The Reason You Should Never Cook Wine-Braised Meat In A Cast Iron

Cast-iron skillets are an essential piece of kitchen cookware, but they're not suitable for every meal. If you're using an acidic ingredient, such as wine, to braise meat and subsequently deglaze the pan, cast-iron skillets should remain on the rack in favor of other types of cookware. That's because acidic ingredients used could potentially cause the metal in cast iron to break loose and wind up in the sauce containing those delicious, caramelized meaty bits.

When this occurs, you'll be treated to an unpleasant metallic flavor that will quickly ruin your appetite. You may also run the risk of health issues, although the exact effects aren't totally clear. A study featured in the Journal of Public Health and Nutrition found that beets cooked in a cast iron pan included 0.0081 milligrams ‌of iron, as compared to the 0.007 milligrams found in the same serving of beets after cooking in another type of pan. However, there is no evidence that this increase in iron can harm your health, unless you have a condition called hemochromatosis.

The good, the bad, and the iron

Per the Mayo Clinic, hemochromatosis is a condition where the body takes in more iron than it should. This surplus of iron most often ends up in the heart and liver and can lead to significant health effects as a result. Genetic abnormalities are the most common cause of hemochromatosis, and the condition usually presents itself later in life. Some symptoms include "fatigue, joint pain, and memory fog." In severe cases, a person can develop a serious heart condition or a chronic illness like diabetes. However, most people with hemochromatosis never end up experiencing major health effects.

People who do experience health issues due to the condition are encouraged to avoid foods and supplements that add extra iron to the body. And while cast iron only adds a minimal amount of iron to the diet based on pertinent research, safe practices are crucial to keep iron levels manageable. Properly seasoning a cast iron pan can also reduce how much metal gets into food, regardless of health status.

Tips on seasoning a cast iron pan

Seasoning a cast iron skillet builds up a layer of oil on the bottom of the pan, which prevents food from sticking. While the majority of cast iron pans on sale today come with seasoning intact, you'll need to beef up the protective layer after it begins to wear down. First, you'll want to select an oil to season the pan. The best seasoning oils will have a high smoke point, meaning they won't produce smoke until they reach a certain temperature. Flavor neutrality is also crucial, so oils like sunflower, canola, and vegetable are great options.

To season the metal, take your preferred oil and drizzle it into the pan to create a thin layer on the bottom. Next, set your oven to 375 degrees and place the pan inside so the cooking surface faces down. Because it's likely that the oil will drip, use a piece of aluminum foil on the rack beneath the pan to avoid a mess. After about an hour, turn off the oven and allow the pan to gradually cool before removing it.