How To Prevent Food Sticking To Cast Iron

If you own cast iron pots and pans, you probably know that they can cook dishes perfectly and last for decades. One of the only drawbacks to using cast iron cookware is that food can sometimes stick to the surface. So, how can you prevent this? 

Here are five ways to prevent food from sticking to cast iron: 

  1. Sizzle the oil before adding food.
  2. Season your cast iron cookware regularly.
  3. Oil the pan twice.
  4. Be gentle when cleaning your pan.
  5. Use salt before frying.

Read further to discover more about preventing food from sticking to your cast iron cookware.

  1. Sizzle the Oil Before Adding Food

One of the easiest ways to prevent food from sticking to your cast iron cookware is to heat your oil until it shimmers before adding your food. 

The heat from the sizzling oil causes the moisture in the food to evaporate. This creates steam between the food and the pan, resulting in a non-stick barrier that prevents the food from forming a chemical bond with the cast iron. 

If your food is refrigerated or frozen when you add it to the sizzling oil, the low temperature may not create an effective steam barrier. It’s, therefore, worth leaving your food at room temperature for half an hour or microwaving it for a couple of minutes before cooking it. 

  1. Season Your Cast Iron Cookware Regularly

Cast iron cookware is not naturally non-stick like Teflon and needs to be seasoned regularly; otherwise, your food may stick to it. 

Seasoning cast iron cookware involves baking on a layer of oil to create a non-stick surface. The cookware’s iron and metal alloy compounds form polymer chains with the baked-on oil, resulting in a non-stick surface. 

If you use your cast iron cookware regularly, you’ll need to season it every four to six months, and you might notice that your food sticks to the surface more readily if it’s been a few months since the last seasoning. 

Here’s a helpful guide to seasoning your cast iron cookware: 

  1. Remove any burned-on food, and ensure the pan is completely dry before starting the seasoning process. 
  2. Place your pot or pan on the stovetop, and apply a thin layer of vegetable oil with a soft brush to grease the entire surface. 
  3. Turn the stove plate on to medium heat, and allow the oil to heat until it starts smoking. 
  4. Turn the heat off and let the pot or pan cool. 
  5. Oil the Pan Twice

If seasoning your cast iron cookware regularly and ensuring that the oil is sizzling before adding the food doesn’t work, the reason it sticks to the surface could be due to the low fat or high sugar content in the food. 

Low-fat foods release less oil during frying, while sugary foods caramelize at high temperatures, resulting in a sticky substance that sticks to the cooking surface. 

When cooking low-fat or sugary foods, oiling the pan twice can prevent them from sticking. Oiling the pan twice involves spraying a layer of non-stick cooking spray over the cold pan and then adding some cooking oil as it heats up. This creates two separate oily layers, which can help prevent sticking. 

  1. Be Gentle When Cleaning Your Pan

Cast iron is a durable metal, but you need to take care when cleaning it. Being too thorough can remove the seasoning or cause rusting, resulting in your food sticking to the surface.  

The best way to clean cast iron cookware is to remove burned-on bits with a pot scourer. If your cast iron pot is particularly dirty, you should rinse it with lukewarm water and use a gentle detergent only if needed. 

After rinsing your cast iron pan, dry it as soon as possible with an absorbent cloth or piece of kitchen towel, and avoid allowing it to air dry. 

Soaking or putting cast iron cookware in the dishwasher can also promote rusting and remove the seasoning. 

  1. Use Salt Before Frying

If you don’t like the idea of oiling your cast iron pan twice, but you still don’t want your low-fat or sugary food to stick to it, consider using salt instead. 

After adding oil or butter to your cast iron pan and allowing it to heat up, add around half a tablespoon (7.1 g) of coarse kosher sea salt granules or rock salt before adding your food. 

The salt granules create an extra barrier between your food and the cast-iron surface and help prevent sticking. 

A benefit of using salt granules is that they enhance your food’s flavor and give it a delicious yet subtle umami taste.