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What Can You Not Cook in Cast Iron?

June 11, 2020 6 min read

What Can You Not Cook in Cast Iron?

Understandably, you'll want to cook everything in your cast iron, but you should carefully consider what you are cooking before you pull out the cast iron. Certain delicate foods, acidic foods, and smelly foods should stay away from your perfectly seasoned pan.

Whether you are a seasoned cook who has decided to make the jump to cast iron, or a novice who just came across it, understanding what not to cook in cast iron is an important lesson that many learn the hard way.

Let us answer the question " What should you not cook in cast iron?" so that you can avoid the mistakes that all too many find themselves making.

Foods to carefully consider before cooking in cast iron

No matter what you decide to cook in you cast iron, you'll want to be sure you heat your pan up first.

Cooking anything in a cold skillet or a skillet that is still warming up will likely end in needing to clean and reseason it. Properly preheating your skillet allows the polymerized fats to adequately act as a nonstick barrier and keep your food from sticking to the pan.

1. Spaghetti

Can I cook spaghetti sauce in cast iron?

Acidic foods and sauces are harmful to the nonstick coating and can actually have a bad effect on your iron. Acidic dishes will cause your iron to become sticky and build up a residue that you don't want on your food.

Tomato-based sauces like spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce definitely fall into the list of what not to cook in cast iron. The acid in them will cause a trace amount of iron to release from the metal and seep into the food you're cooking, in turn, leaving your meal tasting slightly metallic.

2. Vinegar/Wine

Can you cook with vinegar in cast iron?

You may want to refrain from deglazing your pan with vinegar or wine very often. The acids in these ingredients will also break down the nonstick coating your pan needs for flawless cooking.

A splash of lemon juice, wine, or vinegar for flavor are fine to use without causing too much harm, but don't let them simmer in these liquids or you'll have to reseason your cast iron sooner rather than later.

4. Peppers and Garlic

Can you cook peppers or garlic in cast iron?

Seasoning your cast iron pan will create flavorful meals but you'll want to be careful cooking with strong ingredients. Take into consideration that cooking with garlic, peppers, and some stout cheeses could leave loud flavors that are sure to show up in your meals to come over the next few days.

5. Desserts

Can you cook dessert in cast iron?

Cast iron is versatile and can be a great tool to use when baking desserts. If you plan on using cast iron for your dessert baking, we suggest having a separate pan to keep your flavors spot on.

Because cast iron is so porous when it is heated, it tends to take on stronger flavors from the food you have previously cooked in it. This isn't a bad thing when you're cooking savory dishes, but you probably don't want your apple pie to taste like last night's seafood dinner.

6. Eggs

Is it ok to cook eggs in cast iron?

You won't want to use brand new cast iron to cook fried or scrambled eggs or omelets. Eggs have a tendency to be very sticky and until you have seasoned your pan thoroughly, you could end up with a burned breakfast scramble or omelet.

After a few weeks of consistently taking good care and properly seasoning your new cast iron, you should be able to use it for eggs no problem!

7. Pancakes

Can I cook pancakes in cast iron?

Pancakes are another food that shouldn't be cooked in brand new cast iron. If your skillet hasn't had ample time to build up its nonstick barrier, pancakes are a lost cause.

This sometimes takes weeks, but after you've broken it in, your artisan pancakes are sure to turn out perfectly shaped.

8. Delicate Fish

Can I cook fish in cast iron?

Delicate fish like trout and tilapia would probably be best cooked in something other than cast iron.

Cast iron works best for sturdy foods that won't fall apart easily while trying to flip or turn them, and the heat that would brown your steak to perfection would consume your flaky flounder.

For the first few months of cast iron cooking, set yourself up for long term success by cooking lots of steaks and bacon. The high-fat content of these meats will go a long way towards helping create that perfect nonstick barrier your cast iron needs to handle these foods.

Oils to avoid when seasoning cast iron

1. Butter

Can I use butter to season my cast iron?

You don't want to season your cast iron with this oil. We recommend using oils that have a high smoking point to season your pan because you will fill your house with smoke when its in the oven at high temperatures.

Flaxseed oil has also proven to withstand the needs of cast iron cooking. Flaxseed oil is considered a "dry oil" meaning that it turns into a hard, tough film when it cools, making it a perfect coating for your cast iron.

2. Olive Oil

Can I use olive oil to season my cast iron?

Like butter, olive oil has a really low smoking point which makes it less than ideal for seasoning cast iron. Cast iron is great at getting hot and holding heat for long periods of time. If you are using an oil that has a low smoke point, you will have a lot of smoke and may even lose your seasoning faster than normal.

Storing leftovers in cast iron

Do not store leftovers in cast iron!

When you're finished in the kitchen, you might be tempted to put some aluminum foil on your cast iron and call it a day.

This practice is terrible for you seasoning and can make it extremely difficult to clean your cast iron as letting it soak in water will make it rust.

To keep from having to constantly re-season your pan, it's best to store your leftovers in a separate dish.

Store your leftovers in something else and save yourself a lot of time and effort later in the future.

Cooking with varying consistencies

Can I cook wet foods in cast iron?

Absolutely! Cast iron mac and cheese sounds awesome, but don't let it sit in the pan for too long.

You will want to clean things like mac and cheese while the pan is still warm, but not hot. The longer you wait, the more difficult cleaning cast iron  becomes.

Cast iron FAQ

Can you ruin a cast iron pan?

Cast iron is a very hardy piece of cookware. It is possible to ruin it, but it would take a lot of neglect over a long period of time for that to happen.

As long as you are washing it properly (ie. not in a dishwasher or letting it soak) it should never accumulate more than a surface level rust that can be easily filled off.

It is also important to be sure that you are not trying to cool it down quickly after it is hot. Pouring cold water over it when it is at a high temperature can cause the iron to warp or crack over time.

Is cast iron safe?

We frequently hear people asking the question "Is it good to cook in cast iron?" Cast iron is more than safe. The only "chemical" that leaks off of this type of cookware is iron and doctors occasionally recommend cooking food in cast iron if someone is having problems with their iron levels being too low.

Does cooking with cast iron give you iron?

Don't ditch your vitamins just yet. Cooking in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet does not release any significant amounts of iron into the food you cook in it. However, if the pan has not been seasoned well, you may have small amounts of iron in your food.

Why is my cast iron sticky?

Your cast iron could be sticky for a number of reasons.

  1. If you try to cook in your skillet before it's heated up properly, your food will likely stick to the surface of your pan.
  2. Attempting to cook certain foods like eggs or pancakes before your skillet has been seasoned well will also cause sticking.
  3. Cooking tomatoes in cast iron will eventually cause a very sticky residue to build up on the surface.

Hopefully this guide will have helped you understand what not to cook in cast iron, but if you are still feeling a little less than confident, don't panic.

Cast iron is a fairly sturdy tool, so don't be afraid to use it! Most of all, be patient with your skillet. It takes time to get it perfectly seasoned and to learn how to properly use it, but once you do you'll be wishing you'd had one sooner.

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