Cast iron cookware’s comeback shows us how this old school camping gear should be a must-have even at home. Read along for more on this trusty cookware, handy for camping and survival!
Cast Iron Cookware: The Ultimate Camping Cooking Gear
Cast Iron Cookware Through the Years
The expansion of America to the West saw the rise of cast iron cooking wares during the pioneering days of the first half of the 19th century. While films romanticize this part of history, survival and persistence define this era and the cooking ware plays an important part in it.
Although the introduction of aluminum cookware led to the waning of the cook ware’s popularity, the sturdy and trusty gear persisted and is now making a comeback. It is popular in camping and outdoor cookouts and even in home kitchens.
Its reliability and sturdiness in handling campfire made it a camping favorite, too. After all, it has always been a favorite since it was first used for the purpose.
Why We Use Cast Iron Cookware
When it comes to cooking, one of the best items you can have in your pantry or on your rack is a good solid cast iron skillet. It is one of the most durable forms of cookware around, and if you know how to use it, it can provide some of the best tasting foods you can imagine.
My family has used this reliable cookware for as long as I can remember and there is just something nostalgic about cooking with it. Regardless of whether I am cooking eggs over a campfire or baking biscuits in the oven, this cooking ware is a champion.
Cast iron skillet is a necessity when it comes to prepping your survival kitchen. Indeed, it is an ultimate kitchen staple that helped feed generations.
The Major Benefits of Using Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron skillets crafted well over a century ago are still in use today. In fact, with proper care, your skillet should last at least a decade.
Cast iron skillets can be used over an open flame, on a grill, on a gas range, in the oven, and even on electric ranges. I have found they work best over a flame, but I have an electric oven and it works quite well on it too.
This is one of the best factors when thinking about keeping the cooking gear in your survival supplies. You can cook with it no matter what heat source you have.
3. Heat Retention and Dispersion
A properly made cast iron skillet will evenly disperse the heat and allow for cooking without worrying about hot spots, unlike aluminum and steel cookware. This is a huge deal if you have to cook over an open flame where the flames will only kiss the bottom of the pan and not have the constant regulated heat of a stovetop.
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Cooking on a cast iron skillet will leach a bit of iron into your meals, up to a few milligrams per item cooked. In a survival situation, you will need as much iron as you can get, especially if you are in any way iron-deficient.
The Best Cast Iron Cookware Brands
Lodge makes a large array of cast iron products. And, if you have the space to store them and are okay with their weight (i.e. you don’t plan on carrying them far), you could make a good investment.
The first one I bought was an 8” flat bottom skillet from Lodge, simply because they are US-made products and Lodge has been crafting cast iron skillets since 1896. They are pretty much the name in cast iron and readily available at most stores.
They are also relatively inexpensive, the 8” skillet bringing in a whopping $10.00 bottom line. My skillet lasted me about 3 years so far, and aside from a little mishap with olive oil (see below) I have never had any problems cooking with it.
Lodge cast iron products are very well-crafted, lasting for decades or longer with proper care. They are practically the only major manufacturer of these old school cooking wares after the rest fell by the wayside in the years of the cookware’s decline.
A Little Note on Proper Care
It is good practice to re-season your cast iron pans about once a year. When re-seasoning your pan, NEVER use olive oil, but always use oils and fats with high smoke points.
I prefer to use Crisco and I like to season my pans inside my grill to avoid any mess. Olive oil has too low of a smoke point to be an effective seasoning agent.
It will create an acrid smoke and absolutely ruin the season and finish of your skillet. If you do use olive oil, all you will need to do is strip and re-season your pan.
Note: Never use soap on your cast iron. Soap will ruin your seasoning on the pan.
Some cooks even promote never having to clean the cooking wares at all. You can simply wipe them or scrub with salt, then wipe with a paper towel so as not to damage the cast iron seasoning.
Never take your pan from a heat source and drench it in cold water, doing so will shock the pan and cause it to crack or shatter.
A Minor Disadvantage
I think, the only major drawback to cast iron skillets is its size and weight. I chose the 8” flat bottom skillet from Lodge because it has a “light” weight of about 4lbs with a small size and is easily storable.
However, if the pioneers and trailblazers made it with cast iron cookware over long periods of travel, it shouldn’t be a problem when you’re car camping. If you’re backpacking though, you have to choose between bringing a camp stove or cast iron skillet–I think I’ll go with the latter.
Play this video from Primal Outdoors for tips on how to clean cast iron skillet at camp:
Most practical and true blue campers and survivalists will agree, cast iron cookware is the best for outdoor cooking and camping. You only need a fire starting kit and this sturdy pan, and your outdoor cooking kit is good to go.
Do you own cast iron cookware today? How long has it been in your keep? Let us know your cast iron cooking gear story in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 27, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.