Is cooking with cast iron healthy? Or are there any hidden risks? Let’s look into the health benefits of cooking with cast iron!
Reading about the pure versatility and cooking might of cast iron- I got hooked. From the perfect hard seared steak.. to crispy glazed brussel sprouts.. and even a delicate sunny side up egg.. a cast iron skillet can do it all.
But cast iron is just a hunk of iron. And what if I notice some rust on my cast iron? Is it safe to eat? Will I get tetanus?
Are there any risks of cooking acidic foods, like tomato and tomato sauce, in my cast iron?
I wasn’t sure and it was stopping me from using my cast iron pan as much as I could! So I dug in to find out the truth. Here it is:
Where Do We Even Start?
First, I think we can agree we’re looking to have tasty food that makes us live forever.
While we may not be able to live forever we CAN figure out how to make the foods we love taste great and support our health!
In general, there’s three steps to making this happen:
- What can we limit or remove that drains our energy and causes us to age faster?
- What can we add in that boosts our mood, energy, and health?
- How can we prepare these foods to make them taste amazing?
What Can We Remove That Makes Us Tired?
First and foremost health is about the amount and quality of food you eat.
There’s no “good” or “bad” foods. Our bodies are tougher than that! For example, there’s Richard Overton who drank whiskey and ate ice cream daily as an adult yet lived to 112.
Before we can talk about cast iron, the bigger fish to fry is foods that you may not realize hurt your body. For a quick reference of foods you may not even realize may cause things like fatigue, brain fog, rashes, soreness and inflammation check out this infographic from UNC Health Talk:
The reason I share this is because if you do have an intolerance, allergy or sensitivity it may weaken your gut and cause you to have more sensitivities. Just like I can step into the ocean and feel fine.. unless I have a small cut in on my foot.
So, if you find the specific foods that take away from your health you may find you have an easier time eating other foods 🙂
What Are The Benefits Cast Iron Cooking Adds?
There are three main health benefits of cast iron cooking.
First, there’s a lot in your environment that may be making you fat. Micro-plastics and other compounds are commonly used in non-stick coatings or sprays that can interfere with fat loss and gut health.
With cast iron, you don’t need any chemicals for it to be non-stick. Now, cast iron isn’t perfectly non-stick yet over time it does come very close. After a few days of use, my cast iron skillet is easily rinsed off and doesn’t have problems with food sticking.
The next benefit is that there’s zero problem with cooking acidic foods. Since cast iron is made of, well, iron, some home cook wonder if acidic foods will eat away at that acid. Luckily it doesn’t. In fact, you get a third benefit from this..
Small bits of iron get absorbed into the food you cook. And iron is an essential mineral used in the formation of your blood cells and other bodily functions. don’t need chemicals for non-stick
Is There An Issue With The High Heat Of Cast Iron Cooking?
Taking a step back, cast iron cooking is a high-heat cooking method. In our review on if air fryers can cause cancer, we shared the research that high heat can turn cholesterol and other proteins into compounds seen to increase the incidence of cancer.
Now- don’t freak out! Cancer is a complex process and there’s no “one thing” that will cause, or remove, cancer. In the case of cast iron, it is a high-heat cooking process, yet I’d argue that the heat is not as intense as grilling.
The reason being, in grilling the heat is partially sent through the grill, which is why you get grill marks! But there’s also heat needed from the fire itself. In cast iron cooking, the cast iron itself is in contact with the food making the heat transfer more efficient.
Let’s Cook A Steak!
However, we may be splitting hairs, so let’s get practical. And, to me, nothing is more practical than meat and potatoes!
When we cook a juicy ribeye on the cast iron we will get a nice even sear on the top and bottom, and sides if you’re fancy like that. And yes, we will have some effects of high-heat cooking. However, we also make the iron more absorbable in the steak, giving us a nutrient boost. Plus, we don’t need any additives or even as much oil to cook our steak on the cast iron- especially a properly seasoned cast iron skillet.
The Tasty Truth..
So what are the health benefits of cast iron cooking? The three main ones are that..
- It’s non-stick without any added chemicals.
- It can increase iron absorption of the foods you make.
- There’s no danger of cooking with acidic foods or eating rust.
In reality, there are cancer-related compounds made from high-heat cooking. BUT unless you plant to switch to a raw vegan diet these will be a constant in your diet. I’d argue that the health benefits of cast iron are signficant and real especially if you compare the taste, ease, and health benefits compared to other cooking forms. (I don’t plan on eating a steamed steak anytime soon!).
Plus, you can use cast iron in conjunction with other healthier cooking options. For example, you can sear a steak on your cast iron then finish it off, at a lower temperature, in the oven or using sous vide cooking techniques.
By the way, enameled cast iron cookware is easier to maintain and more non-stick, however it doesn’t have the same iron-enriching benefits. If you’re curious about enameled cast iron cookware you can see our most recent buying guide here. .
If you already have cast iron cookware, you might love our 11 cast iron life hacks. What do you like to cook with your cast iron skillet or dutch oven? Let me know in the comments below!