One of the more common misconceptions about cast iron cookware is that you shouldn’t cook any acidic foods in your pans. While it’s true that simmering acidic ingredients in cast iron for longer periods of time can impart a metallic taste and/or remove some of your pan’s seasoning, you can safely cook lots of things without having to worry about off flavors or damaged pans.

Here's how to do it:

Photo: Christopher Simpson

Keep it quick

When cooking acidic foods in cast iron, it’s best to keep the cooking time below 30 minutes; any longer and your sauce might begin to taste metallic, or your dutifully maintained pan might lose some of its seasoning.


Know your cookware

If you’re using cast iron cookware that has a durable foundation of seasoning, your pan will be able to handle more acidic ingredients and longer cooking times than a brand-new skillet. To help you better understand how specific recipes will affect your skillet, we include a “seasoning rating” at the bottom of each of our recipes that explains their impact on your cookware.


Watch your pH

When cooking acidic sauces, stews and the like, it helps to know the general pH level (i.e. acidity) of your ingredients. Canned tomatoes—a common ingredient for many sauces‚ have a pH of around 4, which is less acidic than wine (3 to 4), vinegar (2.5), and citrus juice (around 2). The takeaway? It’s safe to cook tomato- and wine-based sauces in cast iron, but you should save the vinegary pan sauces for stainless-steel pans—or dilute the vinegar (or citrus) with water or stock.


Clean after cooking

We always advocate cleaning your cast iron pans as soon as you can after you’ve finished using them, but it’s especially important to do so when you’ve cooked higher-acid foods in them. If you forget to do the dishes, don’t worry: Even if your pan’s seasoning takes a hit, you can restore it with regular cooking, or a good re-seasoning.