When I first got my cast iron skillet (excitedly bought with a major discount as it was at a factory outlet), I cooked with it as much as I could muster. Breakfast egg scramble? Add it in. Grilled cheese sandwiches? It's already sizzling. Chicken with a mushroom sauce? Yes, please. It is the pan to rival all pans and cookware, whether you're working on the stovetop, the oven, or the campfire.
Well, it was until I realized that some of my foods, like that plate of chicken piccata, started to take on a metallic taste. I smacked my self on the forehead, of course it tastes metallic, it's because the acid in the lemon juice is breaking down the cast iron.
As magical as a perfectly seasoned pan may be, not every food can handle the heat. In fact, there are 5 types of food you shouldn't cook in cast iron.
1. Avoid cooking acidic foods in cast iron skillets.
Just like how tomato sauce can eat through plastic wrap, cast iron pans cannot handle large quantities of acidic foods. Acidic ingredients like tomato sauce, vinegar and lemon-based sauces tend to take on the metallic taste from the pan, leaving your food tasting a bit more like a penny than a dish of delicious food.
Our friends over at America's Test Kitchen did their own test to see how long it takes for the acid to break down some of the molecules in the pan which leeches the metal taste. They confirmed that the process took about half an hour for the food to be deemed, "metallic tasting".
So if you are going to make a quick sauce for your chicken or toss your pasta, make sure you are only cooking it in the pan for a few minutes. And if you are looking to avoid the taste entirely add in the acidic ingredients outside of the pan. Stick to the slow cooker or Dutch oven for those dishes.
2. Avoid cooking delicate fish in cast iron skillets.
While a cast iron pan seems like an all-in-one, there's one food it absolutely cannot handle and that's fish. The delicate nature of some types of fish fillets like flounder and tilapia are too flaky and the cast iron pan will make the fish stick no matter how much butter or oil you add.
We suggest cooking your fish in a non-stick pan if you want your fillets to come out in one piece.
3. Avoid cooking sticky foods in cast iron skillets.
Sticky, sticky, icky, icky! Sticky foods like eggs, pancakes and rice should be avoided up to the point when you know your cast iron pan is fully seasoned. Eggs will turn brown and pancakes will resist a simple flip.
We suggest searing meat and bacon for a few months before trying to make a batch of scrambled eggs in your pan. The oil from the bacon and steaks will slowly build up a nonstick layer that your eggs will love. Plus it's another great excuse to eat more bacon and who can argue with that?
4. Avoid storing food in cast iron skillets.
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Our Editor-in-Chief, @brookembell, recently baked our Ginger Pear Skillet Cake, which has a deliciously tender, crème fraîche cake underneath a crunchy sugar top. With cook time under an hour and only 10 ingredients, we think this recipe should be in your baking repertoire!
While it might seem like an easy way to keep leftovers, food should never be stored in a cast iron skillet after it's been cooked. Not only does it risk the pan rusting and losing its seasoning, it also allows the iron to leech into the food creating an unpleasant taste.
So get that cornbread out of the pan ASAP! To ensure your pan is always clean remove the food from the pan as soon as possible and clean as directed.
5. Avoid cooking desserts in cast iron skillets.
Okay, this rule can bend a little bit but it really depends on what you cooked in the pan prior. Since the cast iron pan has the ability to pick up flavors and scents from previous foods we suggest buying a separate cast iron skillet specifically for desserts and the like.
Nobody wants to eat a slice of a cast iron skillet cookie that tastes like garlic and bacon...or do they?
Lodge's Deep Dish cast iron might be a little heavier than a standard version, but the deep pan makes this pan the real hero in the kitchen. Fry up crispy chicken and brown those potatoes in the same pan's juices without spraying oil everywhere. It holds stir-fries in nicely and brings the best of cast iron cooking into one pan.
This post was originally published on October 11, 2019.