on cast iron.
Essentially, what happens is too much oil prevents the polymerization process working as intended, leaving an uneven coating of seasoning.
Make sure that you are using a very thin layer of olive oil or flaxseed oil. I personally 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
2) Turn the pan upside down (Best Results For Stopping Uneven Seasoning On Cast Iron)
A common mistake I always see is people do not turn their pans upside down in the oven, probably because its not an obvious thing to do.
What happens when you don’t turn it upside down, is 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 clearly 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, as this will prevent any excess oil dripping onto the shelves below which becomes incredibly hard to clean.
3) Preheat the pan first
Often people forget to preheat the pan, and this 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.
After all, in cooking we preheat everything, and its for a good reason.
Cast iron is slow to heat in comparison to other materials used for pans, and it distributes unevenly. So you want to heat all of your pan first, which will allow the oil to heat up evenly, creating an even seasoning.
4) Season three times
Many people often season once, however some like to season 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, which is why I recommend that every one knows what size cast iron skillet they need.
Personally for me, 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, so 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 its a couple of hours out of your day, for long lasting results which gives the best long lasting frying pan. Don’t skimp out on this bit. 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.
5) Not using the correct oil
One of the biggest mistakes I see is people using vegetable oil or olive oil. Although this isn’t a bad option, it’s definitely not the best.
Flax seed oil is the preferable oil for seasoning, it contains high amounts of omega-3 which help massively with the polymerization process of seasoning.
It doesn’t just help with the seasoning process though, Flax seed oil actually created 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.
What does a properly seasoned cast iron look like?
For those that have never seasoned before, it can be hard to imagine what a good seasoning looks like on cast iron.
So I’ll try my best to explain as pictures wont do it justice.
Correct seasons cast iron will have a silky glossy look to them, they will be smooth with no rough spots, and will have a hard black coating.
If you have an uneven seasoning on your cast iron pan, this will look rough, dull and spotty. That’s how you know you have done it incorrectly.
If that’s the case, and it has not come out as described above, then please refer to the top of this article to see how you prevent an uneven seasoning.
Can over seasoning lead to uneven seasoning on cast iron?
You can over season a cast iron pan, overseasoning happens when you either use too much oil, or you season it too many times.
You will know if it has been over seasoned when it turns a brown colour, and has a sticky residue on the pans surface.
If you do over season it by mistake, do not try and fix it, just clean the pan thoroughly and re season it again.
You won’t here it a lot, because most people have nonstick pans in todays world for convenience, like the cuisinart 622-30g skillet which we reviewed. So it can be hard to find answers about seasoning online.
How do you clean a sticky cast iron skillet?
Sticky skillets seem like a nightmare, and realistically they are.
The best way to clean a sticky skillet? Prevent it. Just joking of course, but before I get into cleaning it, I want to talk about preventing it.
Sticky skillets happen because you don’t season your skillet correctly, you either use too much oil, bake it at a low heat, or you simply don’t bake it long enough. Preventing sticky cast iron is key to maintaining cast iron. Not just that, but it will make frying chicken so much easier.
Ensure you are using a very thin layer of oil spread evenly, you bake it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. That will prevent you from getting a stick cast iron skillet.
Now onto cleaning it…make sure you do not do this after cooking with the pan, as hot iron has been shown to rust faster in water than cold iron according to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Start by filling a sink full of warm soapy water, again not to hot… get a bristle brush and scrub away clearing anything that was on it. If there is any rust then you will need to use steel wool to remove it.
After clearing all the sticky residue from the cast iron skillet, reseason correctly and you will be good to go with a fresh new skillet.
How can you tell if cast iron is ruined?
Cast iron is a durable material that can take a hammering… after all, it is made or iron. But even the best long lasting frying pan can break under intense conditions.
My friends use to think that once a cast iron pan was brown, or spotty, that it was ruined. That is not the case.
In most instances you can actually restore cast iron back to it’s original self with a little elbow grease. Doing things such as removing rust, burnt food and excess grease are some of the way you can restore it like new again. Check out this guide on how to clean burnt on grease off frying pans.
But how do you know if it is truly ruined?
Well from my personal experience, if you have tried your best to restore it, you have followed guides, and it still won’t change, chances are it’s ruined.
The main thing to look out for is cracks, you simply cannot restore cracked Iron.
But how do cracks in iron happen you say?
Well, it’s normally when you have finished cooking, the pan is extremely hot, and you stick it in cold water. The iron simply cannot handle that physical change in temperature.
Think of it like glass, if you poor boiling water in a glass, and then throw some cold water on it, the glass will shatter. It’s the same effect with iron, except due to the strength of iron, it doesn’t shatter, it just cracks.