To make your food taste the way it’s supposed to, avoid cooking with wine or vinegar and get your skillet’s seasoning right.
Many cooks consider cast iron skillets to be the cream of the crop when it comes to cookware, and for good reason.
Not only are cast iron skillets sturdy and durable, but they heat up evenly, and, thanks to their ability to move from stovetop to oven, they allow you to prepare even the most demanding of recipes in a single cooking vessel. Kept in mint condition and well-seasoned, cast iron skillets are also non-stick.
Despite their numerous benefits, cast iron skillets pose a set of unique challenges. A common complaint, especially among first-time owners, is that the food cooked in them can develop a metallic taste. Fortunately, this problem has an easy fix.
Read on to learn why your cast iron skillet made your food taste metallic and how to avoid it in the future.
Cast Iron Is a Reactive Metal
The metal that cookware is made out of can be classified into one of two categories: reactive or non-reactive. Cast iron, along with aluminum, carbon steel, and copper, falls into the reactive group.
Because cast iron is reactive, a chemical reaction occurs whenever you expose it to certain foods: small amounts of dietary iron from your skillet can leach, and your food can change color or develop a metallic flavor.
When this happens, you’re essentially tasting the cast iron from the skillet. While consuming iron is not inherently harmful—you can find this mineral in several enriched foods or supplements—the leaching process will ruin your skillet’s seasoning.
Reasons Why Your Food Tastes Metallic
The most common reasons your cast iron skillet may make your food taste metallic is a lack of proper care and exposure to acidity. Cast iron requires special attention, particularly after cooking foods with high acid content.
Since cast iron is a reactive metal, we encourage you to avoid cooking highly acidic foods, particularly recipes that call for tomatoes (raw or canned), vinegar (no matter the variety), wine (red, white, or rosé; it does not make a difference), or lemon juice, in it.
While a brief sauté for 2-3 minutes is generally safe, prolonged cooking and extended simmering may ruin both your dish and your skillet’s seasoning. It’s best to stick with non-acidic ingredients when using your cast iron cookware.
Additionally, you should avoid sticky foods in your cast iron skillet, such as eggs and certain delicate fish. These will also take up some of the iron flavor when you cook them.
When you need to cook acidic foods, be sure to use cookware from a non-reactive metal. These include ceramic, non-stick, stainless steel, or cast iron with an enamel coating.
Never use your cast iron skillet for storing food. Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that your skillet is completely dry when you put it away. The best way to do this is to pat the skillet dry with a lint-free cloth or a paper towel, then heat it over medium for 3-4 minutes.
You have a few options for storing your skillet:
- Hung on the wall;
- A dry cabinet or cupboard;
- On the stovetop;
- In the oven.
Wherever you choose to store your cast iron skillet, make sure there are no nearby leaks and no dampness present. Any humidity will create unfavorable conditions and cause the skillet to rust. In addition to that, be sure to diligently scrub off any stubborn food particles before storage.
Washing After Each Use
You may have heard that you should never use ordinary dish soap on your cast iron skillet. While this view remains highly controversial among die-hard cast iron fans, there is a correct way to use soap and water to wash your cast iron skillet.
The first step in cleaning your cast iron skillet is to gently remove excess fats and oils with a paper towel. Then, you can hand-wash the skillet using a small amount of dish soap, scrubbing off food particles with your soft sponge or a non-metal brush.
Always wash your skillet immediately after use and dry it completely. Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:
- Wrap a few paper towels around your cast iron skillet for protection;
- Store your skillet in a cool, dry place;
- Set aside designated storage space for your skillet;
- Dry it thoroughly after each cleaning (never air dry);
- Never soak your cast iron skillet in water or use a dishwasher.
How to Avoid Metallic Flavors
One of the best ways to prevent metallic taste in your food is to ensure that your cast iron skillet is seasoned well. Generally, you should re-season your skillet about two-three times a year; some don’t do it at all, and others do it more often.
You can use cooking oil or animal fat to season your cast iron skillet. For example, some swear by using lard because of its thick and fatty consistency. If, for whatever reason, you refuse to use animal fats, there are several oils you can use.
When choosing an oil, there are a few characteristics you should consider. Unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil, will yield the best results because these form a bond with the metal, providing you with a better, more durable seasoning.
Another crucial factor to consider when choosing oils or fats to season with is the smoking point. The smoke point refers to the level of heat it takes for the oil to break down and polymerize. The process of polymerization is what results in your cast iron skillet’s non-stick coating and its resistance to acidic foods.
Cast iron skillets are easy to cook with, last a long time, and you can use them anywhere, including the oven. Sometimes, however, metal particles can leach into your food and give it a metallic taste. It’s an especially common problem with acidic foods.
As long as you properly wash and season your cast iron skillet, you will avoid any metallic taste in your food. Always be thorough about cleaning your skillet, and immediately dry it completely before storing it in a cool, dry place. For best results, you’ll want to make sure you season it a few times a year.
Now that you know how to give your cast iron skillet the TLC it deserves, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it. In fact, the more often you use a cast iron skillet, the less likely it is to rust or give you a metal taste. When it comes to cast iron, weathered and worn is best.