As you’ve probably gathered by now, I just love cooking with cast iron. But for many, cast irons remain these neglected pieces of cookware because they seem like too much work, or easy to ruin. A question that I get asked often is, why a cast iron skillet gets sticky. And I’m here to tell you about two very common reasons why that happens, and how to prevent that gummy feeling from building up on your skillet.
Number #1 – Too much oil
Using too much oil, anything more than about the size of a quarter will just build up and cause an oil slick on your pan.
Number #2 – Starting off cold
When it’s time to season your cast iron skillet, you simply can’t do this with a cold skillet. This will cause build up of that oil residue, and cause stickiness. You really need to get it hot enough to accept the seasoning.
Now that we know what causes the stickiness, let’s walk through how to prevent it!
So, once you’re done cooking your favourite meal, clean out your skillet well, using hot water as always. Next, make sure it’s dried off very well, with no water residue left behind. At this point, many folks think their skillet is ready to be seasoned. No, sir. It’s time to get it hot! Turn up the heat to about medium. Once the sides of your skillet are hot to the touch, you know the bottom of your skillet is hot enough to start the seasoning process.
If you accidentally get it too hot, which you’ll know if you see it smoking when you pour the oil in, simply remove the skillet from the heat. You do not want it that hot. It happens fast, so pay attention and don’t turn the heat on too high.
Pour in a dab of oil, about the size of a quarter. You just need a good, thin coat to layer the bottom and the sides. Using a good lint-free rag (no paper towel!), give it a nice wipe all around. Let your skillet sit for a few minutes, and then give it one last wipe using a clean side of your rag to remove any excess oil that might still be sitting there. That’s all, folks! You’ve perfectly seasoned your cast iron skillet. You’ll notice a nice, slick finish which is perfect for cooking anything from a fried egg to a good old burger.
Already got stickiness? If you’ve already got that gummy residue on your skillet, give it a good scrubbing, and that’ll usually take care of it. If that doesn’t cut it, stick it in the oven at about 300°F for an hour. Take it out of the oven, wipe the gunk out, and you’ll be ready to re-season your skillet properly.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a scouring pad to scrub your skillet with, pour some coarse sea salt in there and use a piece of leather or good sponge to scrub your skillet. Give it a good rinse with hot water, and you’ll have yourself a nice, clean skillet to start the seasoning process again.
So, to recap. Two things, folks. It’s gotta be hot enough, and not too much oil.
That’s all you need to keep your cast iron in fine condition for years to come.