Kitchen Tips

What Not To Cook In A Cast Iron Pan, Starting With Tomato Sauce

Your cast iron can handle most dishes, with a few very important caveats.

what not to cook in a cast iron pan

Even kitchen-ninjas like the cast-iron pan have their limitations. And, while cast-iron is nothing to be afraid of, there are a few don’ts (or shouldn’ts) when it comes to pan use.

Better to learn the rules, so you know how to break them, right? Here are three important things to know:

Avoid using acid

That means you, tomato sauce. Not to mention vinegar, wine and lemon juice — and maybe just skip de-glazing altogether. It eats away at the seasoning (layers of polymerized fat between your food and the iron), the exact opposite of what you want when using the pan.

BUT if you’ve just finished pouring some wine into your pan, fear not. If your pan gets regular use and care, the seasoning can handle it. If it’s relatively new, just make sure you keep acid contact as short as possible. Along with eating away at the seasoning, the acids react with the pan over time, and the longer your food sits, the more likely that a metallic taste will leech into your food. Even a reasonably well-seasoned pan, when paired with acids for long enough (in excess of 30 minutes, according to America’s Test Kitchen), can start to compromise the flavour of your food.

Recipes you can make in a cast-iron skillet: Dutch baby pancakes with roasted plums

Photo, Erik Putz.

Delicate foods are a no-go

No matter how well-seasoned, your cast-iron pan will never truly be non-stick. Delicate dishes and ingredients — a thin filet of tilapia, or an omelette — will more often than not fall apart or stick.

If cooking sunny-side up eggs, never crack them into a cold pan (a handy tip for all your cast iron cooking) because ingredients thrown into an unheated pan will stick as the iron warms up. Once heated you’ll still need to add oil before the eggs go in to ensure 100 percent fuss-free results.

Don’t cook strong flavours back-to-back

Flavours can also sink into the pan’s seasoning over time, so cooking a fluffy breakfast pancake the morning after a beautiful piece of fish (or garlic and butter-basted steak) may not yield the best results.

Option 1: Cast-iron is affordable. Consider buying two, and nominate one pan for sweet and one for savoury.

Option 2: Make sure to add a bit of soap when washing — it won’t hurt. (For hard-stuck on bits, scrub the pan with coarse salt first.)

Watch: How to clean a cast-iron pan

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