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Jun 18, 2014 04:50 PM

Tomato pasta sauces in cast iron?

My grandmother cooked all our tomato sauces in the cast iron skillet.
Now I learn that tomato shouldn't be cooked in cast iron because it
harms the seasoning of the skillet.
Is this correct? After you make the soffritto, can you add the tomato to the skillet without harming the seasoning of the skillet?

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  1. It depends on how well-seasoned your pan is. If you're trying to establish the seasoning on a relatively new or refurbished pan, you'd be doing a two steps forward, one step back to your efforts.

    Occasional cooking of acidic foods like tomatoes will, in all likelihood, leach some iron into your food. You may or may not experience a metallic taste, but you'll be getting important iron in your diet.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mcsheridan

      appreciate your answer.
      your advice about "two steps forward, one step back" is what I was concerned about.
      Guess I better build up the seasoning before I attempt even a little tomato.
      I'll make the soffritto in the cast iron and then transfer it to stainless steel for the tomato addition.

    2. So long as you don't store the soffritto in the pan, and clean the pan after cooking in it, the pan's seasoning should be fine.

      I've made ratatouille, jambalaya, creole gumbo, chilli, and various curries in my cast iron dutch ovens, and haven't had any real issues with the seasoning.

      And most of those dishes are just as acidic, or more in some cases, as soffritto.

      3 Replies
      1. re: deet13

        thanks for your response, I was actually referring to the tomato that is added After the soffritto is made, the soffritto isn't an issue, the issue is the acid in the tomato, thanks again

        1. re: sylvan

          Most tomatoes today are so low in acid that to can them safely you have to add lemon juice or vinegar. Go ahead and add your tomatoes, then reseason your pan according to manufacturer's directions if needed.

      2. I'm real sensitive to metallic reaction taste in food. I only do long cooked spaghetti sauce in non stick or enameled cast iron.

        My grandmother used to use bare aluminum on hers and I could always taste that pan in it.

        As Mcsheridan said it depends on other factors if the seasoning will be harmed but short times may have no significant impact. Perfect excuse for adding some ECI to your arsenal.


        1. I can always taste the iron after something acidic is cooked in cast iron, so I avoid acidic ingredients in my cast iron completely. It is not a pleasant taste, and stainless steel is much simpler to use for making things like saucy dishes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sirrith

            Yup - me too. I don't cook tomato sauce in CI.

            1. <Now I learn that tomato shouldn't be cooked in cast iron because it
              harms the seasoning of the skillet.>

              It is only one of the reasons. Another reason is that some people are sensitive to the taste of metal. They find it very offensive. For me, I can barely taste it and it does not bother me at all.

              As for the seasoning layer, it really depends on two things. First, how well the cookware in question was seasoned. Second, how concentrate and acidic the tomato sauce is.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Adding to what Chem just said, a quick-cooked sauce with tomato usually won''t be a problem for most folks. I recall reading a test report a few years back about making spaghetti sauce in CI pans. Might have been Cooks Illustrated or Saveur magazine. Anyway, most of their tasters didn't notice anything untoward with tomatoes in CI for ten minutes --- in a well seasoned CI pan. Longer than that started getting problemmatic. The longer the time, the greater the number of people that noticed unpleasant off flavors. The testers also concluded that you absolutely want to avoid adding any wine because the tannins interact quickly with the iron and acid and produce a distinctly bad taste in a very short time.

                1. re: JWVideo

                  almost makes me sorry I bought the CI skillet,
                  thanks for the important tips so I know better how to use the CI skillet