Help! Why Won't My Cast Iron Pan Stay Seasoned?

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Q: Yes, ANOTHER cast iron question! I am getting fed up with mine. I have used it dozens of times, and still it refuses to become nonstick with even the greasiest of foods. Also, lately I have been noticing an increasing amount of light spots on the pan (not rust), and a grimy residue that comes off on the paper towel when I wipe it.

Close-up of Vanessa's pan
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This grimy residue happens even if I rinse it with water first. I have seasoned the pan a few times by oiling it and putting it in the oven to set; I never use soap when cleaning it; and I wipe a thin layer of coconut oil on it after each use. I've also tried the salt scrub method and it didn't quite get out all the stuck-on bits of food. What am I doing wrong?! Should I not be using water at all?

Sent by Vanessa

Editor: Going by the appearance and your description, I'd say that your pan is in its awkward "teenage years," wherein (like many of us) it's rather uncooperative and aggravating. In my experience, cast iron just needs time to get really seasoned, even if it comes pre-seasoned and even if you've been seasoning it along the way. (This is why inherited skillets are so coveted! They've already gotten all the TLC they need to be perfectly seasoned.)

It sounds like you're doing everything right — just keep using it and it will gradually grow its "nonstick" coating over time.

Readers, what advice do you have?

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(Image credits: Gina Biancaniello; Vanessa)