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!
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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?
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
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.
Cast iron cooking over a campfire
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
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.
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.
Provides health benefits
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 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
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.
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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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
|4 Piece Cookware Set
Check out our catalog of our favorite cast iron pieces:
|Dutch Oven with Iron Cover
|Deep Campfire Dutch Oven with Cover
|Cabin Combo 3.2 Quart
|Grill Basket 12″
|Square Grill Pan 12″
|3 Skillet Bundle
Must have cast iron cooking accessories:
|Silicone Hot Cast Iron Skillet Handle Holder
|Durable Grill Pan Scrapers 2-Pack
|Stainless Steel Chainmail Scrub Pad
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