3 Cast Iron Hazards (Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Safe?) (2023)

3 Cast Iron Hazards (Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Safe?) (2)

Cast iron, cast iron, cast iron... you keep hearing how amazing this is.

And it really is!

However, there are 3 dangers you need to be aware of... so you can use it safely and healthily in your kitchen.

Ruth W. wrote to me asking me to address the warnings she had heard about cast iron and whether or not enameled cast iron is better.

Happy to be a part of today's #AskWardee!

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The Question: Is Cast Iron Safe?

Ruth W. asked:

Hi Wardee,

I really enjoy listening to your podcasts while doing chores. They have a good mix of nutrition related topics and just plain good advice and encouragement for life.

I have a question that I've been thinking about for a bit and was wondering what you think.

I've heard in many traditional cooking sources that cast iron is a recommended choice of equipment, but I've also heard in some places that it's not recommended due to the iron that food absorbs.

What are your thoughts on this? Does cooking release iron? Is that good, neutral or negative?

What about enameled cast iron? As far as I know, it is also a good option. Is this coating more inert than nonstick coatings?

Thanks for your thoughts, I look forward to hearing them! -Ruth W.

Ruth, thanks for your question!

Since we'll be posting your question today on #AskWardee, you'll receive a gift:a FREE mini-course! Our team will contact you so you can choose which one you would like!

The hidden dangers of cast iron

Cast iron skillets have become essential in our kitchen. We have onegreat way to spice them upand use them to act as nonstick frying pans for eggs, roasting meat, and more.

However, there are some ways that you may not want to use your cast iron to keep your kitchen as healthy as possible.

Here you are…

Danger #1: Cast iron can cause iron poisoning in some people

Cooking with cast iron provides dietary iron through the foods cooked in it.

This is often wonderful for menstruating women and growing children.

Regularly menstruating women lose iron through monthly menstrual bleeding and, worse, may become iron deficient or even anemic. Cooking iron in cast iron skillets can help them maintain iron levels or improve iron deficiencies.

As children grow, iron is essential for growth, so cast iron is great for them too.

However, cooking with cast iron can be dangerous for men and postmenopausal women who already have high iron levels, as determined by blood tests. Since they both don't "bleed" regularly, their bodies don't release iron; What is in your body stays in your body.

If they also cook with cast iron, the extra iron can spike their iron levels too much, leading to iron toxicity.

In the early stages, excess iron leads to fatigue, unexplained weight loss, muscle weakness, loss of sex drive, and more. When iron toxicity is severe, a person may have gray skin and develop heart, liver, and blood sugar problems.

(Donating blood is a great way to reduce iron exposure!)

We've got a cast iron seasoning guide here at #AskWardee 062.Our seasoning method is the best.

Instead of coating the pan in oil, we actually create a non-stick surface that is built up layer by layer by heating the seasoning oil in the pan so much that it becomes a hard surface; It's not even oil anymore! It acts as a barrier between the cast iron and the food that is cooked in it.

I wouldn't count on it being 100% effective at separating food, but it's the best seasoning out there for how it works (as a non-stick) and how it might prevent iron from getting into food.

This is especially a problem with acidic foods... and I'll talk about that next.

Danger #2: Cast iron reacts with acidic foods

Acidic foods "react" with metals, and cast iron is no exception.

When you cook acidic foods like tomatoes in cast iron, you end up getting more iron on your plate. And the longer the dish cooks, the more iron ends up in it.

The result? Their food tastes metallic and takes on an unappetizing grayish color.

And acidic food can take some of the flavor out of your pan.

You can counteract this by making sure your cast iron skillets are well seasoned as I show you.here at #Ask ​​Wardee 062. This type of seasoning creates a barrier between the acidic food and the iron itself, reducing the amount of iron that gets into the pan.

How much iron is transferred to food from a cast iron skillet?

It is difficult to know how much iron enters the diet. The duration of cooking a food and the seasoning of the pan depend on the acidity of the food.

More acid, longer cooking times, and worse seasonings all contribute to more iron leaching into food.

The more you can optimize each of these factors, the less iron will enter your diet.

However, I have not been able to find any research to suggest that a good seasoning prevents 100% of iron transfer. So if you're someone who needs to avoid iron transfer, using an enameled cast iron or an entirely different form of cookware (like stainless steel) would be the way to go.

Next, let's talk enameled cast iron...

Hazard #3: Lead and Cadmium Contamination in Enameled Cast Iron

There is often talk about how to use enameled cast iron as a safe alternative to cast iron if you want to avoid iron creep. That is true, but you have to be very careful because there is a big problem with lead and cadmium contamination, especially on light colored ceramics.

Cadmium is a known carcinogen. Lead is a known neurotoxin that causes brain damage and, among other things, replaces calcium in the bones.

This is a big problem for pregnant women, who pass a large part of their calcium from the bones to the fetus, especially in the third trimester. When calcium passes to the baby, lead is released and is also transferred to the baby.

Unfortunately, the most popular brand of enameled cast iron, Le Creuset, often tests for lead and cadmium at very unsafe levels. (Visitrun safe momfor lots of test results on vintage and modern cookware!)

hereit is a yellow pan from Le Creuset with 19,600 ppm cadmium and 48 ppm lead. And although this is not cast iron,exactly hereYou can see a Le Creuset mixing bowl tested to 40,700 ppm lead!

For reference, the "safe" level of lead in the US for children's toys is less than 90 parts per million (Those). The "safe" limit for cadmium in the US for children's toys is less than 40 ppm (Those).

However, since these pots are used to prepare food that will be eaten, are the above limits really safe?

For drinking water (or anything else that can be ingested), the "safe" standard for lead is less than 15 parts per BILLION, although water contaminated with lead above 5 ppb is considered unsafe by many scientists (Those).

The "safe" standard for cadmium in drinking water is also below 5 parts per billion (Those).

So... Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Safe?

Ideally, we do NOT want lead or cadmium in our cookware, or at least want it to be within safe levels, so I'm not sure I can recommend it since learning this.anyenameled cast iron at the time.

The safest option I have found is from Lodge.This blue dutch oven has been tested for lead at 48 ppmand i have one of theseClick here for the ones I have).

To be honest, I didn't know about the lead issue when I bought it and I'd rather NOT have lead in my cookware, but I'm glad the test is lower than other brands.

What is the best cookware?

All in all, I love using cast iron. With caveats: really tasty, acid-free foods.

I know that the men in our house probably don't need more iron than the women, so we also do a lot of cooking with stainless steel to compensate. With regular blood tests, we can ensure and monitor that iron levels are where they should be for all members of our family.

And after many years of regular use of cast iron, our family has found that using cast iron is not a problem and is a safe part of our diet.

More information about cast iron

  • The BEST way to season cast iron #AskWardee 062
  • Why we love cast iron
  • What to look for in used cast iron #KYF 042

3 Cast Iron Hazards (Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Safe?) (3)

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