Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Jul 11, 2010 03:30 PM

does cast iron cookware casue iron overdose?

I'm planning on buying two cast iron cookware, a lodge signature skillet and a dutch oven.

I like cast iron a lot, but it seems that it requires a lot of care.

I have been doing some considerable amount of research.

I admit I have a tendency to worry about things, so I always do a lot of research before important decisions.

We know that using cast iron increases the iron content of the food cooked in it, but does it casue overdose of iron?

A google search of iron toxic seems a bit scary, though it does not nessessarily say cast iron cookware cause iron overdose.

Even if someone already has excessive iron, how is he supposed know about the fact that he has iron overdose?

Also, is the lodge seasoning layer different from burnt oil? I mean eating anything over burned is clearly unhealthy. I mean the Lodge foundry clearly have to heat the raw cast iron in very ,very high temperatures to create the black colour of the product. That seems a similar process to creating burnt oil... I know it sounds a bit silly. But could anyone please help me and explain more on these two questions? Thanks a lot in advance.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In short.

    Yes, a person can get iron overdose from cast iron cookware, but that is rare for a healthy person. Can you get iron overdose from taking iron pills? Absolutely. From cookware? Not typically. Usually, iron overdose from cast iron cookware occurs for people who have hemochromatosis, a genetic disease. If you do regular blood work examination, you probably know. Acute overdose includes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

    I have not read that the seasoning surface on cast iron or carbon steel cookware is unhealthy. I don't believe there is a study like this. There just isn't that much seasoning surface falling off from the cookware. You probably will get more burned carbon in one blackened fish meal than a 5-year worth from a cast iron cookware.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      so, iron overdose is a genetic disease and using cast iron cookwares do not cause it , right? That helps a lot...

      1. re: Emmaus

        Please do not look at a food/cooking site to give you medical advice.

        1. re: Emmaus

          More or less, hemochromatosis is the leading cause for iron overdose, but iron overdose is not exclusive to hemochromatosis patients. For example, I can get iron overdose by supplementing too many iron pills.

          For a healthy adult who has no primary or secondary hemochromatosis, cast iron cookware should not cause iron overdose. As mentioned, if you are concern, just pay attention to the iron level in your next bloodwork report.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Can the iron from the pan get through the layers of seasoning to reach your food?

            1. re: dixiegal

              Yes. If you put your nose, right up to a dried cast iron cookware, you can even smell the metal. As such, you will definitely get iron when you cook in one. The amount of iron leaches out depending on the acidic of the solution, the temperature and the time.

              1. re: dixiegal

                Yes the iron does reach the food. In fact, my doctor suggested I get an older cast iron like a Griswold just for that purpose as most people have a bit of a deficiency ... every little natural bit helps, he says (versus taking supplements). He also insisted we dispose of the aluminum and Teflon cookware and switch to stainless.

                Quine is right about not seeking medical advice on a cooking site, as is Chemicalkinetics about the blood work.

        2. The seasoning layer is, effectively, burnt oil. The oil is slowly pyrolized by normal cooking, and forms a thin layer of pyrolitic carbon on the surface.

          "eating anything over burned is clearly unhealthy"

          Could you explain that statement, please? Carbon isn't unhealthy, it's mostly inert when it comes to digestion. And the carbon seasoning stays on the pan (or should).

          It sounds like enameled cast iron is the way to go for you.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ThreeGigs

            "eating anything over burned is clearly unhealthy"

            I mean eating over burned things is supposed to be unhealthy. Something along this line:

            I think the seasoning layer is different from burnt oil in the sense that it combines with the iron, right? I mean that's what I wanted to ask?

            1. re: Emmaus

              Read what I posted in that thread.

              No, it doesn't combine with the iron, it adheres to it.

              If you're worried, buy enameled cast iron.

          2. Cast iron is, in all probability, the oldest type of cookware used by man, short of clay. So if you don't insist on eating the cast iron pan as part of your meal, there's a very good chance you'll be perfectly safe! '-)

            1. For most folks, the bit of iron that leaches into the food is not a problem. With a well-seasoned piece, the amount that leaches is very small and nil for an enameled piece.The iron that does make it into the food is not particularly well-absorbed by your body.

              The long and short is that unless you have a specific medical condition that prevents you from properly metabolizing or excreting iron, you should be OK. Besides, more than a little iron will make your food unpalatable. That's why acidic/reactive foods are not discouraged in unseasoned or un-enameled cast iron.

              The pre-seasoning that Lodge applies is created by spraying the pieces with a vegetable-based oil and running the piece through an oven. The heating causes the oil to dry (volatile compounds driven off), polymerize (the long chains of fat link up to create a sort of plastic) and carbonize (reducing that plastic to a film of carbon). Seasoning at home basically does the same thing. Is this black stuff dangerous? Well, we do know what IS dangerous, and that is overheating and burning certain foods like meats and potatoes. But the problem is from the proteins, rather than fats. A char-broiled burger with a side of fries is way more troublesome than the seasoning on a cast iron pan.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MikeB3542

                < The iron that does make it into the food is not particularly well-absorbed by your body. >

                I question that assertion, since doctors commonly recommend cooking in iron pans to anemia patients.

                As the OP has so many qualms about using cast iron, I would recommend s/he not do so.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I actually do like cast iron, just want to clear things up a bit.