Is it ok to make chili in a cast iron dutch overn?

stu2900February 6, 2008

I was looking for a good pot for chili and for Christmas received this cast iron dutch oven which was labled "Chili Pot". I've used it a couple of times and really like it, but it's starting to show rust spots. When I was looking on the internet for seasoning suggestions, I was that you're not supposed to use anything acidic. Well, isn't chili acidic? Now I'm confused. Is it ok to use, and if so how do I season it?

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On the other hand, I've read that, according to some experienced cast iron owners, acidic foods don't affect well-seasoned cast iron. I'm inclined to believe that.
I have a well seasoned cast iron chicken fryer that is my go to pan. I cook tomato-y foods in it a lot and have yet to experience a metallic taste or see any sign of deterioration in the pan.

When cleaning up, I wash with soapy water & the scrub side of a sponge, making sure all the food is removed. I always set the pan on a low burner to dry thoroughly. I rub a bit of Crisco in it with a paper towel, then rub the pan with a dry paper towel to remove as much Crisco as possible. I turn the heat up to medium until the remaining oil starts to smoke, then I turn the heat off. When cool, I store the pan with a paper towel in it so other pans stacked in it don't chip the seasoning.

To season a pan initially (or to renew a seasoning), warm the pan on the stove top, put a dab of Crisco on a paper towel & spread it around the interior & exterior. Then take a dry paper towel & rub off the oil until the pan looks somewhat dry. Put the pan in the oven, setting the oven to 350 degrees, & leave the pan in for an hour. Let the pan cool a bit, then repeat.

I rescued an old 14 inch skillet this weekend & used this method to season it. Tested the pan the next day by browning some chicken in it: the pan is fabulous -- no sticking at all!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 7:23PM
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I personally would not let anything acidic, like tomatoes, sit in cast iron for any period of time. So while it's probably fine to cook such foods in your pan, just remove the contents as soon as the cooking is complete.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 10:17AM
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I've made chili and other tomato based sauces, including baked beans, cook in my cast iron for HOURS.

If it's properly seasoned, it won't be a problem.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 11:04AM
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You are using a perfect cleaning procedure for your cast iron pans. With that procedure you are adding a thin layer of seasoning each time you clean your pan. The patina will develop quickly and become absolutely fantastic one day.

When cast iron is seasoned "multiple times" it will become what is known as "cured". Cured cast iron will not readily react with acidic foods. It is perfectly OK to cook (not store) acidic foods in cured cast iron.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 8:58PM
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I learned it all from you, Dan :) Your helpful & interesting comments are the best! Thanks for posting to this forum.

I bought a skillet recently that was simply marked on the back "14 inch skillet" with a B on the bottom. I learned from the Griswold & Cast Iron Society forum that these pans were made by Wagner sometime between 1960 & 1980. The pan's provenance indicates that it's a '60s era pan. I've always read that the quality of these pans is inferior to old Griswold & old Wagner pans, and yes, the casting isn't as smooth and solid as my small logo Griswolds. But still, the pan is smoother than a current Lodge product, somewhat polished on the interior, rounded thin rims & a smooth rounded handle. It's even well balanced for a cast iron pan. And I'm delighted the way it cooks. I browned some chicken in it, and didn't really have to watch the pan for fear of burning the chicken. Very even heat dispersion. Anyway, I'm just really surprised at the cooking quality of this "inferior quality" pan.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 9:31PM
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I'm glad that you found something useful in my posts. I don't get much feedback so I don't know if there is any forum interest in my ramblings.

I have three 14 inch cast iron skillets. One identical to yours and two marked 14 with US in a circle just beneath the 14. I use one for Blackening Redfish, another for frying fish & making large roux's, and the third I just obtained on eBay and will cure for my son. These skillets have been machined polished but not to the same extent as a Griswold. Their quality is very good but not quite as good as a Griswold. But the type of cooking that I do in these large skillets does not require Griswold quality.

Today I cooked a Cajun brown Jambalaya for the first time in a newly acquired and cured Griswold #10 tite top dutch oven. What a pleasure it was to cook in such a fine piece of cookware. It's a shame that the popularity of aluminum and stainless steel cookware did the Griswold company in.

As most Cajuns know, the secret to a good Jambalaya lies in the browning of the onions and the meats. The Griswold browns these so well compared to other brands of cast iron. I cook with all brands and sizes of cast iron cookware so I can make the comparisons. It is the thin walls coupled with the smooth surface that allows for a superior fond to form. Superior fond equals superior Jambalaya.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 10:18PM
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As stated it's ok to cook not store acidic foods in cast iron. After all a significant reason why so many people these days have iron deficiency is because they no longer cook with iron cookware which does leech iron into the food and hence into your bloodstream. A good thing UNLESS you are one of the people who suffers from hemochromatosis or too much blood iron OR you already take daily iron supplements. Cooking in iron utensils daily is safe for most people unless as stated. If you do take daily iron supplements then you should probably not cook with iron utensils on a daily basis, occasionally yes.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 12:02AM
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Dan, you are making me homesick with all your talk about jambalaya & roux & Cajun things. We lived in New Orleans for 8 years, loved every minute of it. Moved to the northeast 12 years ago, but never got over leaving NOLA.

Tuesday evening I reminded my 20 year old that the next day was Ash Wednesday, so no meat, no large meals, don't forget mass, etc. And his reply was a complaint about not having had any king cake before Lent started.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 6:37AM
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Yes it is fine. Make sure it is well a well seasoned pot before you use it. Don't store the chili in it or the acid from the tomatoes will eat away the seasoning.
Check out my link!!


Here is a link that might be useful: Big Daddy Kahuna:Polish and Italian Recipes, Music etc....

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 7:40AM
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Dan, any idea who made those pans with the circled "US" mark? Congrats on your Tite-Top find. #10 is a great size. I'd love to have one of those. Feel free to link to pictures of your cast iron beauties so we can ooh & ahh over them :)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 8:56AM
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Thanks everyone! What should I do about the rust that is showing on the pot now? Should I just follow the seasoning instructions? DH has had the flu and now that he's feeling better, he wants chili.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 10:13AM
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Scrub the rust with scouring powder. I like Bar Keeper's Friend because the oxalic acid in it kills the rust. After scrubbing, rinse well, dry on a burner, then season the pan.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 11:15AM
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I believe that the pans with the US in a circle are early Lodge pieces. But, I am not too sure. It really doesn't matter to me because they are quality pans. I collect quality cast iron that I think that I might use and not to put on a wall. I am not a wall collector. Don't ask me how I justified in my mind literally buying a ton of cast iron. Guess it goes with my other addictive collections: 35 varieties of figs, 500+ cookbooks,40 nutcrackers, and 4 grandsons.

Big Daddy Kahuna,

I enjoyed the vist that I took to your website.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 4:21PM
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I realize this is VERY old thread. However some things need to be corrected. Just because people do it, doesn't make it safe. So here goes:

A. NEVER use soap on cast iron, seasoned or otherwise. Best rule of thumb for cast iron: If you wouldn't put it directly into your mouth, it shouldn't go on your cast iron. Just because folks aren't concerned about ingesting SOAP themselves doesn't mean it's healthy. And since there are so many different soaps, one can't count that any product is OK. So, NEVER EVER EVER use soap on seasoned cast iron unless you're planning on stripping it down to iron and then starting the seasoning process from scratch. Otherwise that soap gets caught in your oil finish and sooner or later you ingest it.

B. Clean your rusty cast iron this way: Wash it down to remove all food particles with a scrubber and NO SOAP! Then rinse well and place on a burner. Heat it until all the water disappears - add some oil (I use Canola) then use tongs to rub salt (I prefer pickling salt which is very fine while others go as far as coarse) around with a paper towel until the rust is gone. This works well and doesn't take long. Shut the heat off when you're done and let the pan cool down some before rinsing it out with hot water. Dry out the pan and put a light film of oil on with a new paper towel. You can heat it again and let it cool or not. But, you'll see a beautiful and fine non-stick finish build up if you do this consistently. And it WILL hold up to acid foods such as chili with little or no problem. If it doesn't you're one seasoning away from making it right.

C. If it sounds like too much work, understand this: I'm cooking with my mother's 60 plus year old cast iron skillet. No other pan has ever measured up for certain foods such as fried potatoes. As mentioned above, it's browning properties are unique. And I've tried many s different cookware including Le Creuset cast iron non-stick. Once used to the process of creating and protecting the non-stick finish on your cast iron pans, you may never go back. (I know I won't).

D. Not only does cast iron add iron to your diet, the non stick finish IT has is SAFE - no more worries about ingesting flaking Teflon or non-stick fumes. If you have children under three you want to be careful about how much food they eat cooked in cast iron so iron won't build up to toxic levels for the little folks.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 6:11PM
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I use soapy water to clean my pans every time. Doesn't hurt 'em a bit & removes the onion/chili/tomato sauce flavor so as not to influence the next meal. Afterwards, warm the pans on the stove, give 'em a light coat of Crisco, heat, cool, store. Have done this for years now with nary a problem.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 1:18PM
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