“Seasoning” is what we call baking oil into cast iron in a procedure scientists call “polymerization”.
This gives your cast iron pan a traditional black sheen.
Seasoning creates a natural, easy cooking surface that helps prevent your pans from rusting and food sticking.
A well-seasoned pan of cast iron will last generations, although it may require extra care.
How do I fix improperly seasoned cast iron pans?
If there are rusty parts on the cooking surface, scrub them with steel wool first. Next, wash the pan thoroughly with soapy water and scrub it with steel wool. Dry the pan–and this is important–do the drying by hand or on low heat over a stove. Do not air dry. When the pan is thoroughly dry, season it with a light coat of cooking oil. Do not use too much cooking oil. The oil should not drip or run when tilted. Finally, bake the pan upside-down in your oven for a full hour.
Signs of an improperly seasoned cast iron pan
The cooking surface of properly seasoned cast iron pans is smooth and dry. This is because those surfaces are protected by a hard layer of polymerized oils.
However, some manufacturers might use the wrong type of oil, or too much oil, or even not a high enough temperature to properly season the pan.
Oil will be left in microscopic cracks and crevices on the pan’s cooking surface when this happens.
This residual oil will then smoke whenever the pan is being preheated or used at high temperatures.
Metallic taste in food
Improperly seasoned pans impart the taste of iron to meals cooked in them because there is no protective layer of oil separating the food from the metal.
This is a simple problem to fix–just season the pan properly.
Cast iron can rust without the seasoning layer of carbonized oil.
Even the best-seasoned pans can rust if they are left to soak in the sink or put in the dishwasher, then air-dried or left in a moist environment.
Tip: cast iron pans that are a bit (or even very) rusty needn’t be thrown away.
You may come across a rusty cast iron pan in a flea market or antique shop.
If you do, remember that these pans can be fully restored to their former glory more often than not.
Repair by re-seasoning cast iron pans
There are two options for fixing or preserving the seasoning in your cast-iron pan.
The most straightforward way is to simply cook with your pan. Every time you do oil-based cooking, the process can add another layer of seasoning to your pan.
Some activities can remove some seasonings, such as cooking acidic food, excessive heat, or using scouring pads or utensils that are abrasive.
To preserve the seasoning for high-quality cooking, follow the easy cleaning steps below and apply oil to your pan whenever you’ve used it.
Tip: if you pay attention, you will notice every now and then–say every few months of heavy use–that your pan is getting smokey or ‘sticky’.
This indicates that it’s time for a more thorough seasoning application to the pan. You can do this by seasoning the pan in your oven.
Seasoning your cast iron cookware in your oven adds a deeper layer of seasoning to the pan.
It intensifies the bond between oil and surface iron.
A cast-iron pan can be oven-seasoned several times a year without harm.
Tip: when restoring a cast iron pan that is rusty, use oven-seasoning for a better recovery.
Five-step method to repair and re-season your cast iron pan
Wash the pan with soapy water
Use steel wool to scour the rusty surfaces. Next, wash your pan with soapy, warm water.
This might remove some seasoning, but that’s fine since you will immediately re-season the pan.
Hand-dry the pan completely
Use lint-free cloth or a paper towel to dry the cast iron pan.
To ensure it is dry through and through, heat the pan on low heat on a stove for a few minutes.
(The pan needn’t get red-hot or anything, and be careful when you go to lift it up afterward!)
Apply cooking oil
Apply a thin layer of cooking oils to your cast iron using a lint-free paper towel or a suitable cloth.
You don’t want the oil to drip off or run when it is tilted. For baking seasoning, a thin layer of oil is essential.
Tip: when done right, your pan will have a slight sheen all over its cooking surface, but tilting it this way or that will not produce any drip or running oil.
Bake the pan for at least an hour
Preheat your oven to between 450°F and 500°F. On the center rack, place your pan upside-down and bake it.
By baking the pan upside-down, you prevent the seasoning oils from pooling on the cooking surface of your pan. Bake the pan for a full hour.
Important: to catch excess oil, place aluminum foil on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Cool off your pan
Switch off the heat and let your pan and oven naturally return to room temperature. Of course, this might take a few hours.
Cooling off your pan this way allows the seasoning to adhere and its iron to cure.
Frequently Asked Questions About How How Do I Fix Improperly Seasoned Cast Iron Pans
Do new pans need to be seasoned?
New pans should not need seasoning and ought to come from the factory well-seasoned. However, when you’ve just purchased a cast iron pan, you should rinse it thoroughly and dry it by hand before you can start cooking with it.
Do acidic foods damage cast iron pans?
They can, unfortunately. Cast iron seasoning can be broken down by acidic foods like tomatoes. You should also avoid recipes that leave plenty of liquid in the pan for long periods. Avoid these recipes until your pan’s seasoning is well and truly established.
Afterword: How do I fix improperly seasoned cast iron pans?
Cast iron can become sticky and gummy if it wasn’t heated for long enough or was seasoned with too much oil.
Fixing this problem is super easy. Simply put the pan back in the oven and bake it upside-down for another hour, or until all the stickiness has disappeared.
Cast iron becomes faded and dreary-looking if it is heated without oil or without enough oil to cook the food.
When the oil on the pan has burned off, the cast iron will become dull. Re-season the pan to fix this problem.
If, after re-seasoning, the cast iron is still dull, guess what? Simply repeat the process.
Eventually, your cast iron pan will recover its shiny cooking surface again.