Monday, December 28, 2015

I is for Iron Cookware

A few years ago, Cristi got a cast-iron skillet as a gift.  About that time, Brennan and I were part of a Scout troop that did a lot of dutch oven cooking.  I was amazed at how good the meals were out of that thing!  Those scouts cooked everything from mountain man hash to roast to stew to cobbler!  Since that time, our family has jumped in with both feet.  We've added a small 1-person cast-iron skillet and our own dutch oven.  We usually take one of the skillets with us on every road trip (since we cook a lot of our meals on the road because of Lauren's food restrictions) and both a skillet and dutch oven on camping trips. (Alas, we don't take either on backpacking trips!)

My cast iron collection, including a lid lifter and lid holder for the dutch oven
The beauty of cast iron cookware is three-fold:

1)  It's tough to get stuff to stick, which means that your food doesn't burn easily, although this applies primarily to gas and camp stoves.  Electric stoves are more problematic since the skillet sits directly on the heat source and turning the heat down doesn't immediately remove the heat like it does with gas stoves.  Thus, controlling the heat is more art than science. 

2)  That leads me to the second point:  Cast iron is extremely easy to clean.  Simply put hot water in the skillet/dutch oven and let it sit for a few minutes, then scrape it using a scraper, scrub brush, or metal sponge (Note: Do NOT use an SOS pad, and try to avoid using soap because the cleaner will actually soak into the iron).  If you're in the backcountry and don't have ready access to a good scrubber, never fear: you can use dry sand as an abrasive to get all the food off the iron.

3)  Finally, they're extremely easy to maintain.  They'll outlast you if well cared for.  Simply wipe it out with a paper towel, then pour a spot of oil in it and rub it in with another paper towel.  This treatment keeps it from rusting and keeps it well seasoned. For dutch ovens, rub oil on the inside of the lid as well and store with a paper towel folded up between the rim and the lid to keep the lid from sealing onto the bowl.

For those not familiar with them, dutch ovens can be used to cook anything you would cook in your oven at home.  You control the temperature by the number of charcoal briquettes above and below.  The ratio is generally 2 briquettes on top to every one on the bottom because heat rises.  For example, for a 12-inch dutch oven at 375 degrees, place 9 on the bottom and 18 on the top.  I recommend purchasing a dutch oven cookbook at the same time you buy your dutch oven so you'll have recipes to try as well as a temperature chart.

Red Beans & Rice -- a staple at our house
We made chili on our last campout -- incredibly easy in the dutch oven.
We also made cinnamon roll pancake on our last campout.  It worked incredibly well with no sticking!
We have so fallen in love with our cast iron cookware that we have scrapped every other skillet in the house.  No other skillet cooks as well or cleans up as easily.  And that's especially important when camping and cleaning conditions are more primitive or you want to spend more time enjoying nature than cleaning up your dishes.

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=


  1. cast iron pans are great!

    visiting from blogging through alphabet.

  2. There's nothing like corn bread made in a cast iron skillet!

    1. I love corn bread made in a cast iron pan for cornbread sticks.

  3. We started using cast iron about a year ago and LOVE it too!!! Learned a couple new things from your post though - like you can clean it with sand. LOL No offense but I hope I never need to do that! (I'm no longer an outdoor camper but I love stories of those who are!)

    1. I actually learned that from the Scouts! I was amazed at how well it worked!

  4. I should've made tonight's dinner in a cast iron pot so that I wouldn't have had to scrape up all the sticky mess. Hmmm. . . that's a good idea. I wonder if we could do Meg's ribs outside in the dutch oven next time.