Cast iron pans are some of the most versatile and durable pieces of cookware you can buy, but they may have an unfortunate tendency to produce an unpleasant metallic odor when you cook with them. If you’ve never used cast iron before, this scent might throw you off a bit at first, but don’t worry!
What Makes Cast Iron Skillets Stink?
It’s What Makes Them Work So Well: What makes cast iron skillets so useful is also what makes them smell like metal. And no, we’re not talking about their tendency to absorb every trace of seasoning and food you cook with them. Rather, it’s a big part of why they stay nonstick and never rust or corrode.
When we talk about cast iron in terms of chemical composition, what we are referring to is carbon—and a lot of it. About two percent carbon by weight in fact; which isn’t surprising considering how black many well-seasoned cast iron pans can be after years and years of cooking.
This high carbon content gives cast iron an extremely low melting point. In other words, it gets very hot when placed on top of a stove burner. Plus, as these products age, more layers get added on top of each other further enhancing their already amazing nonstick properties and making for ridiculously easy cleanup when done cooking (which is most likely going to happen as soon as your plate arrives).
To get rid of the metallic smell, it’s important to understand what causes it. The odor comes from ferrous sulfide, which is a combination of iron and sulfur. When you put your cookware in water, minerals from that water are dissolved and enter into your cast iron pan.
Over time, corrosion starts forming on your pan; when you heat up your skillet, these particles become airborne. That’s why freshly seasoned cast iron will give off an especially bad metallic smell when heated–you’re releasing fumes that have been trapped within it for a long time!
How To Get Rid Of The Metallic Smell
If you have an old, antique or collectible cast iron pan, it will probably smell like metal. It is not a sign of damage and is nothing to worry about. This metallic odor comes from a combination of elements in your pan.
Cast iron itself naturally contains trace amounts of nickel, chromium and iron which can mix with grease or oil and develop into a metallic smell.
But there are ways to get rid of it for good! There are several approaches to removing that nasty old skillet odor, including cleaning with vinegar or citrus juice. You should also know that plastic utensils like spoons may scratch and leave scratches on your pans; wood utensils work best. Here’s how:
One approach to remove that old skillet odor is using clean white vinegar (again just don’t use these on non-stick surfaces), dish soap and water inside a pan placed over medium heat until full boil. Don’t boil away too much liquid; after you’ve reached boiling add 2 tbsp sugar per 1/2 cup vinegar used then continue boiling for another two minutes.
After that turn off heat and let it cool down, leaving it overnight might be even better. The next day fill your cast iron pot with cold water and pour some baking soda in.
Rubbing some soap between your hands wash both inside and outside of your pot, if possible leave it like that all night long or at least during daytime when you’re not going to cook or use it again.
Rinse with warm, soapy water again, dry up completely (use a paper towel if needed) and rub with vegetable oil while still warm to get rid of most of any remaining smell – though probably not completely depending on how bad your pan was previously damaged).
Note: If there’s rust try scrubbing the rust out first with steel wool before washing.