Uneven Seasoning On Cast Iron: 5 Ways To Prevent It

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. 

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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. However there are other reasons that may cause cast iron to be sticky after seasoning.

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.

Cast iron sticky after seasoning? 7 things your doing wrong.

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.

Cast iron is great for cooking, especially for adding flavor to meats. However one common issue people have is their cast iron is sticky after seasoning it.

The main cause of cast iron pans having sticky seasoning is due to incorrectly seasoning it in the first place.

1) Not enough Oil

When it comes to applying oil to season the pan, you need to ensure you use enough oil. If you don’t use enough then you are going to end up with dry spots where there is no seasoning, and it’s going to be pretty uneven. This is going to lead to sticky cast iron when cooking food.

If you struggle with knowing how much to use, always be generous with it. Which leads me onto the next issue.

2) Too much oil

Using too much oil can also lead to your cast iron pan sticking. When you apply too much oil and try to cook it, the excess oil won’t absorb enough oxygen to create a seal. This will ultimately lead to a cast iron pan with a sticky residue on it.

If you have used too much oil then don’t worry, just use a paper towel to wipe around the pan and this should soak up any excess oil.

3) Wrong Oil

Using the wrong oil can wreak havoc on your seasoning process. If you use one with a high smoking point, then you are going to need a very efficient heat source to cause the oil to bond with the surface.

Flaxseed oil is one of the favorites for seasoning cast iron cookware because it has a very low smoke point. It’s at only 225 degrees Fahrenheit , but that’s not where the good stuff stops.

When flaxseed oil heats up, it creates a polymer that bonds well with the surface of the pan. It’s durable and long-lasting – almost comparable to the stuff that would come out of the factory.

This oil is our top pick. And since you don’t have to use the cold-pressed and unrefined stuff for this task, it’s also quite affordable.

However, some other good oils you can use are olive oil which has a smoking point of 405 degrees Fahrenheit and canola oil which has a smoking point of 399 degrees Fahrenheit.

4) Too much heat

If you use too much heat, this can cause the oils to react too much, causing a layer of seasoning that has not properly polymerised.

The amount of heat you use depends on the smoking point, but the rule of thumb is, find the smoking point of the oil, and heat the oven just above the oils smoking point. This will allow the oil to act as intended when heating it.

5) Not enough baking time

Cooking the oil long enough is essential when seasoning your cast iron to avoid a stick coating. We usually bake our cast iron for an hour at a time, and then letting it cool down for an hour before applying the next layer.

This gives the oils enough time to create a bond to the surface, regardless of which oil you use. If you don’t leave it in the oven long enough, you will just end up with half bonded oil where some is bonded and the other parts are still sticky.

6) Didn’t preheat the oven

Preheating your oven is essential to avoid stickiness after the cast iron seasoning process. If you don’t preheat your oven first, then you don’t give the oil a chance to bond to the surface, it will most likely run off the pan before having the chance to bond.

Ensure the oven is preheated to the temperature just above the oil’s smoking point, this will make sure it is hot enough for the oil to bond to the cast iron pan.

7) You didn’t turn your pan upside down

Turning your cast iron pan upside down is essential to getting the seasoning process right. You cannot skip this step.

After applying cooking oil to your cast iron skillet, and preheating the oven, you need to bake the cast iron skillet upside down. This is to ensure that any excess oil drips off the cast iron pan so it doesn’t interfere with the bonding process and cause uneven seasoning on cast iron.

Cleaning sticky cast iron after seasoning

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.

2 thoughts on “Uneven Seasoning On Cast Iron: 5 Ways To Prevent It”

  1. Thanks for the information. I have used paper towel but it added fibers to the pan with the oil in it. Is there anything else you can use? Thanks

    • Hi Cheryl,

      No problem, the fibers are due to the roughness of the surface. Some cast iron pans vary in texture. I recommend using a soft cloth to wipe it on with, that’s always my go-to.

      Here is an extra tip, after rubbing in the oil, the cast iron pan should look like it’s completely dry (Even though it has a layer of oil on). If it doesn’t look completely dry, then most likely you have used too much oil.


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