A cast-iron pan’s seasoning creates a buffer, at least temporarily, between acidic food and the pan’s metal, explains Southern Living. So, with a seasoned pan, you can cook with foods like tomatoes and wine up to a point. Still, when exposed to acids for long periods, the seasoning’s oil can thin and break down, says Epicurious. In the end, it comes down to timing.
America’s Test Kitchen has pinned down an approximate time to remove your acidic food from a cast-iron pan before the metallic taste occurs. They cooked a tomato sauce in a seasoned skillet, taste-testing it every 15 minutes. The metallic taste only occurred after about 30 minutes, giving you some wiggle room. A dish that requires a quick splash of lemon or vinegar might be ok. In contrast, a recipe that requires extended periods of simmering may point to other cookware as a better option.
Immediately after cooking, it’s also essential to remove acidic foods from the cast-iron skillet. Doing so prevents the unwanted metallic taste from leaking into the sauce as it rests in the pan (America’s Test Kitchen). The good news is that even if acidic food breaks down your seasoning, it’s easy to fix. Simply re-season your pan, and you’re good to go (via American Skillet Co.).