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Oct 28, 1999 08:41 PM

Acidic Foods vs Cast-iron Pans

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After reading the thread on how to properly season and clean a cast-iron pan, I was reminded of another problem associated with them: acidic foods.

I read somewhere that you should never cook acidic foods -- such as wine, vinegar or tomato-based sauces -- in cast-iron pans because of the following reasons:

* acids will corrode the cast-iron and/or the seasoning

* corrosion will impart a, well, metallic taste to the food

Is this true? Has anyone ever experienced these problems before? Has anyone ever cooked a "boeuf a la bourguignone" or "ossobucco a milanesa" in a cast-iron pan?

If the pan is REALLY well-seasoned, will it still happen?


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    chris b. shaw

    According to the excellent web-page of a manufacturer of cast iron products,if your food tastes at all metallically then your cookware is not seasoned properly.As for tomatoes nutritionists actually promote the use of cast iron to add dietary iron to your diet.It didn't say anything about vinegar.If you are still interested in knowing more visit their web site.Here is a clue he was Nixon's running mate for Vice President in 1960.(Hey Food & Trivia all in one!)I am in no way or have ever been associated with this company.

    1. Seasoned cast iron is one of the best materials for cooking tomato sauce. I have never had a problem with corrosion from tomatoes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jeremy

        I'm so grateful for this interchange. Cast iron is what I cook in by choice. I have several and they are all appropriately ancient. I've worried from time to time though about the effect of acids on the pan as well as the pans on the acidic food. So---I'll just keep doing what I have been with a clear conscience.
        Thanks again. pat

      2. I just finished reading all of the cast-iron posts on "Not Food" (whew), and was going to post a followup here, and whaddayaknow, here it is already.

        I've been using cast iron since I inherited some grizzled old skillets from my grandmother about 25 years ago...I use them every day for almost everything. Here's my 2 cents' worth:

        The no-soap issue is a red herring...if the pan is really greasy, a little detergent (which actually binds with the grease, as opposed to soap, which just makes the water "wetter") is fine...just don't scrub too hard.

        If your food sticks, you're not using enough fat.

        Burn off accumulated crud in a woodstove, fireplace, or bbq..I don't have a self-cleaning oven, but I tend to agree with Pete that it would generate a lot of smoke.

        Acid foods aren't a problem...I regularly cook tomato-based food, and even deglaze with vinegar, without serious problems.

        Pans do lose seasoning, but cooking something oily or heating the pan and wiping in a small amount of oil or fat (not olive oil, I guess) will restore it.

        The best pans are Griswolds, made in Erie, PA up until mid-century. You can still find at yard sales or in thrift shops...look for a cross within a circle and the word GRISWOLD on the bottom...if the pan's not cracked, buy it...savvy dealers boost the prices up as much as $50 for a 10-inch skillet, but I've bought many for under $5...the cast iron waffle irons (for stovetop use) are really cool (and they work).

        If I could only cook with one pan, it would be my no. 10 Griswold.