By LAURA SANT FOR RODALESORGANICLIFE.COM NOVEMBER 9, 2015
Cast-iron pans are great for cooking lots of things. Their ability to get and stay really hot makes them ideal for searing meats and cooking stir-fries, and they can go straight from stovetop to oven, which makes them perfect for baked goods like cornbread.
But the trick to great results is knowing when to use them—and when another pan might be better for the job at hand. Here are 5 things not to cook in a cast-iron skillet.
Acidic foods like tomatoes can damage the seasoning on your skillet, which can be a headache to repair. What’s worse, the end result will taste metallic, especially if it’s something—like a slow-simmered pasta sauce—that requires a long cooking time. Skip the cast iron for your bolognese and use stainless steel instead.
Likewise, it’s not the greatest idea to cook things that require deglazing with wine or vinegar; unless your skillet is perfectly seasoned, the acid can leach small amounts of metal into your food, giving it an off-taste and potentially harming your health.
Theoretically, lots of desserts come out very well in a cast-iron pan—it adds an appealing crisp edge to cakes and quick breads, and it can go straight from the stovetop to the oven. But if you mainly cook savory foods in your skillet, those residual flavors can transfer to whatever you’re baking, giving your dessert a savory flavor. If you have more than multiple skillets, designate one for garlicky stir-fries (or whatever) and another for the sweet stuff.
Unless you have a truly perfectly seasoned pan (and few of us do), omelets and other egg dishes can stick to the surface when you try to remove them. That means in addition to serving an ugly omelet, you may be tempted to soak your pan to get it clean, which will definitely remove the seasoning. Go for an enamel pan instead, and those perfectly folded omelets will slide out with ease.
Like eggs, very flakey fish fillets can stick to a cast-iron pan, making them difficult to remove and necessitating a lot of hard scraping, which may also affect the seasoning on your skillet. While cast iron is great for searing a steak, thanks to how hot it gets (and stays), enamel is better for fish like tilapia, cod, and flounder.
Though your salmon and tuna steaks will probably be fine in your Lodge pan.
The article “Stuff You Should NEVER Cook In A Cast-Iron Pan” originally ran on RodalesOrganicLife.com.