Using the best cast iron for camping to cook over a campfire

What You Need To Use Cast Iron For Camping

Cast iron cookware is extremely durable, forgiving, and easy to use, making it perfect for camping. This guide will cover everything you need to select, care for, and use your cast iron camping cookware so you can make delicious camping meals on your next trip.

 

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The Best Cast Iron Camping Set

There are literally thousands of different cast iron pots, skillets, pans, griddles, and dutch ovens on the market that are great for camping. But for 99% of single-family use cases, we’ve found this one very versatile set will likely do the trick – and it’s cheap too!

 





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We’ve been using our Lodge Cast Iron Combo Cooker as our primary camping cookware for years now and absolutely love it! The set consists of a shallow cast iron camping skillet and a deeper cast iron camping pan that combine to form both a cast iron camping pot and a cast iron dutch oven!

  • Cast Iron Camping Skillet / Griddle

    • The shallower 10.25” cast iron skillet is slightly thicker metal allowing it to retain heat longer and heat very evenly. It’s great for cooking a number of camping foods like bacon, eggs, pancakes, burgers, steaks, etc.

  • Cast Iron Pan

    • The deeper 10.25” cast iron pan has tapered sides and is thinner metal so it heats faster. It’s great for a huge variety of deep-dish camping foods like mac & cheese, chili, pork & beans, soup, etc.

  • Cast Iron Camping Pot

    • You can place the skillet on top of the pan to serve as a lid and create a great cast iron camping pot too!

  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven

    • The skillet and pan also combine to form a tightly sealed small cast iron dutch oven allowing you to cook a huge variety of delicious camping meals, or bake things like cinnamon rolls, pizza, cookies, fish, chicken, etc.

Cast Iron Camp Cooker Accessories

There are a handful of basic accessories that will make cooking with cast iron while camping so much easier!

The 3 Methods for Cooking with Cast Iron While Camping

There are three main ways to cook using a cast iron set while camping

 

1. Camping Stove

1. Camping Stove

 

2. Campfire

2. Campfire

 

3. Charcoal

3. Charcoal

1. Camping Stove Cast Iron Cooking

This is by far the easiest way to cook with cast iron, and the method we use most often – because sometimes there are campfire restrictions, or building one feels like too much work, and using charcoal can be just as tedious and dirty. And even though it makes baking a bit more difficult because all the heat from a camp stove is so concentrated, it’s still possible!

Here are a couple tips to help you cook with cast iron on your camping stove a little more easily:

  • Always use LOW heat and take your time – it’s easy to overheat the cast iron on a stove, and it takes a long time for it to cool back down, which can be frustrating and has the potential to ruin your camping meal – no bueno, so keep it low & slow.

  • Always preheat BOTH the skillet (lid) and the pan separately prior to combining them into a dutch oven configuration for baking – due to the differences in metal thickness between the two pieces, this process will help distribute heat more evenly when you begin cooking.

2. Cooking with Cast Iron Over a Campfire

For the most rustic and authentic cast iron cooking experience while camping, nothing beats cooking a meal with cast iron using the coals of a campfire. Though it’s more challenging and time consuming, it’s always a good time!

Here are a few tips to help make the process of campfire cooking with cast iron a little easier.

  • Start your fire early – you want to allow enough time for the fire to reduce the wood to coals because coals provide a more stable heat source to cook over

  • Use indirect heat – don’t cook directly over your primary fire where temperatures fluctuate wildly and are hard to control. Instead create a space just off the side of your campfire where coals from your campfire can be carefully separated to as needed. This will allow for a more controlled and even heat for cooking.

  • Elevate your cast iron pot or dutch oven above the coals – if your campsite doesn’t have a supplied fire pit with a cooking grate, you can still elevate your cast iron cooker using 3-4 evenly sized rocks and/or a metal cooking grate* (which can also double as a campfire grill!).

3. Cooking with Cast Iron Using Charcoal

While cooking with charcoal while camping can be equally as tedious, requires more “stuff” to do use effectively, and can even be more dirty, it provides a much more even and controllable heat source as compared to cooking over a campfire. The charcoal briquettes burn longer and are much easier to place strategically around or on top of a cast iron dutch oven, so this method is especially great for slow-cooking or prolonged baking.

  • Getting the charcoal started – a collapsible charcoal chimney* for camping is a great way to get your charcoal lit quickly and easily, or you can spring for the more pricey matchlight charcoal briquettes*, though they can be finicky and take a bit longer to get going without a charcoal chimney.

  • Positioning the coals – use a set of charcoal tongs* to position the coals once they’re ready. For higher temp cooking, place your cast iron directly on top of the coals. For low/medium heat, elevate your cast iron 3-6” above the coals. And for baking, position coals both underneath and directly on top of your cast iron set while it’s in the dutch oven configuration.

How To Care For Your Cast Iron Camping Set

A good set of cast iron cookware for camping can last a lifetime, if properly cared for. So once you’ve chosen a set of cast iron for camping, you’ll want to make sure you keep it adequately seasoned, cleaned, and maintained – a task that initially seemed daunting to us (but we promise it’s not!). Here’s how:

Seasoning Your Cast Iron for Camping

How to Re-Season an Old or Used Cast Iron Camping Pot:

  1. Remove any surface rust with a mild steel wool*

  2. Rinse thoroughly

  3. Apply a strong soap, or oven cleaner

  4. Scrub the cast iron cookware until any remaining seasoning is removed

  5. Rinse thoroughly, and proceed with the Standard Cast Iron Seasoning Process below

How to Season Your New Cast Iron Camping Cookware:

  1. Preheat your cast iron set over a stove top on low heat until warm throughout

  2. Baste your entire cast iron set with a quality cast iron seasoning oil* (we’ve used this one for years and love it)

  3. Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel

  4. Place the set in an oven (upside down so as to avoid excess oil from collecting) at approximately 350-400°F for about one hour.

  5. Turn off the oven and wait for the cast iron to slowly cool within the oven.

  6. Repeat this process as needed:

    1. for new cast iron cookware 2-3 times is usually enough

    2. If you’re reseasoning an old or used cast iron it may take 4-6 times

How to Maintain the Seasoning of Your Cast Iron While Camping

After using and cleaning your cast iron, warm your cast iron on your camping stove over a low heat and lightly coat with cooking oil before storing – this process will prevent rusting, maintain the cast iron’s seasoning, and ensure it retains it’s non-stick surface so it’s ready for your next meal.

How To Clean Your Cast Iron While Camping

Cleaning a well-seasoned cast iron pan while camping can be super easy – in fact in most cases you can simply wipe out the cooking surface with a paper towel and be done – no soap, no scrubbing, and very little or even no water required!

However, that’s not always the case. If your cast iron is not adequately seasoned, or the food is burnt onto the pan you’ll want to follow these steps:

  1. Wait for the pan to cool

  2. Add a small amount of water

  3. Using the pan scraper, scrape and/or scrub any stuck food from the pan

  4. Rinse lightly

  5. Repeat as necessary until sufficiently clean

  6. Warm the cast iron over your camp stove – the heat will both remove any moisture left in the pan, preventing rust, and kill any bacteria – and then coat lightly with a bit of cooking oil as a maintenance “re-seasoning”

How To Pack Your Cast Iron For Camping

Due to the seasoning process, the exterior of your camping cast iron cookware can become tacky, and if you’re doing a lot of campfire cooking with your cast iron set there’s the potential for any residual soot to find its way onto other camping gear.

The easiest solution to this potential problem is to simply store your cast iron camping set in a plastic grocery sack (or two) to keep it from contacting the other items in your Camping Kitchen Box.

If you want something more official, Lodge has a variety of cast iron carrying cases* that are great for camping.

How NOT To Ruin Your Cast Iron Cookware While Camping

  • Never add cold water to a hot cast iron pan – This can weaken the metal and cause cracks to form.

  • Use mild biodegradable soap, and use it very sparingly (if at all) – Soap will remove the seasoning of your cast iron, potentially damaging it’s non-stick surface and exposing bare metal which can lead to rust.

  • Never soak a cast iron pan – Prolonged soaking can cause moisture to accumulate in the protective seasoned coating, which again can potentially lead to rust.

  • Just don’t let it rust – At this point you’ve probably realized that rust is the biggest issue with cast iron cookware, so always maintain the seasoning of your cast iron camping set and you won’t have any issues.

  • Don’t Stress! – Though it sounds very tedious and sensitive, cast iron is incredibly durable and resilient. And if you accidentally mess up the seasoning, you can always re-season the cast iron and start over! 

Cooking with cast iron while camping is not only a tradition, it’s an easy, inexpensive, and flexible way to enjoy the process of making food outdoors. We hope this guide has helped you select the best cast iron camping set for your next adventure and demystified the process of using and caring for your cast iron cookware while camping.

If you’re looking for something to make in your new cast iron set, check out our post about 3 Easy Ways to Make Delicious Camping Pizza!

If you have any questions, please drop a comment below. And if you’d like more helpful camping, overlanding, and family travel tips be sure to SUBSCRIBE for our future blog updates.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Learn about cast iron for camping - how to clean cast iron while camping, the best cast iron camping cookware and skillet, cast iron storage ideas for camping, cast iron campfire cooking.

 

All about cast iron for camping - how to clean cast iron while camping, the best cast iron camping cookware and skillet, cast iron storage ideas for camping, cast iron campfire cooking.

 

Learn about cast iron for camping - the best cast iron camping cookware and skillet, how to clean cast iron while camping, cast iron storage ideas for camping, cast iron campfire cooking.

 

Learn about camping cast iron - how to clean cast iron while camping, the best cast iron camping cookware and skillet, cast iron storage ideas for camping, cast iron campfire cooking.

 


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