I have a new cast iron skillet. It came unseasoned, but I seasoned it using the flaxseed oil method that seems the new (recent?) hotness. When I then cook bacon in it some of the bacon is nailed to the surface. I could scrub it out but it will take the seasoning with it (that is, I tried this once, removed the seasoning, then had to re-season the pan. For my second attempt I used electrolysis to completely reset the skillet.)

Should I just leave some of residue, including the brown bits of bacon that are stuck on, add a thin layer of oil and toss it back in the oven

EDIT: My thought on tossing it in the oven again with a new layer is that what bits are on the pan from bacon are just going to carbonize, which I've read is part of the idea of seasoning.


All my attempts to "clean and repair" a sticky-seasoning layer have ended badly as well. I know who already snickers in the background, but my opinion is: start clean. Give the pan a lye bath and a good scrub, then reseason with a better seasoning.

"The new hotness" of flaxseed oil goes back to the fact that it doesn't go rancid easily, without heat it just dries out making a film which can protect things like wood. I bought into it, and seasoned a pan with it, and wondered why all my seasoning tries were unsucessful (I stripped and reseasoned 3 times, I think). I came to blame it on the smooth forged iron.

Then I got Cookwise and read the chapter on fats. And surprise, what does it say? That PUFA stick to everything around. (Makes sense, if you stop to think about it - those unsaturated bonds are unstable, they itch to break apart). So, when I got my next iron pan, I seasoned it with three (very thin) layers of flaxseed oil (for a solid base which will stick to the pan and the finishing layer) and then two layers of lard. After the oven, I heated it from brown to almost-black on the stove (empty).

This seasoning turned out perfect. I made crepes on it, re-oiling once every 7-8 crepes only (no fat in the batter). The pan released them like a charm. The old flaxseed-seasoned pan still sits around with some carbonized matter burnt onto the seasoning, and waits for a lye-flaxseed-lard session.

Of course, I would still take some caution with new seasoning and oil well the first few applications (I only tried the crepes after I noticed that less problematic items work great). And if you tend to often fry with the fashinably-healthy nonsaturated vegetable oils, don't heat them too much, else they could bake in a sticky-seasoning layer onto the pan. In the worst case, if you do get sticky-oil (but not carbon) buildup, try adding a new lard layer before you strip-and-reseason.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Based on this I'm tempted to make a bunch of bacon grease (such a delicious process), then use that to season the pan again. I have an electrolysis setup that strips a pan CLEAN, so I'm up for experimentation. – Michael Conlen Aug 1 '12 at 15:21
  • The unsaturated oils work well for most of us. I think this is just an effect of the @rumtscho Cast-Iron Weird Zone. When its sticky in most of the world, it just means it needs to go back in the oven to bake longer, the seasoning isn't fully cured. In the Cast-Iron Weird Zone, it calls for NaOH or similar. – derobert Aug 1 '12 at 15:46
  • 1
    @MichaelConlen this electrolysis sounds interesting - I have some black rust on the old pan (below the seasoning) which laughs at lye. – rumtscho Aug 1 '12 at 15:51
  • @derobert I suspect that most vegetable oils won't be that bad, especially monousaturated. Flaxseed has lots of unsaturated bonds waiting to open at the slightest shake from outside. – rumtscho Aug 1 '12 at 16:02
  • 1
    @rumtscho Except flaxseed works well for most everyone who has tried it. E.g., Cooks Illustrated tested it, and it worked really well for them (it even survived a trip through the commercial dishwasher with a degreaser added). I use soy (much cheaper and easier to find), and that works well too (but I don't think it'd survive the dishwasher). – derobert Aug 1 '12 at 16:09

You don't just season a cast iron pan once. It is a cumulative process that requires many applications, and cooking in it will usually undo some of that work. You want to get all the food bits out of the pan, and season it again. Don't think you have to strip all the seasoning and start again. And turn the heat down when you're cooking your bacon.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I did use about six (might have been five, might have been seven) layers. Nice long heating process (two layers per day). As for bacon temp, I'm working pretty low. Thinking about it part of the problem might have been how much bacon I was cooking. Even though the temp was low I was cooking several batches, so there was a lot of bits that just sat in there forever. – Michael Conlen Aug 1 '12 at 15:23
  • 2
    Also, start bacon in a cold pan. I think bacon may be the only thing cooked starting with a cold pan... – derobert Aug 1 '12 at 15:44
  • @derobert, that's something I haven't heard. I start my first slices cold (relatively), but I usually make way more than a single pan will handle at a time. – Michael Conlen Aug 3 '12 at 1:40
  • @MichaelConlen Its probably not as important on the second batch (when there will already be tons of rendered bacon fat), but you may also consider doing your bacon in the oven. – derobert Aug 3 '12 at 5:39

I'm definitely not in favor of starting over. As Sean Hart mentioned, seasoning is a cumulative process. You should get it clean, and continue to season the pan.

What I would do is put a little water in the pan (maybe 1/4 inch) and bring that to a boil. Make sure the whole bottom of the pan is bubbling (add water if you need to--don't boil it dry).

Once you've got it all boiling, remove from heat and immediately scrub. I recommend a stiff natural bristle brush so you don't risk melting, but any brush that won't melt should do (don't resort to scrubbing with metal). The boiling should have loosened things enough to scrub off the burned on material.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.