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Cast Iron Seasoning Won't Stay On

I am on a mission to build up a good layer of cast iron seasoning from scratch, but it is not working.

I have a pan I had to sandpaper down to the metal and I have tried multiple times since then to build a strong even coat of seasoning on the pan, but to no avail. Anytime I get a base layer built up, it ends up flaking off as soon as I cook meat in it. Bacon even ruins it (which really frustrates me when I see the rest of the world just says 'cook some bacon in it to build up the seasoning'). Any type of fond on the pan will pull the seasoning off with it when cleaned.

I do not clean with soaps or metal objects. All cleaning is done with salt and paper towel and water as needed.

The only thing I can think I am possibly doing wrong is maybe the seasoning is too fresh to use for normal cooking. With this in mind, since the last time I have sanded down my pan I have only used it on below medium heat. This helped ensure food wouldn't stick to it as much and fond wouldn't build up. However, after multiple layers of seasoning and only using it on lower than medium heat the seasoning flaked off again the other night when I cooked spam in it.

The attached image shows a current picture of my pan. Last time I sanded it down I only sanded the inside bottom of the pan. That is why the sides are blacker. This is a 12" pan, which is larger than my burner, that is why the inner portion of the bottom is black and the outer area is brown. However, you will notice that even in the black center of the pan there is a lot of metal showing through where the seasoning has worn off.

What can I do to make my seasoning resilient enough that I can cook bacon in it like normal people!

Additional info: To start a base seasoning layer I lightly coat the pan with Canola oil and bake in the oven for an hour at 450 degrees (slowly coming up to temp). I then let it cool and I repeat this process a few times before I ever cook in it.

 
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  1. "I have a pan I had to sandpaper down to the metal and I have tried multiple times since then to build a strong even coat of seasoning on the pan, but to no avail"

    It is much easier to bake off the original seasoning, than to sand off the original seasoning. If you really want to remove the original seasoning, then put the cookware in an oven and turn on the "self- cleaning" mode. This should bake off/loosen the original surface.

    " Anytime I get a base layer built up, it ends up flaking off as soon as I cook meat in it."

    How thick are the flakes? Do you actually see the flakes or was the seasoning simply come off gradually as opposed of flaking? If the flakes are very thick, then you may have over-grown the seasoning surface. As the seasoning surface crack, it peels off all together like dry paint on a wall. More likely, the seasoning surface flakes because the base was not properly baked on. Try to remove the all the seasoning, and start from scratch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I'm not sure that I follow your comments about removing the seasoning - Are you saying that you think my issue relates to how I removed the previous layer of seasoning? Or are you just recommending a different method to remove seasoning? I was pretty satisfied in the results I got from the sandpaper, it smoothed out the pan just as I had hoped. I have attached an image to this post showing what the pan looked like after I sanded down the inside.

      Take a look at the photo I attached in my previous post and you will see the size of the flaking. I never really notice the actual flakes coming off, I just notice the bare spots showing on the bottom of the pan.

      Also, I have removed all of the seasoning and started from scratch multiple times. That is what led me to ask others for help.

       
      1. re: Octang

        "Are you saying that you think my issue relates to how I removed the previous layer of seasoning? Or are you just recommending a different method to remove seasoning?"

        I am saying that it is much easier and efficient to remove seasoning by baking off instead of physically sanding the cookware.

        "it smoothed out the pan just as I had hoped"

        Not sure if I believe a smoothed out pan is better than the rougher surface, but that is another topic altogether.

        " I never really notice the actual flakes coming off, I just notice the bare spots showing on the bottom of the pan."

        I see. Then I can assume you did not actually build the seasoning so thick that literally flakes came off. I have personally experienced that before. In this case, I assume you have effectively remove the original seasoning, and that your current seasoning are wearing thin.

        There are many things which can cause this. Were you cooking very watery or acidic food? Acidic food can quickly dissolve the new and thin seasoning surface.

        There are so many things you can try now, but I suggest you give this following a try first. Try to do a quick seasoning on stovetop (not oven). Do this for the next few cooking sessions and it will put you a better position.

    2. Sanding sounds like a bad idea to me. An iron pan should be reconditioned chemically, so as not to scratch the surface.

      I would not use canola for the initial seasoning after thorough cleaning. Use solid Crisco. I suggest reading "The Pan Man"'s seasoning instructions.

      http://www.panman.com/cleaning.html

      4 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        One of the variables I have not changed in the multiple times I have re-started this process is the cooking oil used for seasoning. Next time I restart this process I will use a different fat.

        1. re: GH1618

          I sanded my pan down before seasoning. There's no reason at all why scratches from sanding should be a problem. The surface of many CI pans is quite coarse anyway. That said, sanding generates a lot of dust, and the OP could have had problems with the seasoning adhering to the pan if he didn't fully clean the dust out of the pan.

          I was disappointed with the results from the standard cast iron seasoning recommendations. The OP might benefit from the method I eventually went with, which builds a much thicker seasoning in a fraction of the time as the usual advice.
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7854...

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Thanks. I followed your postings with great interest last June (which gives you an idea how long I've been working on this). I seemed to get better results doing that with my smaller pan that fits the burner than I do with my 12" pan on my 9" burner.

            Is your pan still as glassy smooth as the after picture you displayed on Jun 17, 2011 02:34 AM? Mine always end up looking like your before picture regardless of my method after a number of uses.

            I think I am going to give your method another shot. I never did it for a 45 minute time period though, I mainly did it for 5-15 minutes at a pop. Maybe I'll do an extended session.

            1. re: Octang

              " I seemed to get better results doing that with my smaller pan that fits the burner than I do with my 12" pan on my 9" burner."
              ________
              This is a very good point. My method will probably give you problems if you use a pan that's much bigger than the hob.

              My pan is still quite nice and non-stick. I have, however, managed to damage the coating once or twice - it's not bulletproof. In those cases, I touched it up with a 5-10 minute session of adding more coats of flaxseed oil. Still going strong.

        2. Sounds like you do not have enough layers built up on it. The seasoning layers do wear away gradually with use. So it is important to continue to bake new layers on periodically. I never use my pans until I have maybe 5 good layers built up on the pan. Then I will first use it for baking southern style cornbread in it until the bread does not stick anymore. My southern style cornbread is simple and has not sugar in it. Sugar can stick. It is nothing more than cornmeal, egg, milk, and bacon grease, I often will just make it, and if we don't eat it, I will just throw it outside for the birds and squirrles. It is worth it for how well it helps me get my pan started.

          I too don't have any luck with cooking bacon to build up layers. The bits of bacon just stick to the pan.

          I also have better luck seasoning my pans with lard, bacon grease, or crisco shortening. I have never had luck with a good seasoning with oil.

          IT is good that you got the origianl seasoning off, because in my experiance, it always pops loose anyway. Also, be careful of too hot of temps and too long when baking on your seasoning. You could actually burn it off. I usually start with 400 to 425 for about an hour then either turn the oven off and leave it in until it cools, or maybe just cut the temp back to 350 and leave for another hour. Depends on the time I have. If I take my pans out after they cool, and they look more brown than black or feel sticky, I put them back in for another hour.
          A well seasoned cast iron pan has many layers of of grease baked on over time between use.

          1. I don't mean to sound facetious or dismissive, I have avoided participating in the multiple seasoning angst posts, because I'm not an expert on seasoning, but I suggest you give them a basic light sealing and then start using them.

            This was the method I used for a spun steel crepe pan. a cast iron Dutch oven I use for camping, and a wonderful if non authentic Le Creuset wok. After my "system" I had pans that were essentially sealed from rust but hardly properly seasoned to Chowhound standards; I cook with a knob of butter, or ghee, or dash of oil as required. No flaking or sticking here.

            Always aware of the fact that these pans were not non stick seasoned, I proceeded to use them and over time they seasoned themselves. On camping trips the dutch oven goes in the coals to roast hunks of meat, bake bread, cook up acidic tomato based pasta sauces. I have a few rules, I don't use a scrubby and i use very little detergent. They're pretty much non stick now. The beautiful smooth seasoned surface of the wok is slowly working its way up the sides.

            That's not to say of course that some Chowhound pans Ive seen aren't beautifully shiny and very impressive.

            1. Try using Flax seed oil. I seasoned with multiple very thin layers baked on at 500* for an hour and allowed to cool in the oven for another hour. Repeated this about 5-6 times. Never seen a flake form with use.

              2 Replies
              1. re: scubadoo97

                Scuba, I don't know if you've seen my other posts on the matter, but I'm convinced that the biggest problem with the Sheryl Canter method is that it fails to make full use of one of the biggest advantages of flax seed oil - how quickly it can polymerize at high temperature.

                To the OP:
                I haven't tried it, but I suspect my method can be modified to use with an oven at 500 degrees if one's hob is too small. What I would do: rub one thin layer of flax seed oil on the pan and then place in 500 degree oven. After 45 minutes to an hour, take the pan out of the oven (carefully) and apply another thin layer of flax seed oil to the entire pan quickly. Place pan back in the oven. Repeat every few minutes.

                If I'm right, the flax seed oil should burn off just as well and quickly in the oven as it does on the stovetop, and multiple layers can be applied very quickly and evenly. If I give it a try myself, I'll let people know how it goes.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  NIce to know CBAD. I spent a good part of the day while at home any way doing back to back seasonings.