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Lemon chicken in a cast-iron skillet- bad idea?

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I have recently accquired some used cast iron cookware and have been going NUTS- I love it! Which is why I need your help before I go overboard...

I've marinated some chicken pieces in garlic, oregano, rosemary, olive oil and a substantial amount of lemon juice. I was thinking about cooking it in one of the cast iron skillets, but as I understand, cooking acidic things in cast iron can produce some off-flavors. Although the skillet appear well-seasoned (I can successfully cook an over-easy egg in the pan w/ only a smidge of oil), is it a bad idea to cook something so acidic in the pan?

I'll get the Le Creuset when I can afford it- for now, I'm happy with my cast-iron fortune. Thanks in advance for helping a newbie out!

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  1. well from what i've heard, acidic contents will allow some of the iron to leach into the food (which is not a bad thing every once in awhile). this said, it's not like you're going to make tomato sauce in it. i use my cast iron skillet for pratically everything. including frying up chicken/rabbit pieces that have been marinated in wine and/or lemon juice. so i say go for it.

    1. I'm iron-poor, and my doctor always tells me to go right ahead and cook everything in the cast-iron pan for the additional iron content that'll be released. You might want to consider cleaning with salt and oil afterward, so that the finish isn't affected.

      1. In school we would clean the copper pans with a mix of lemon juice, baking powder and flour. Boy, were those pans clean!

        1. I'm vegetarian and I cooked some vegetarian scallops (soy and wheat) in lemon juice and butter in an iron skillet. Normally they come out great. But this time I left them in the skillet too long. The flavor was atrocious - tasting metallic. I ate them thinking they were off, but they were way off and should not have been eaten. The juice became black, I noticed, when I cleaned the skillet . And the worse thing is that my teeth (which I had whitened a few months before) became absolutely dark gray. I threw on a tray of whitening, and it helped but didn't quite get them clean. This is a lesson I will never forget.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Marilyn B

            How did you get your teeth white again?! My teeth are so gray and it's disgusting!

            1. re: peacelovecheese

              You could try holding baking soda & hydrogen peroxide in your mouth, and/or brushing with it: https://www.google.com/search?q=bakin...

          2. I use my cast iron skillets constantly and have not had a problem with off-flavors when cooking with acidic ingredients such as you describe. I frequently cook chicken with lemon juice, vinegar, etc. However, I don't make slow cooked tomato sauces in those pans because there the metallic flavor is noticable to me.

            Also, as Marilyn B suggests, don't leave the finished food in the pan once cooking is done. It will likely take on an iron flavor and/or grayish color. Enjoy your cast iron.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tcamp

              I have used an iron skillet at least 5 days a week for 30 years. This was the first time it made the flavor bad (my husband agrees! and he is not that particular). It was also the first time my teeth turned gray. However, neither of us became sick from eating the food. But you can learn new lessons even in your 60's.

            2. Hmm, I read the same thing about not refrigerating acidic foods in metal pots but I squeezed some lemons on filleted mackerel in my cast iron pan and left it for a day, then cooked it in the pan with some added water, drained the water and refrigerated it still in the pan, heated it up the next day and it tasted great.

              There may be some grey tint on my teeth but if I didn't see it mentioned in this thread I wouldn't have said anything because it might not even be there.

              14 Replies
              1. re: MaximilianKohler

                Just to update, even though my fish tasted fine, when I washed the pan today the black coating started to scrub off and the silver metal underneath is now showing so I guess it's a bad idea after all :)

                  1. re: MaximilianKohler

                    Must not be a cast iron pan? Even if some of seasoning came off there would be no "sliver" underneath. Cast iron is black all the way thru.

                    1. re: foodieX2

                      Raw cast iron is gray...It is the seasoning that causes it to be black. ` Today almost all cast iron cookware is pre-seasoned giving it it's black appearance.

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        interesting, I didn't know that. My cast iron pans are at least 50 years old, if not older. They were my mom's. I got them from her 25 years ago. I make tomato sauce that simmers for a long time in them and have never had an issue.

                        I also have one that I got at yard sale that is a lodge brand and I basically had to strip it and start again. I never saw even a trace of "silver" nor anything resembling gray

                        1. re: foodieX2

                          I understand. Old cast iron such as your mom's would have been long seasoned...and seasoned really well many years ago,,,thus it being black. ~~ A steady 'diet' of tomato based sauces, will over time begin to degrade the seasoning to some degree. This can be mitigated somewhat by using the pan to fry, bake cornbread etc. to help restore any lost seasoning in the process. ~~ Up until several yeas ago when Lodge began their pre-seasoning (Pro Logic) line of cast iron their cast iron in retail outlets was gray...not black. ~ When I clean cast iron down to it's naked/natural state in a Lye Bucket, it is a beautiful, clean medium gray. Only when I began the re-seasoning process does it began to take on the black patina of seasoned cast iron. ~~ I have never seen nor heard of anything being "silver" as related to cast iron in any state, until the comment up thread.

                          1. re: Uncle Bob

                            Funny you should mention using the pan to fry after making sauce. I usually use making sauce as a good excuse to then fry up a mess of bacon, LOL!

                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                              uncle bob, would that lye bucket technique remove rust?

                              i have a medium-rusted oval cast iron pan that i'd like to renew.

                              lye bucket sounds very caustic, so is there a less-caustic approach?

                              what kind of business would take on that job if i didn't want to do it? hardware stores? (i guess i need to ask on my local DC board for this kind of info).

                              1. re: alkapal

                                No. The Lye process will not remove rust. Rust needs to be removed prior to using the lye process. Sanding, scraping, using stiff wire brushes etc. by hand are the safest methods. If using electrical appliances to sand scrape etc, the use of good goggles is recommended. You can be as aggressive as you need to be to remove the rust as any scratches, or abrasions will only harm the old seasoning that will be removed in the lye process. Rust can be chemically removed with some acids, but I usually don't recommend them to the inexperienced.

                                There are different approaches to cleaning CI, but I've found none that do the job of the lye bucket process when getting down to the bare 'nekkid' metal is the objective.

                                I know of no business that routinely does this type of work. (using the lye process) You might sweet talk someone however :)...if they know how or have even heard of the method. ~~ A welding shop might help you with rust removal.

                                The lye bucket process is a very caustic process, but can be safely done if you follow a few common sense, simple precautions. ~~ If you would like to look into the process I can give you the directions etc. that you will need.

                                1. re: Uncle Bob

                                  And should one attempt the lye process I urge the use of hand and eye protection. Not many chemicals will melts a cornea faster than lye even with irrigation.

                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                    thank you, uncle bob. i don't think i will do the lye bucket process. maybe this pan is not worth the effort to "rescue" it. i guess the former owners sold it at their yard sale for this very reason. ha!

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Try to do some research on the pan....You may have a real treasure. It could be worth the effort and cost ~~~ There would be some expense in doing the lye bucket....Obliviously you would need a 5 gallon bucket w/lid..... lye...rubber gloves and most importantly goggles for eye protection ...just in case.

                    2. I cook in cast iron skillets all the time and in my experience they can impart a metallic taste when lemon juice or vinegar are used. Less so when other acidic (but less so) ingredients are used.

                      1. I made the Lemon Chicken from Union Square Cookbook in my cast iron skillet (as the recipe called for) and didn't have any issues with it.

                        1. I have no taste issues cooking anything in cast iron.

                          1. I used to use cast iron all the time. I stayed away from anything acidic though. Today I only use well seasoned stainless pots/pans. It sort of a 'thing' I have. Now I feel that if someone can cook using stainless without ever having the food stick and just a wipe out with a paper towel is enough to clean the pots/pans then they are pretty damn good in the kitchen.

                            1. I often make acidic dishes in my cast iron with no noticeable metallic flavors.

                              The few times I have made recipes heavy in tomato sauce I have had to do a mini re-seasoning but that's it.

                              1. This is what happened to my carbon steel pan after cooking Ina's tequilla lime chicken. To think that I have ingested a good amount of polymerized (read burnt) fat is not very appealing to me.

                                Good luck.

                                http://www.chow.com/photos/575835

                                1. I've been told not to cook okra or tomatoes in my black iron skillet. I have friends who say it gives it too strong a smell and taste. Is there a list of foods NOT to cook in a black iron pot?