Metallic tasting pasta sauce?

Call me crazy, but … sometimes when I make a tomato and ground beef based pasta sauce, like bolognaise if you will, it ends up tasting very “metallic”. So much so that you can almost sense it “reacting” in your mouth. Personally I don’t like it. I’m sure it’s not due to “bad” ingredients.

So my questions are three-fold:

  • Does anyone know the sensation I mean?
  • What causes it?
  • How to avoid it?

Tomatoes are very acidic. If you put them in a metal can, whole or as a paste or sauce, there is a risk that they can take on the flavour of the can. I would guess that this is the most likely cause, at least if it’s only happened once or twice. Using fresh tomatoes or newer, premium brnds of paste/sauce may help. Hope this did too.

Sometimes it is the quality of the canned tomato sauce or paste that will do this. Higher quality goods, like Progresso or Hunts help prevent this, even if you use some store brands with them.

Try adding a small amount of sugar to the sauce to break up the acidic taste of the tomatoes also. Either regular sugar or light brown. Around a table spoon per large pot (gallon). A dried bay leaf can help and the quality of the hamburger.

If you use cheap burger, like many of us, cook it first with a little salt/pepper to rend the grease out. Drain and add a pleasant olive oil, then finish fixing the sauce. (Cook the meat a little bit in the olive oil first, so it can absorb the flavor. Add whatever fresh ingredients then that you wish, like diced onion and garlic.) Sometimes, a beef bouillon cube added to the mix or beef broth gives the sauce a more ‘beefy’ flavor.

But, try the sugar thing first. My Mom learned to make sauce for my father, who was 2nd generation Italian and he taught her to use the sugar thing.

Oh, yeah, use a good pot. T-sauce is acidic, so it can react with a cheap pot. I prefer stainless steel and don’t use those pots bought at grocery stores. A glass pot is good also.

What material is your saucepan made of? When you’re cooking acidic foods like tomatoes you should use a non-reactive pan. Stainless Steel and Enamel are better choices than Aluminum, Cast Iron or Tinned Copper.

I’ll back Shiva here. Avoid using cast iron or aluminum pots when making any sort of acidic sauce or dish. If your tomatoes had been in the can for a long time, that may also have contributed.

Also consider if you overcooked either the onions or the garlic. Both of them can bring a metallic or off flavor to the sauce as well. The last item I would examine is whether there has been the addition of too much oregano, it too can sometimes have a semi-metallic flavor to it.

In the end, I’m confident that it was the pan you cooked the sauce in. Please let us know what sort it was that you used.

This answer is a little different from those posted before and I know someone is going to reply that I’m crazy. But here goes…

I ate expired/spoiled tomato sauce once in college and it had a (excuse the description) sparkly metallic taste. I can’t describe it any better than sparkly metallic. I had the sensation of explosions on my tongue, although I otherwise couldn’t feel “explosions” and I know nothing was exploding. Perhaps my tastebuds were reacting by way of electrical impulses to the spoiled food???

In any event is tasted strongly metallic and at the same time “sparkly.”

My mother (also 2nd generation Italian) used to grate a carrot into her sauce. It took the acid bite out of the tomato but there was less risk of oversweatening it as you can with sugar.


Thanks for great suggestions :slight_smile:

We have stainless steel pans, so hopefully that’s not the issue. I have sometimes used “any old can” of tomatoes, so I bet that’s to blame. I shall also try the grated carrot trick. Many thanks.

Sounds like you know your pasta sauce. Do you (or maybe someone else) have a complete recipe you can post?

Back in college, I had the same metallic experience every time I ate garlic bread in the dining halls. Never could figure it out (and it wasn’t from tomato sauce, as there was no sauce involved).

Originally posted by galen

I was a little surprized not to find one in the Ultimate Recipe Thread - (Index). I’m sure I have posted once before about some kind of tomato based sauce… lemme go look for it.


Okay I found it. Check out this thread where we talk about the secrets for a good sauce. I always prefer to use extra ripe whole tomatos for the bulk of the sauce and add a little canned sauce (Contadina is my brand of choice) only for extra liquid volume.


My favorite Spaghetti Sauce:

1 pound ground beef
1/4 of a large, sweet onion
4 cloves diced garlic
Italian Seasoning
two bay leafs
2 large cans Progresso T-sauce
1 large can Progresso diced tomatoes
1 large can any brand T-paste
1 small can T-puree
1 reg can beef broth (w/out onions)
1 tbs sugar
good virgin olive oil of your taste (some get real strong)
Some fresh or good dried Basil.

Cook and drain beef. Add olive oil, chopped onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer for several minutes until onion softens. Add the beef broth and simmer for several more minutes. Add all of the T- products. Stir thoroughly and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Add sugar and all spices. Add 2 cups water.

Taste. Add more garlic as necessary or Oregano. Drop in pinches of Basil to taste.

Simmer, stirring frequently, for three hours, adding water if sauce gets too thick. If too thin, let simmer until it thickens.

For a change, an hour before finishing, add diced green pepper and/or good canned mushrooms. (Not fresh mushrooms because they have a musty flavor.) A tiny daub of smoke flavoring – optional – can give it an interesting mild smoke flavor. A touch of tobasco sauce can also give it an optional good taste.

Simmer until ingredients soft, then serve.

I used to get that. Got rid of the aluminum pot , and then I tried a trick that a friend suggested. Put an egg ( in the shell ) into the sauce. The pure calcium in the shell absorbs a LOT of the acids. Seemed to really work.