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Sep 5, 2007 10:21 PM

New cast iron user, but what to use for tomato stews?

Hi everyone, I've loved reading the great advice on this site and hope you can help out a newbie.

I want to move away from my non-stick pots and pans, and just got a 10 inch pre-seasoned cast iron skillet (made in China). It looks fine, but I got it from the dollar store on a whim for only $7.89. Do you think there's anything wrong with it? I plan to follow the seasoning instructions here quite a few times before I cook in it.

What in the world should I use to cook tomato-based dishes and omelettes, however? I'm sold on cast iron being the best and healthiest cookware, but so disappointed about the no-acidic-food rule. I need a large pot for making chili, tomato sauce, and soups; a small pot for making little sauces; and a small skillet for making frequent omelettes. Are stainless steel my best option? Currently I use non-stick pots/pans for all that but want to get rid of them thanks to the health warnings about Teflon.

If I got a cast iron pot, I suppose I could use it for oatmeal, rice, plain pasta, beans and a few non-tomato soups. But I do cook chili, tomato sauce, eggs etc. very often.

Thank you very much for your advice!

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  1. Cast iron is perfect for eggs. I cook chili in the BIG pot. Don't know about tomato sauce.

    1. I've been using cast iron for everything... for years. Just try to maintain the patina-- don't overdo acids, soaps, etc.

      1. Once a cast iron pan or pot becomes well seasoned, light acid from tomatoes should not be a problem. If you don't already have one get a enameled cast iron pot like La Creuset or similar. These are wonderful cooking vessels that heat well and are a breeze to clean. I use mine often for soup, stews, curries, browning meats, beans, braises and even no knead bread.

        2 Replies
        1. re: scubadoo97

          so long as you don't have the tomato sitting in there for days you should be OK. If I were making tomato sauce from scratch I'm not sure I would use my cast iron, but for things like chili or spagetti sauce, I've never noticed any flavor problems or any problems with the patina on the pan.

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            I second the posts by KaimukiMan and scubadoo97. Once your cast iron is seasoned, making spaghetti sauce, chili, etc. with tomatoes should be no problem. Just don't let it sit in the pot for hours after cooking. I have never had a problem with mine -- and I learned from my mom who does the same. You might want to invest in one really good Le Creuset pot -- I use a 5 1/2 quart size. For omelets, I still have a small non-stick pan, but I am trying to get away from non-stick for most uses.

        2. Thanks, everyone! I do make my tomato sauce from scratch w/lots of tomatoes, so I'll probably avoid cast iron for that. Th enameled cast iron sounds good.

          What's your opinion on copper-base stainless steel? From what I read there aren't health issues with that, and sounds like a good basic metal for when you need to give the cast iron a rest.

          Oh, and everyone says that once the cast iron is well-seasoned every food's fine- but when exactly does it become well seasoned enough? After seasoning it in the oven a few times, after a year of use, after 20 years of use? Thanks!

          1. When I put up fresh tomato sauce, I do it in large quantities and use my steel-lined aluminum stock pots.

            If I'm braising and using lots of tomatoes or wine, then I fall back on my procelain-clad cast iron pots. I got rid of my unlined aluminum cookware years ago and am down to one last non-stick saute pan that's rapidly losing its non-stick so that will probably to be replaced with something heavy that's steel-lined.

            If I'm just boiling water for pasta or blanching veggies, I have a 5-qt. steel pot with a heavy aluminum disc on the bottom. It heats up quicker and is a lighter load to lift than the 5-qt. porcelain-clad cast iron pot I was using previously.

            I love my cast iron skillets for slow even heat -- toasting nuts, cooking eggs, frying chicken, grilled sandwiches, reheating pizza slices, warming tortillas, etc.