A Cast Iron Conundrum

I'm having a problem seasoning my cast iron skillets and I'm hoping you can help. I have both and 8 and a 10-inch Lodge skillets and once they start to look dull, and as though they've lost their glossy finish, I re-season them. I follow the instructions on the lodge.com site yet they never come out of the oven looking right! They still have dull, blotchy spots and I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. I make sure to first scrub them with hot, soapy water and a stiff-bristled brush before drying them completely with paper towels. I've tried canola, vegetable and even unrefined coconut oil.

I'm really hoping you can help me and shed some light over what I'm doing wrong!


  • Thanks for your question. What is probably happening here is that, even though you are scrubbing the pan well, you are probably not getting all of the old seasoning off. You need to get it back down to the cast iron. Those dull blotchy spots are places you didn't clean completely. After the scrubbing, try coarse salt and really rub it in. You can use a paper towel. Some people use a potato cut in half. You really want to get it in there.

    Another trick when seasoning that you don't always see is to warm the pan first in the oven before adding the oil. Some feel this allows the "pores" to open up and accept the oil better. Then return it to the oven up side down with some foil underneath to catch the drippings. Every 10 minutes or so wipe it down and return to the oven. This will remove any droplets of oil that could build up and prevent the seasoning. It may take doing this more than once. Also, once you dry the pan do not let it sit. Move immediately to the seasoning process. Rust can form very quickly that you may not be able to see.

    Give this a try and see what happens. The most important thing is to make sure the pan is really, really clean of all the old gunk. Good luck.

    Deb at Milk Street

  • I am also unsure of myself when I season my cast iron pans. Each time after use, I will scrub the pans with sea salt. Afterward I will put it on the stove top, get the pan hot, and add the oil. I rub it around to cover the whole pan. I may leave it over the high heat for a minute or two. I will then let it cool down over an hour or two and store them. Does the oven method work better? Neither of the pans are 100% nonstick, but food generally comes off cleanly. I assumed it takes a while to get the nonstick surface. Thanks for your time! Love all the stuff y'all do!

  • edited June 2019

    Duplicate deleted

  • Now that we have warm weather, another option that works quite well for cast iron and steel pans is to use the high heat of a gas grill for seasoning.

    I warm them first on the stove and coat them inside and out with flax seed oil. Then remove as much as possible with paper towels. Put them upside down on the gas grill and put it on high. Check it every thirty minutes or so and it should look "lacquered" after an hour or two. Turn off the grill and let it cool. Do Not try to take it out while it is still hot. Use, wash and repeat if it needs it.

    The main advantage is that smoking oil fumes indoors are quite unpleasant and this keeps the process outside.

    As a note, depending on the grill, you may need to turn it back from full on or check it more frequently. If I leave a pan on mine at full output for too long, I get a very clean pan with oil ash residue and no seasoning. In that case, I have a good starting point for total re-seasoning.

    Also, use cast iron to cook on the grill, I have thirteen inch Wagner skillet that I use for blackened fish. Preheat, add oil, bring to almost smoking and then add the fish coated with spices. after 3-5 minutes turn once, blacken the other side and remove. Turn off the grill and leave the pan to cool. I do that every few weeks over the summer and that pan is now solid black inside and out. It is my go-to pan on my cook top and as non-stick as my coated All-Clad.

    Never, ever use dish detergent or soap. Hot water, kosher salt, paper towels and oil are all that should be needed.

  • First of all, forget the oven! Have no idea why this method persists. It doesn't work. Here is what does work (and I have been doing this for 40 years.) Place the cast iron or carbon steel pan on a burner. Coat with an inexpensive oil (I use grapeseed). Rub the oil into the pan with paper towels. Now turn on the heat to medium-low and heat. Watch the pan carefully and CONTINUE TO BURNISH THE OIL INTO THE PAN as it heats. This is essential as you want the oil to get into the pores of the metal, not pool on top and create a sticky surface. When the oil starts to smoke, take it off the heat and then rub the interior surface hard with paper towels again. Let the pan cool and as it cools, you might want to rub with paper towels one or two more times if you see any oil on the surface. Now repeat this method at least 5 times for a new pan. Another trick that is essential. YOU HAVE TO USE A FAIR AMOUNT OF OIL when cooking with cast iron or carbon steel. You can't just add a teaspoon. This will help keep the surface non-stick. For example, when frying an egg in one of these pans, I will use a tablespoon or two or oil. Most of it remains in the pan and is not absorbed by the egg anyway. And NEVER EVER clean the pan with soap. Just wipe out the pan, leaving it coated with a thin film of oil. IF SOMETHING DOES STICK TO THE PAN, wipe out what you can, place the pan back on medium heat, add about a quarter cup of kosher salt and a similar amount of oil, and then, once the oil is hot, scrub with a dry scrubber (I use the OXO double grill pads that come with a handle or one of those green scrub pads for cleanup). The coarse salt will remove sticky bits and the oil will keep the pan seasoned. When done, just wipe out the pan with paper towels. Finally, if you feel your pan is no longer as non-stick as you like, re-season it using the first set of instructions above. This should do the trick!

  • Hi Chris! Thank you so much for putting in these directions. I am new to cast-iron and I really appreciate this knowledge. I am trying to find the OXO double grill pads that you talked about, but I’m having difficulty in the search. Is it possible for you to place a link?

  • First of all, those are silly directions about using an oven. The oil will get sticky and blotchy. And NEVER EVER use soap and bristles to clean your pan! Almost keeled over when I read that! BUT, like most folks, you have been following common wisdom so here is what to do. To season, take a tbsp or more of oil and rub it into your pan with paper towels. Put pan over medium high heat and keep rubbing the oil into the pan every minute or so until hot and smoking. Take off heat and burnish oil into pan again. Let cool and repeat a half dozen times to season. If pan gets sticky bits on it, add a third cup cheap oil to pan and a quarter cup coarse salt. Heat and then scrub pan with a mild grill brush - do not use stiff bristles. Use paper towels to wipe out. Always be careful not to burn yourself. Oven mitts will help. Think OXO makes a soft double round grill brush. This should help!

  • What if your cast iron has been neglected/not used or stored properly and has rust on it. Can it be salvaged? How to bring it back to its glory days?

  • My favorite topic! Place on stovetop and add 1/2 cup veg oil and, say, 1/4 cup coarse salt. Those are rough amounts. Heat over medium until oil starts to smoke. Take off heat and rub GENTLY with a wad of paper towels (use mitt) to get rid of the easy stuff. Anything that is tough to get off, I very gently scour with a grill brush like this one - https://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CCB-505-Power-Scour-Grill/dp/B00T06WFC6/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=cuisinart+grill+brush&qid=1586370253&sr=8-4 - but be very gentle. Then, do not wash out but simply use PT to remove oil and salt when cool. Next, reheat pan with 1 tbsp or so oil, rub oil into pan to start with PT and keep doing this every minute or so til oil smokes. Remove from heat and repeat rubbing anytime you see the oil beading up. This is key - you will get a nice smooth surface this way. This is why oven methods do not work - you need to keep rubbing down the pan. Repeat (cool between seasonings) a few times until you get a nice smooth finish. Usage Tip: Always use more oil than you want to - this will keep the pan seasoned and help prevent sticking. This oil will stay in the pan and not end up in your food. And do an extra seasoning every once in a while to keep the pan well oiled and smooth.

  • thank you for the detailed information. I read somewhere to use spray oven cleaner!!!😳 Glad I asked here

  • Chris’s seasoning method makes sense on the bottom cooking surface, but not the sides of the skillet. You need to reach the smoke point in order to polymerize the oil and lay down carbon. When it starts smoking the sides of the skillet will be more than 100 degrees cooler - not enough for polymerization. Thus, you’ll end up with a “wet” seasoning that is not non-stick. If I’m missing something please let me know.

  • My question is can I use my cast iron pan on my glass topped range?

  • Hi Joann - I would check with your range's manufacturer but, in general, most manufacturers do not recommend using cast iron on electric glass cooktops. Since cast iron is so heavy on its own, let alone when it's filled with food, the pot or pan could break or crack the glass. Additionally, the cast iron material is rough and can easily scratch the glass. That's not to say that people don't do it - they definitely do. However, if you do decide to do it I would be super careful when moving the pot or pan around and be conscious of how much weight you've got between the pot and the ingredients. Best, Lynn C.

  • How do you get a cast iron skillet to come back to life after cooking something acidic in it? I e tried reseasoning, but it still appears dull and splotchy

  • Hi Amanda - You will have to actually restore the pan and then re-season it. We recommend following the instructions in this video that Christopher Kimball made about restoring cast iron - https://www.177milkstreet.com/2017/05/how-to-restore-a-cast-iron-pan. Good luck! Best, Lynn C.

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