What not to Cook in a Cast Iron – A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to cooking, there are some things that are better left to other cookware. This is especially true when it comes to using a cast iron skillet. While cast iron skillets are great for many foods, there are also some foods that are more acidic, strongly aromatic or more prone to sticking and should not be cooked in cast iron.

So the question is what not to cook with cast iron? 

I inherited my grandmother’s cast iron skillet more than a decade ago and I have been using it ever since for my sweet and savory dishes.

Although there are a few foods that I completely avoid making in that cast iron skillet because of their smell, acidity, or fragility. 

In this guide, I will discuss what not to cook in cast iron, especially when it is relatively new. Some of the foods on the list you can start making once your cast iron has developed a beautiful patina with age and use. But Strong Aroma food is a complete No No in my opinion

What not to Cook in a Cast Iron?

With a cast iron, you can cook anything from breakfast to dessert with just one pan. It’s durable and affordable, making it the perfect addition to your kitchen.

But here is a list of food that I avoid making in my cast iron skillet because of various reasons explained below

Food with a Strong Smell

When it comes to cooking, cast iron has a lot of benefits. It retains heat well and can be used on a variety of cooking surfaces, including induction cooktops.

However, there is one downside to cooking with cast iron: it can absorb the aroma of food. Which is a good thing if you make only steaks and stews or other savory food in your cast iron. This property of cast Iron can enhance the taste of your savory dishes.

However, if you are planning to make skillet brownies after you made garlic bread, Stop right there! Because nobody will like garlic brownies.

If you’re planning on cooking something with a strong aroma, like garlic, stinky cheese or fish, it’s best to steer clear of using cast iron. The porous nature of the metal means that smells can easily become trapped in the cookware. This can result in your next food taking on an unpleasant taste.

There are other types of cookware that are better suited for cooking foods with strong smells. Stainless steel or enameled pots and pans are good options. They won’t absorb odors the way cast iron does, so your food will retain its original flavor.

Tomatoes and Other Acidic Food – for a prolonged period

can you cook tomatoes in cast iron
Are tomatoes bad for cast iron?

Nothing compares to a flavorful Bolognese sauce that is cooked for hours on the stove while you add tomato paste, garlic, and other ingredients, but you shouldn’t prepare meals like this in your cast iron pan until it is very well seasoned.

So why can’t you cook tomatoes in cast iron? When cooked in a cast iron pan, which is relatively new although it may be pre-seasoned, dishes rich in acidities, such as those including tomato or citrus, may develop a metallic flavor and can also weaken the seasoning you’ve worked so hard to develop.

It’s definitely ok to add some lemon zest to the chicken you’ve been sautéing, but stewing tomatoes all day is not good.

An experiment carried out by Ameriac’s Test Kitchen proved that the tomato sauce that was simmered for 30 minutes in a cast iron pan had a metallic taste.

So Can you cook tomatoes in Cast Iron? While you can definitely cook tomatoes in cast iron just make sure that your cast iron skillet is very well seasoned and you don’t cook the tomatoes for a long time.

Fried Eggs – Straight out of the refrigerator

what not to cook in cast iron skillet?
What not to cook in cast iron? Eggs straight out of the fridge.

Fried eggs are likely to stick to the hot skillet surface when you fry them straight out of the refrigerator. Thus, in addition to preparing an ugly fried egg, you might leave your pan out to soak, which will certainly cause it to rust.

You can opt for a non-stick pan for perfectly fried eggs. But if you really have to use a cast iron skillet to make eggs, make sure to follow these steps so that your egg does not stick. I learned these tips after multiple failed attempts at the fried eggs in a cast iron skillet.

  • Heat the skillet for 5 mins before adding in a good amount of oil.
  • Let the eggs come to room temperature before adding them to the cast iron skillet.
  • Let the egg white harden before moving the egg.
  • Cook the upper side of egg by pouring hot oil from the skillet on the egg. Do not flip.
  • Use a thin metal spatula to remove the egg.

Some Fish

In addition to eggs, Fish is another food that is hard to cook in a cast iron skillet. This is especially true if you are a beginner cook. There are a few reasons why you might not want to cook it in a cast iron skillet.

For one thing, fish can be a delicate food and can stick to the cast iron skillet and will fall apart when you will try to flip it. It will also be difficult to clean off later.

Additionally, cast iron also absorbs the fish smell and it might be hard to get rid of afterward unless you wash it really well with soapy water.

This means that your next meal cooked in this cast iron skillet will taste like fish even if you don’t want it to. However, if you really want to cook your fish in your cast iron skillet, 

How to Avoid Delicate fish from Sticking to Cast Iron

Make sure to

  • Warm the cast iron pan for at least 5 mins before adding the oil
  • Place the fish gently in the hot skillet
  • Do not try to flip it until a crust is formed on one side.
  • Use a fish spatula to flip it.
  • Do not flip the fish more than once.
  • Wash the skillet well with warm soapy water.

Desserts  -If you made Strong Aroma Food Earlier

What not to cook in cast iron? Desserts! when your cast iron is smelling like garlic.

When it comes to dessert, there is nothing better than a classic brownie. And when it comes to making brownies, there is nothing better than using a cast iron skillet. There are so many reasons why I love making brownies in my cast iron skillet. The most important of which is they are a crowd pleaser. 

If you love making skillet brownies or other desserts in a cast iron skillet, don’t do it if you’ve made strong aroma foods earlier. That fish smell or garlic smell will linger and ruin the taste of your dessert. It’s better to use a separate pan for savory dishes and another for sweet treats. 

Never use Cast Iron to Store Food

So you just made Parmesan Chicken in your cast iron skillet and you are tempted to store the leftovers in the cast iron skillet. Stop that urge. 

If you’re tempted to store food in your cast iron skillet, think again. Whatever you do never store your leftovers in cast iron. Moisture can cause the skillet to rust, and it’s not meant for storing food. Cast iron skillets are great for cooking, but they should be used for cooking only. When it comes time to clean up, make sure you dry the skillet completely before storing it.

Never Marinate in Cast Iron

Acidic mixtures like vinegar, lemon juice, or tomato marinade will deteriorate the seasoning. 

Ok What to Cook in Cast Iron?

When it comes to cooking, cast iron is one of the most versatile materials around. Whether you’re looking to sear a steak, cook a chicken breast,  just sauté some vegetables or, make baked desserts, cast iron can help you get the job done.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your cast iron cookware:

  • Preheat the pan before adding any food. This will help ensure that your food cooks evenly.
  • Use a small amount of oil or butter to coat the surface of the pan. This will help prevent sticking and make cleanup easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! Cast iron can be used for more than just traditional recipes. Get creative and see what you can come up with.

Can you cook Liquids in Cast Iron?

You can actually simmer thick foods like chilies, stews, and cream sauce for an hour or more since they don’t have enough water. But steer clear of boiling water-based dishes such as soups or water alone in that heat for that long in a cast iron pan.

When you have water at a continuously boiling temperature inside seasoned cast iron, the boiling action releases the seasoning. There could be patches of seasoning or an uneven layer of seasoning left on your cast iron.

Boiling water in cast iron once in a while is ok as long as you are properly taking care of your cast iron and building seasoning with each use. 

How to use Cast iron for desserts?

Fruit desserts, cakes, brownies, and frosting, cobblers, scones, and pies are just some of the delicious baked goods you can make with your cast-iron cookware. There’s something for everyone! For instance, you can enjoy a pie for breakfast, have incredible cobblers for lunch, or devour a chocolate-flavored dessert at dinner.

Here are some desserts you can make in your cast iron. Just make sure your cast iron doesn’t have any lingering food smells.

What to do Next?

So now you know what not to cook in cast iron? But If you messed up your cast iron skillet and it gets really dirty I have cleaning instructions available as well as step-by-step guidance on how to re-season your skillet. Cast iron is tough and can withstand the occasional mistake.


Are Onions bad for Cast Iron?

While Onions are not bad for Cast Iron Skillet, the porous cast iron can absorb the aroma of the food cooked in it.

If you fry onions to brown them ( used in South Asian Curries ) the smell of fried onions can linger on for a while not only in your cast iron but also in your kitchen.

So if you are frying onions in your cast iron skillet make sure to wash it well with warm soapy water afterward.

Are Peppers bad for Cast Iron?

No, peppers are not bad for cast iron. Peppers do not have a strong smell, and they are slightly acidic,( not as much as lime or tomatoes )  but that is not something cast iron can’t handle. You can definitely stir fry or roast peppers in your cast iron skillet.

Are tomatoes bad for Cast Iron?

When it comes to cooking with cast iron, there are a few things you should avoid if you want to keep your pan in good condition. One of those things is cooking tomatoes for more than 30 minutes. The acidity in tomatoes can break down the seasoning on your pan, causing it to rust. If you must cook tomatoes in your cast iron pan, be sure to do it for a shorter period of time. 

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