Why Cast Iron Cooking is Preferred for Camping

There’s nothing like waking up on a brisk morning with the smell of bacon frying in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. Well, yes there is…eating it! For many years, cast iron has gotten a bad rap for being toxic and unhealthy. However, I’m here to bust that myth and show you why cooking on cast iron is far from those ficticious lies! Here’s why campers actually prefer cast iron cookware for all of their campfire cooking. 

Whether it’s stewing or slow cooking on a campfire’s hot bed of coals, frying on the stove or grill top or baking hot breads in the oven, cast iron cookware is the chosen cooking tool amongst outdoor enthusiasts. It never goes out of style, lasts forever and well, food just tastes so much better cooked on cast iron pots and pans!

Cast Iron Cookware for Camping - Always On Liberty

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Why Cooking on Cast Iron is a GOOD thing!

Cast iron has been in existence for thousands of years

Cast iron cookware dates back to the Iron Age. The Iron Age was a period in human history that started between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C.

During the Iron Age, people across much of Europe, Asia and parts of Africa began making weapons, tools, and even skillets and pots and pans from iron and steel.

So, cast iron is a proven cooking material directly over campfire, hot coals, camp stove, stove top and your oven.

How is cast iron made?

manufacturing and melting cast iron

Cast iron cookware is made by melting iron and a mixture containing 2%-4% percent carbon and traceable amounts of silicon, manganese and impurities such as sulfur and phosphorus.

Then the molten combination is poured into molds containing powdered clay, water and sand.

Once cooled, the skillet or pot is released from the mold. After which, they are filed and smoothed down to prepare for cooking use.

Cast iron is inexpensive

You’ll find that actually cast iron cookware is relatively inexpensive compared to the cooking sets today.

Considering cast iron skillets and dutch ovens will last over several lifetimes, it’s no wonder they’ve become one of the most treasured hand-me-downs.

Versatile and multi-purpose

Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread

I didn’t realize how many ways you can use cast iron skillets until I actually got one.

You can fry most any type of meat from steaks, burgers, chicken, sausage, bacon to any ground meat. Speaking of bacon, use that bacon grease to fry your eggs!

It’s also easy to stir fry vegetables as well as make delicious soups and sauces.

But, did you know you can also bake cakes, brownies, biscuits and breads in cast iron? Oh, let’s not stop there! You can even make amazing cobblers and pies as well; even over a campfire!

There are so many different uses for just one piece. You can fry bacon in the same skillet as baking cornbread in.

A two-sided griddle can make pancakes one side or sear ribeyes on the grill side. And with that dutch oven you can do everything in from sautéing to stewing!

Cast iron cooking over a campfire

Cast Iron Dutch Oven over Campfire Coals

Since cast iron skillets and pots are made from one of the most sturdiest metal alloys, they’re virtually indestructible. Hence, why you can use them over open flames, campfires and even high heat ovens.

According to the Oven Spot,

“cast iron should remain stable up to 1500°F, the iron’s structure changes as it gets hotter with a melting point of 2200°F. In terms of seasoned cast-iron cookware, its temperature can reach up to 700° Fahrenheit. While enameled cast-iron cookware can reach a maximum temperature of 400-450°F or 200-230°C.”

So, as you see, because cast iron cookware can endure such high heat, there’s no need to worry about warping, cracking, or breaking. It’s is literally indestructible!

Distributes heat more efficiently

Cast iron has the ability to distribute heat evenly and retain heat longer.

Unlike stainless steel cookware and aluminum pots and pans, the density of cast iron delivers quick and steady heat to your cooking vessel.

A great tip when cooking meat is to allow your skillet or dutch oven to get good and hot first before placing your cuts of meat in it.

Even when your campfire flames and coals may fluctuate, your iron skillet and pots will retain heat efficiently; allowing even cooking.

Browns and sears meats perfectly

Searing Meat in Cast Iron Skillet

If you’ve never experienced cooking with cast iron, you’re truly missing out. One of my favorites is the way meat browns quickly.

I can brown ground meats quickly in my dutch oven for sloppy joes, goulash, spaghetti sauces and soups in very little time!

And my favorite frying pan sears meat to utter perfection! Since we love our steaks medium rare, they cook evenly with a good caramelized outer sear. 

Non-stick properties

As mentioned earlier, you may experience some unpleasantries of cleaning your cast iron after cooking sticky foods.

However, if you properly clean and season your cast iron consistently, food shouldn’t stick.

Again, when cooking meats, it’s important to allow your pan to get hot before adding them to brown or sear.

Also, allow your meat to cook thoroughly on one side before flipping. The reason why you may experience meats sticking is you flip them too early. Cooking meat in cast iron is similar to cooking on a grill or hot griddle.

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Cast iron is nontoxic!

Unlike nonstick cookware, cast iron doesn’t release toxic chemicals when heating or cooking. It’s because cast iron is an alloy of iron and carbon with only minute traces of other elements.

In a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency article, Are you cooking with these? Cookware considerations they explain in detail the differences and health concerns of cookware on the market.

Healthline also discusses deep health concerns in their article Can Teflon Cookware Increase Your Risk of Cancer?

Provides health benefits

Brussel Sprouts in Skillet Pan

I totally didn’t know this until I started using my own cast iron. But, did you know cooking in cast iron can actually boost your iron absorption into your body?

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association  article (July 1986), researchers who tested 20 different foods found 90% of those foods contained significantly more iron when cooked in cast iron versus non-iron cookware.

Acidity, moisture content, and cooking time of food significantly affected the iron content of food cooked in cast iron.

Perhaps because of differing amounts of previous use, cooking in different iron skillets resulted in some variation in the iron content of food.

Considering that cast iron is naturally non-stick, there’s no need to use non-stick pans. Cast iron is a healthier cooking method because it also consumes less cooking fat.

What you shouldn’t cook in your cast iron cookware?

Taste of Home wrote an article which I found quite interesting.

They recommend not cooking odiferous foods such as garlic, peppers, some fish, smelly cheeses which tend to leave an aromatic residue.

They also suggest not cooking sticky foods like cheeses and eggs.

As well, acidic foods like tomatoes are known to strip your griddle or pan of it’s seasoning and cause more-than-normal amounts of iron to leach into your food.

But hey, it’s your cookware, so if you want to try them, go for it. Just clean and make certain to season your cast iron after. More on that later.

Cleaning your cast iron cookware

Cleaning Cast Iron Skillet with Chain Mail and Water

Cleaning your cast iron isn’t rocket science. In fact, you’re actually going to clean it exactly like they did in the Medieval era.

When cleaning baked on sugar chars, leave it on your campfire coals to burn off the crusty buildup. Then, using chainmail and clean water.

If your cast iron skillet or griddle has raised grill lines, scrape off the excess using a grill pan scraper. You may also need a wire brush made specifically for cast iron cookware. And, for cookware with smooth bottoms, just use a regular pan scraper.

Whatever you do, NEVER USE SOAP or STEEL WOOL in your cast iron pots and skillets. Otherwise, food will stick next time you cook in it. Then, you’ll have to re-season it all over again.

Even if your cookware has a little rust (or a lot?), don’t fret. Your cast iron is still serviceable. You just have to clean it with water and season it.

So, never throw your cast iron away just because they are rusty, look over-used or have been sitting  in a box in your basement for a decade or two.

Your skillet and/or dutch oven can be brought back to life with a simple cleaning and seasoning.

How to season your cast iron

Seasoning Cast Iron Skillet with Oil and Brush

When you get a new cast iron skillet or dutch oven, clean it with plain water. Then, dry it completely.

Once your cookware is totally dry, coat your cast iron (including the lid) lightly with oil. Bake it in your oven at 450-500°F for one hour. 

Lodge recommends using vegetable oil, melted shortening, or canola oil, or their brand seasoning spray made specifically for cast iron cookware.

To help prevent a mess in the bottom of your oven, place a high-heat baking sheet or oven liner on the rack under your cast iron to catch any oil drips.

Once the baking process is complete, allow it to cool down completely before putting it in your camp box or cupboard. 

Do know that you can use the same cleaning and seasoning technique to your campfire pie iron too!

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Wrapping up

Cooking Eggs and Sausage in Skillet Over Campfire

Now you can see why cast iron is the cookware of choice amongst campers. While it’s heavier than traditional kitchen pots and pans, you’ll never  have to worry about your iron cooking vessels aging.

Simply put, cast iron will last forever. Therefore, it  can be passed down to future generations. The ultimate reason for cooking in cast iron is the food tastes absolutely amazing!

Check out our favorite Lodge cast iron cookware sets:

5 Piece  Cookware Set

Lodge 5 Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set

4 Piece Cookware Set 

Lodge 4 Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set

Combo Cooker

Lodge Cast Iron Combo Cooker

Check out our catalog of our favorite cast iron pieces:

Dutch Oven with Iron Cover

Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Deep Campfire Dutch Oven with Cover

Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven

Reversible Grill/Griddle

Lodge Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle

Cabin Combo 3.2 Quart​ 

Lodge Cast Iron Cabin Combo Cooker 3.2 Quart​

Grill Basket 12″

Lodge Cast Iron Grill Basket 12 Inch

Square Grill Pan 12″

Lodge 12 Inch Square Cast Iron Grill Pan

12″ Skillet

Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

3 Skillet Bundle

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Skillet Bundle

Wedge Pan

Lodge Cast Iron Wedge Pan

Must have cast iron cooking accessories:

Silicone Hot Cast Iron Skillet Handle Holder

Silicone Hot Handle Holder

Durable Grill Pan Scrapers 2-Pack

Lodge Grill Pan Scrapers

Stainless Steel Chainmail Scrub Pad

Lodge Durable Stainless Steel Chainmail Scrubber

More camping  recipes & campfire cooking tips

10 Campfire Safety Tips

10 Quick and Easy Fall Camping Recipes

How to Make Perfect S’mores on Your Camping Trip

Ultimate Campfire Cooking Gear and Grilling Tools

Outdoor Camping Gear for Small RVs and Campers

Cast Iron Cookware Pots and Pans for Camping and RVs

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