By Samantha Schwab
Cast iron pans have been around for thousands of years for a reason: They work on almost any heat source: kitchen stovetop, oven, outdoor grill, and even open flame. When properly seasoned, their non-stick surface can be used to fry up your morning eggs, get that perfect sear every single time, and even make a ginormous skillet cookie. Best of all? You can get a new 12” cast iron skillet for under $30 or salvage one from a flea market, and it’ll last (basically) forever.
Get a recipe: Easy Cast Iron Pizza from A Couple Cooks
Still, no cookware is foolproof and cast iron pans are no exception. We spoke to cast iron expert Aaron White from Finex Cast Iron Cookware Co. and discovered a few (surprising) facts about cast iron pans.
1. Yes, cast iron pans leach iron.
In the health community, there’s been some concern about leaching, especially with aluminum cookware, but some have also wondered about cast iron. White confirmed that cooking with cast iron does increase your body’s iron intake, but how much really depends.
Are you cooking with an old cast iron pan or a new one? Older pans tend to leach less iron than new ones. Is your pan seasoned? A seasoned pan will leach less than an unseasoned one. What you’re cooking (and for how long) also comes into play.
Regardless, White tells us to have peace of mind. “There is not a point where using cast iron for long periods becomes harmful,” he says. Iron is an essential element that your body needs. In fact, a quarter of the world’s population is anemic, meaning their diet is iron deficient. In other words, that iron you’re getting from cooking with cast iron could be a good thing.
2. You *can* cook acid in your cast iron pan.
A common misconception is that you cannot cook acid in your cast iron pan. The thought behind this is that the acid will release molecules from the metal and into your food. However, when the cast iron pan is seasoned properly, the oil acts as a barrier and prevents the acid from reaching the pan. Even for longer cook times and larger quantities of acid, the main concern isn’t safety, it’s taste.
The takeawy? Next time you’re using your cast iron, don’t worry about deglazing with white wine or lemon juice, but if you are making a tomato sauce from scratch, you may want to choose a different material pan because it can end up tasting a little metallic!
3. Rusty pans are totally salvageable.
Cast iron is a little more high maintenance than some other metals. Iron rusts much more easily (which makes sense since rust is oxidized iron), so your pan needs a little extra TLC after each use. To prevent rusting, liberally season and fully dry your pan every time you use it.
But, when you inevitably end up with a rusty pan on your hands? It happens to the best of us! White says not to worry because they can “easily be restored to their former glory.” With a quick vinegar soak or a good scrubbing, a neglected cast iron can be brought back to life in no time.