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I screwed up the seasoning on my cast-iron pan. I forgot to flip it upside-down, so instead of that hard, smooth surface, it became sticky and gummy.

Is it possible to repair by reheating it again, upside-down, at the proper temperature?

Or do I need to strip it and reseason from scratch?

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If you don't already use one, I highly recommend using a turner instead of a spatula. Using a rounded-edge spatula causes uneven pitting and wear on the skillet. These straight-edged turners smooth it out and will help preventing stick spots. For example: amzn.com/B002CJNBTE – paul Jul 3 '12 at 17:36
up vote 9 down vote accepted

You don't have to re-season from scratch, just get rid of the sticky residue and make sure that the next layer of seasoning is very fully cooked on. The easiest way to remove the sticky residue is to scrape off what you can with a spatula, scrub off the rest with kosher salt and baking soda, and clean that up. Then give it a couple more passes of seasoning to even out the layer, making sure to leave it in the oven extra-long for the next seasoning. The extra cook time helps avoid having a sticky spot reappear.

What causes this? This happens when the oil pools in one spot, and doesn't get heated long/hot enough to form the seasoning layer. If you resume seasoning without removing the sticky residue, it will form a bubble of uneven seasoning that flakes off, exposing the less seasoned stuff below. I learned that the hard way.

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Gah. The last time I tried salt, it completely decimated my seasoning. This is a new pan with a single layer. It already has bubbles from previous attempts. I have to start over ... thanks... – ashes999 Jul 1 '12 at 16:45
1  
Sorry, @ashes999... if it's any consolation, you probably needed to season it again anyway, if you have lots of bubbles. Next time, what may help is using less oil and wiping it off until only a thin layer remains. It'll get a more even and less sticky layer. You'll still have to do several passes though – BobMcGee Jul 1 '12 at 20:47

I have used cast iron for many years and done some research on the process of seasoning cast iron. Here is what I have learned. The brown sticky stuff is gross and is caused by one or more of 3 things:

  1. The layer of oil applied is too thick.
  2. The baking temperature is too low.
  3. The baking time is too short.

If you want to love using cast iron you need to season it correctly. Here is a link to the best explanation I have found so far to explain what seasoning is, how it works, and what works best and why. http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

Here is a simple step by step instruction of how to do it right: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/5820-the-ultimate-way-to-season-cast-iron I recommend adding a step before step 1. Heat the raw cast iron in the oven at 450 degrees F for an hour and let cool. An explanation of why this is helpful can be read in Sheryls other blog entry.

If you have a brown sticky coating you have to get it off. When I recondition a dutch oven or a skillet I use a sandblaster with glass abbrasives in a blast cabinet, followed by a palm sander to flatten the metal, followed by and a 6" circular wire brush on a bench grinder, followed by a 3" wire brush in a die grinder. Now I understand not everyone can strip cast iron this way. Depending on how the condition of your iron you can try oven cleaner spray, heating in your ovens cleaning cycle, or you can strip it in a hot camping fire. Remember to let it cool slowly. The point is you have to get that crap off and get back to bare metal.

Don't use the wrong oil. Don't use vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, butter, bacon grease, Crisco, olive oil, etc. All of thes oils will turn black if aplied thin enough and heated to a high enough temperature for long enough and give you a cooking surfac. BUT you could have one of the following happen to you:

  1. If you get it too hot, it will flake off.
  2. If you scratch it, it will flake off.
  3. Some oils like olive oil will give you a mottled surface.

To season it right you NEED TO USE one of the following and heat to a high enough temperature:

  1. Flaxseed Oil (from the refrigerator section of the health food store)
  2. Linseed Oil (Yep, from the hardware store)

Why do you have to use one of these oils: The short answer is because these have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids needed to produce crosslinked polymerization. Before you get all over my case that lindseed oil is not a food product, note this, after heating to 500 degrees F, no oil is a food product any longer. All oils will undergo chemical changes and become something different. The difference is lindseed oil and flaxseed oil will become a hard, crosslinked, polymerized, durable layer bonded to your iron that won't flake off into your food even when used at high temperatures.

Happy Cooking! D

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Note: Linseed oil from the hardware store will not be food grade, and may contain some nasty chemicals - <use at your own risk.> – Debbie M. Jul 7 at 23:40
    
I wouldn't risk the linseed oil, personally - flaxseed oil from the health food store is easy enough to come by and a little goes a long way. – Chris Macksey Jul 8 at 15:51
    
Nasty chemicals in linseed oil typically include heavy metals. Stick to food grade sources... – Ecnerwal Jul 9 at 0:44

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