AAFA’s Ask the Allergist: Are Cast Iron Pans Safe for Food Allergies?

 

Information from AAFA’s Ask the Allergist is not a substitute for a consultation with a health care professional. Always talk with your own doctor before making changes to your asthma or allergy management plan.


Q:  Can cast iron pans that have had allergens cooked on them be cleaned in a way to make them safe to use, especially in a restaurants?

A:  Food allergens can be removed from smooth surfaces using soap and water. Cast iron surfaces can be scrubbed with soap and water, but they usually are not. This would require re-seasoning with oil and drying to keep the pan from rusting. 

The concerns I have is that the pan could have stuck-on food that is not properly removed. Or I would be concerned the restaurant would not be willing to wash their cast iron pans with soap and water. Cast iron pans would not be ideal to use in cooking for those with food allergies, unless the pan is used only for cooking certain foods (for example, egg-free pan, nut-free pan, etc.).



Dr. Douglas Johnston is our Ask the Allergist columnist. Dr. Johnston is a board-certified allergist/immunologist with Asthma & Allergy Specialists, P.A., in Charlotte, North Carolina. He obtained his D.O. from New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. Dr. Johnston grew up with both allergies and asthma. He decided it would be exciting to help people with these conditions. His passion about food allergies also comes from having a child with a peanut allergy. 


“AAFA’s Ask the Allergist” is a free service provided by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Kids With Food Allergies is a division of AAFA. Our allergist will answer your questions about managing asthma or allergies and medicines and treatments. Submit your question on our website.

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We use cast iron daily, and sometimes cook dairy and eggs in them (two of my 13 year old son's allergens.)

Washing cast iron with soap and water automatically requires heat-drying and wiping with an oil once cooled.  We do this daily; it's not technically "reseasoning;" it's just proper rust prevention. My family has done this since my childhood; I'm 47. I still use one of my father's skillets.

Even if a pan totally rusts over, a simple scrubbing in soap and water with steel wool removes the rust, and then a heat-dry and oil wipe have it ready to go.

There are cast iron "purists," of course, who insist that cast iron must never be washed, kind of like people who say that coffee mugs for black coffee must never be washed, but the beauty of cast iron is that you actually *can* scrub as hard as you wish to remove stuck on food, without damaging the pan. 

I just wanted to post to say that there is no more of a risk allergy-wise from cast iron than any other pan, if scrubbed with soap and water, and there might even be *less* of a risk than from non-stick pans, because cast iron (and stainless steel) can be scrubbed forcefully.

The trick to cast iron is in the post-washing care, but that has nothing to do with the allergy risk.

Kids With Food Allergies
A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
4259 W Swamp Rd, Suite 408, Doylestown, PA 18902
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