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Why Using a Cast Iron Skillet for Filipino Adobo Is a Recipe for Disaster

Why You Should Avoid Cooking Filipino Adobo in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Filipino cuisine has gained popularity in America in recent years, with its unique flavors and dishes capturing the attention of food lovers. One popular Filipino dish that showcases the country’s culinary heritage is adobo. Adobo is a savory stew made with chicken or pork that has a perfect balance of salty, sour, and sweet flavors. But when it comes to making adobo, there’s one important rule to remember: avoid using a cast-iron skillet.

The role of acidity in adobo

Adobo owes its tangy flavor to the generous amount of vinegar used in the sauce. Vinegar, as an acid, provides the distinctive sourness that complements the other flavors in the dish. However, this high acidity poses a problem when cooked in a cast-iron skillet.

The problem with cast iron skillets

Cast iron skillets are known for their versatility and ability to create a perfect sear, roast, or bake. However, when it comes to cooking highly acidic foods like adobo, it’s best to opt for alternative cookware options like stainless steel or enameled Dutch ovens.
The acid in adobo reacts with the iron in the cast iron pan, which can cause various problems:

1. Seasoning stripping

The acids in adobo sauce can strip away the hard-earned seasoning on the surface of cast iron skillets. Seasoning is a protective layer of polymerized oil that forms over time, giving the pan a nonstick surface and improving its performance. Cooking acidic foods in cast iron can erode this seasoning, requiring a new seasoning to restore the nonstick properties of the pan.

2. Altered taste

Even well-seasoned cast iron pans can be affected when cooking acidic foods such as adobo. The interaction between the acid and the iron can result in the transfer of metallic flavors to the food, altering its taste and potentially compromising the overall dining experience.

Expert Advice

Chef Kevin Truong of Fil’n’Viet restaurant in Austin, Texas, cautions against using cast-iron pans for acidic dishes like adobo. He explains that the cooking process can cause the iron from the pan to leach into the food, leaving a metallic taste that detracts from the dish’s intended flavors.

Alternative cookware options

To ensure the best cooking experience and flavor outcome for your adobo, consider using the following alternatives to cast iron skillets:

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans are an excellent choice for cooking acidic dishes like adobo. They are nonreactive, meaning they won’t interact with the acidic components of the sauce. Stainless steel pans are also durable, heat evenly, and allow for excellent heat control, making them a versatile option in the kitchen.

2. Enameled Dutch oven

An enameled Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset’s, is another option for making adobo. The enamel coating acts as a protective barrier between the acidic sauce and the iron, preventing any unwanted reactions. Dutch ovens are known for their excellent heat retention and distribution, making them ideal for slow cooking adobo to perfection.


Filipino adobo is a delicious and easy-to-prepare dish that showcases the unique flavors of Filipino cuisine. However, when preparing adobo, it’s important to avoid using a cast iron skillet due to its reactivity with acidic foods. Opting for stainless steel pans or enameled Dutch ovens will help preserve the integrity of the dish and ensure that you enjoy the authentic flavors of adobo without any unwanted metallic tastes. By choosing the right cookware, you can enhance your adobo cooking experience and enjoy this beloved Filipino dish to the fullest.


Can I use a cast iron skillet to make Filipino Adobo?

It is not recommended to use a cast iron skillet to make Filipino adobo. The high acidity of the adobo sauce can strip the seasoning from the pan and change the flavor of the dish.

What can happen when I cook adobo in a cast-iron skillet?

Cooking adobo in a cast-iron skillet can cause the seasoning on the skillet to erode and transfer metallic flavors to the food, resulting in an undesirable taste.

Why is a cast iron skillet not suitable for cooking acidic foods like adobo?

Cast iron skillets react with acidic foods such as adobo, causing the acids to interact with the iron in the pan. This can cause the flavor to be stripped and the iron to leach into the food, affecting both the pan and the flavor of the dish.

What are the alternative cookware options for making adobo?

Stainless steel pans and enameled Dutch ovens are excellent alternatives to cast iron skillets for cooking adobo. These options are non-reactive, preserving the flavors of the dish without compromising the cookware.

Can I still use my well-seasoned cast iron skillet for other dishes?

Yes, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet can still be used for other foods that are not highly acidic. It is best to reserve the cast iron skillet for cooking foods that do not have a high vinegar or acid content.

How do I maintain the seasoning on my cast iron skillet?

To maintain the seasoning on your cast iron skillet, avoid cooking highly acidic foods in it. Instead, focus on regularly seasoning the skillet with oil and properly cleaning and drying it after each use.

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