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It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet



Does cooking in a cast iron skillet increase iron consumption?

In reference to your Creole Frittata recipe, I recalled that there is a belief that cooking in cast iron skillets raises one's iron consumption. Is there any good evidence of this? Do you recommend using cast iron cookware?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Iron Skillet

I love this question! There are a few of my recipes that use a cast iron skillet because it conducts heat so well and very evenly. Properly cured, they are almost as non-stick as a "non-stick" pan.

Searching the internet for this topic yields a lot of conflicting information (as is often the case). The good news is that we have great science to support solid conclusions. First and foremost, the iron from a cast iron skillet is transferred to the food. It's clear from the literature that the more acidic the food, the higher the iron content. Likewise, the longer a food is cooked the more iron is infused.

Much of the conflicting information on the internet centers on whether the iron from the pan is of a type that the body will absorb. Again, there are more than a few studies that support that the iron is absorbed. In fact, there is good research that shows that cooking a lower iron diet in iron pots can raise the body's iron stores just as well as a high iron diet cooked in non-iron pots.

That said, I don't use my cast iron skillet too very often. Frittatas and cornbread are two good examples where the pan works great. One of my favorite Sunday brunch recipes, the Apple Pancake, works best using a well cured cast iron skillet - here's how to cure yours.

Thanks for writing.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet