6 Things You Didn't Know About Your Cast Iron Skillet

We debunk six common myths about cast iron cooking.

peach cobbler
Photo: Alison Miksch

MYTH: You should never cook acidic foods in a cast iron skillet.

Acidic ingredients like tomatoes, lemons, and wine can be cooked in a well-seasoned cast iron pan for short amounts of time. You can sauté cherry tomatoes in cast iron, but don't try making a long-simmering tomato sauce. If you recently purchased your skillet and it still needs to be "broken in," acidic ingredients can erode the seasoning and even make foods taste metallic.

MYTH: You can't overseason a cast iron skillet.

Seasoning involves oil (it has nothing to do with salt, pepper, or other spices), and if you apply too much to the pan, it may develop a sticky film. A teaspoon of oil should be enough to coat the interior and exterior of a 10-inch skillet.

MYTH: Never use metal utensils with cast iron.

Don't worry, you can use a metal spatula to flip burgers in your cast iron skillet. Unlike nonstick pans, cast-iron cookware doesn't have a chemical coating that flakes off. If the pan's seasoning gets a little scraped, it can simply be seasoned again.

MYTH: A rusty pan is ruined.

Cast iron is like a chalkboard—you can almost always wipe it clean and start fresh. Unless your pan is cracked or rusted all the way through, scrub off the rust with steel wool, rinse the pan, dry it, and reseason it.

MYTH: A skillet that comes seasoned doesn't need to be seasoned.

While you can cook immediately with a preseasoned skillet, it will get the job done better after it acquires a few more layers of seasoning—achieved either through regular use (here's some recipe inspiration) or additional seasoning time in the oven.

WATCH: Gooey, Indulgent Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

MYTH: A cast iron skillet is the best pan for making grilled cheese.

Okay, this one is a trick. A cast iron skillet is great for making this popular sandwich, but two skillets are even better than one. Use a second skillet to weigh down the bread during the first half of the cooking process to toast it and fully melt the cheese.

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