8 Myths About Cast Iron, Debunked

Can you use soap on a cast-iron skillet? Can you over-season a pan? What if it's been factory seasoned? Here are 8 myths about cast iron you should know.

Poll a hundred Southerners about what the most important items in their kitchen and there's no doubt that a cast iron skillet will be near the top of the list. For good reason, too. These affordable pans are so durable they can be passed down through generations meaning some lucky folks can whip up grandma's fried chicken recipe in grandma's cast iron pan. Of course, it's not just fried chicken. Cast iron is so versatile, it can be used on the stove, in the oven, and on the grill to whip anything from salsa to pork cacciatore to pizza to chocolate chip cookies. Even Alton Brown agrees, you can't have too many cast iron pans.

Trout Apple Hash


Despite their omnipresence in Southern kitchens, a lot of myths seem to persist around cast iron. To help separate fact vs fiction, we've put together this list of myths of cast iron that have been thoroughly debunked.

Myth: You can't use soap on cast iron.

In fairness, this used to be true, but now has been thoroughly debunked. As we explained on TikTok, back in the day, soap used to contain lye, which should not be used on cast iron. These days, though, most dish soap is mild and can safely be used on even your most well-seasoned pans.

Cast-Iron Skillet in Need of Cleaning and Seasoning
Cast-Iron Skillet in Need of Cleaning and Seasoning. © Sawayasu Tsuji / Getty Images

Myth: You don't need to clean cast iron.

Cast iron should never be put in the dishwasher, but it does need to be cleaned—especially if you want to go from making smashed fried okra to apple pie in the same pan! If your skillet is well-seasoned, be sure to clean your pans between recipes with hot water and a good scrub and maybe even a little soap and dry well.

Myth: You can't over-season a pan.

While cast iron works best when there is a good seasoning, there is too much of a good thing. If there are small pools of oil collecting along the edges of your pan, it may be time for a deep cleaning. Using hot water, a stiff brush or metal scrub pad, and a lot of elbow grease, scrub down the pan, cleaning out all the old oil. Then re-season with just a teaspoon or so of oil.

tomato and okra cooking in a cast-iron skillet

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Myth: You can't cook acidic foods in cast iron.

A well-seasoned cast iron pan can handle just about anything, including acidic foods like tomato sauce, lemony chicken, or wine-braised meats. However, acid can eventually erode the seasoning and make foods taste metallic, which is why it's best to keep the cooking times for acidic foods on the shorter side. So have no fear of deglazing with wine, but maybe avoid marinating with citrus.

Myth: Factory-seasoned cast iron doesn't need to be seasoned again.

Count factory-seasoned pans among those thing that are too good to be true. While buying a pre-seasoned pan means you can skip that big first seasoning, you'll still need take care of your pan after each use. That just means washing with warm water, drying it well, and rubbing it with a thin coat of oil.

Seasoning a cast iron griddle

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

Myth: Rust ruins cast iron.

While rust is not great for cast iron, unless your pan is cracked or rusted all the way through, a little rust doesn't mean you need to chuck the pan in the trash. Simply give the rust a good scrub with steel wool, rinse the pan, dry it, season it again, and your pan should be good as new. Remember: It is a-okay to re-season your cast iron pan.

A Cast Iron Skillet
Everyone knows that the best pan in the world is that cast-iron skillet your grandmother has been frying chicken in for years, giving it a soft, smooth, completely nonstick surface that's good for pretty much anything. It sears, it pan-roasts, it sautées, it fries, it goes into the oven, it does pizza, it even does eggs with no sticking. In other words, it's the perfect pan. What's that? Don't have a grandma who cooked? Your next best bet is eBay, where you can find vintage Griswolds and Wagners for bargain prices.Look for clean models that are 100 percent cast iron (no wooden handles, please!) from reputable buyers.Worst case scenario: Just buy a Lodge Logic pre-seasoned skillet. They go for under $20, and are easy to season yourself following this guide.

Myth: You can't use metal cooking tools on cast iron.

While your nonstick pan may be a delicate instrument, cast iron is both relatively nonstick and incredibly tough. It can withstand just about anything, including your metal spatula. If the pan's seasoning does get a little scratched, just season the pan again.

Myth: You can't break cast iron.

Trust us. You can break it. As the folks over at Lodge Cast Iron say, cast iron should "be treated with care like any other piece of cookware." You've got all the tools and information you need to succeed with your cast iron pan.

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