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Cast iron pan: steak sticking

Jack Liu

Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 3
So I bought a new preseasoned cast iron pan recently, and I've seasoned the pan over the last two weeks with primarily lard. I've gotten it to the point where I can scramble eggs without it sticking (very happy)! Chicken breasts are also no problem, and come out with a beautiful sear. I use medium heat (electric) when cooking the forementioned foods.

However, for some reason, I still have problems pan searing/frying steak. It still sticks, even after I let the steak sit at room temperature for an hour, and I use a good amount of oil in my cast iron pan over medium heat (electric stove). No matter how I try, the still sticks and I lose all the salt and pepper I patted into my steak ahead of time. My steak comes out of the pan looking pretty bare, with very little sear marks and crusting, probably due to the previous point (it's all sticking to the pan). Afterwards, all the stuck-on salt and pepper crusting scrapes out near effortlessly with my metal flat-edge spatula.

Any suggestions on what I'm doing wrong? Should I use a higher heat to sear?

Thelma McGowan

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 170
Location: western Washington, Snohomish county--zone 8b
Is there a lot of liquid coming out if your maybe it boils instead of sears?
or you could try med high temp to sear you cook your steak rarer or more well done.....
is your pan really hot when you put the steak in.....this works for beef, if you like more rare meat the outside of your steak will get brown fast and leave the inside pink, but for well done you just wind up burning the outside.

maybe the salt coating is too thick....salt is kind of an insulater especially coarse salt??

There are no experts, Just people with more experience.
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
That's odd, I'd think of steak as being pretty 'unsticky.'
Thelma's asked the questions I would re temperature, so I'll just write what I do:
Before adding anything, I heat the pan to pretty hot but not smoking (smoke's the seasoning burning off...)
I very rarely use fat when cooking steak, as the meat I use is generally well-marbled. I just bring the meat to room temp, salt well. I add pepper after cooking as the high temps I use tend to burn it.
Cook steak on high heat.
Take off and rest for as long as possible in a warm place.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1909
Location: PNW Oregon
My 'meat' was sticking too and I surprised me. It took some time but I found it was the seasoning.

Now it could be the seasoning + fat or some other factors playing off each other - they seem to gum things up just enough to cause sticking. I just stopped seasoning until after the meat was on the plate and it worked like a charm. It was still okay to marinate as long as there was no sugar in the marinade, but no dry seasoning in the pan.

Give your pan a go without seasoning the meat, then add the spices after it's out of the pan - see if this works for you.

All the best ~
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Hmmm. I can see we'll have some issues with 'seasoning' vs 'seasoning'
I was talking pan surface, and Jami flavour enhancers btw...
I have no experience with pre-seasoned pans. I know people have problems with them sometimes, but if eggs aren't sticking then that doesn't look like the problem.
Craig Dobbelyu

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1188
Location: Maine (zone 5)
For steak I like to cook on a little bit higher heat so that the outside sears before the inside to too far done. I like a very rare, juicy, lightly salted and peppered steak. Simple is best in my book. Here's how I do it.

Start with a room temperature steak. Get the pan good and hot (not Smoking), sprinkle the pan with course salt and place the steak on top. Avoid pepper and other "flavor enhancers" until near the end of cooking as they may burn before the steak is cooked. Allow the steak to cook until it separates easily from the pan, then flip it. It should be well seared but not at all burned. You should see steam but not smoke coming from the steak. Add "flavor enhancers" to the top of the steak while the second side cooks. I prefer to use only cracked black pepper. Once cooked to your liking, remove the steak from the pan by turning it over onto a plate/platter with the spatula. Add "flavor enhancers" to second side of steak. Let it rest for a few minutes under a foil tent to allow juices to redistribute through the meat. SERVE.

Avoid dry meat by:

Only be flipping it once
Not pressing meat with a spatula as that will also force liquid from the meat
Not using forks or knives to flip steak. Puncturing holes in meat causes vital juice leaks.
Not overcooking it. It's food, not a burnt offering to the gods. Have some respect.

"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”


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Ivan Weiss

Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 160
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
I ditto everything Craig says. I have been doing steaks exactly this way for years.

Pastured pork and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
Steven Kraft

Joined: Jan 03, 2010
Posts: 11
A steak should burn and stick to the pan, in fact. Read more about it in Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking"

Craig is right and I would recommend leaving the steak in place after it hits the pan - do not move it around. Once you have let it cook as much as you wish on the initial side, then carefully lift it with tongs and turn it over. Do not move the steak around on the pan as it cooks. Once the second side has had enough time and you feel the meat is cooked to your liking, you could turn the heat off, and put the steak on a warm plate, covered. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then enjoy it.

Check this out: How to cook a steak restaurant style


Jack Liu

Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 3
Thanks everyone for your helpful advice! It turns out, I needed to oil the pan a little more, and use higher heat (I was previously using medium heat, but medium-high heat seemed to do the trick). My steaks tend to be less marbled and more lean, which is why more oil was needed. After an additional month and a half of using the pan, it's a lot more non-stick now, where a tiny spritz of oil (using an oil mister) is needed for eggs and chicken breasts. Steak is also a lot easier to cook these days, and gives a great sear without overcooking the inside.
Jocelyn Campbell

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 3118
Location: Missoula, MT
Steven, those steak instructions are awesome! Must try it that way next time.

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Jack Liu

Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 3
I recently got my hands on a gently used Wagner cast iron pan, and WOW, the smoothness of the seasoning of the pan is incredible! My Lodge cast iron pan now looks and feels so rough, and I'm pretty certain that I'll NEVER get that pan to have a seasoning anywhere as glass-smooth as the Wagner. On top of that, the Lodge weighs a TON, while the Wagner feels like 1/3 of the weight of the Lodge, so easy to wield.
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