Let’s talk heavy metal. Despite its weight and longer heating time, cast iron is popular with many campers because it’s inexpensive, almost indestructible and non-stick when properly seasoned. Become an iron chef with some basic cast iron knowledge and two delicious recipes.
Cast Iron Cooking Basics
Before you put your dinner in a cast iron pan, get to know the basics of cast iron cooking.
- Cooks should provide heat under, around and on top of the cooker because heat spreads slowly in cast iron. At the campsite, you can nestle the pot in a bed of hot coals and put coals on top of the lid if possible. Cast iron Dutch ovens also work well when used in an RV oven.
- When you put a large cast iron skillet over a small gas burner, a layer of cooking fat helps create even heat. For example, cook bacon, and then cook eggs in the bacon grease.
- Apply non-stick spray only when the skillet is cold.
- Cooking times depend on how well heat is managed and how windy the day is.
- Don’t remove the lid any more often than necessary when baking low and slow in a Dutch oven. It’s important to keep the heat and steam inside.
- Start with a basic cast iron skillet. When you’ve mastered that, buy a Dutch oven with a flat lid and lid lifter.
Basic Cast Iron Care
How you treat your cast iron is critical to the life of the cookware. Follow basic cleaning and storage instructions closely.
- Don’t use dish detergent or harsh cleaners. Soak your pan or pot in water, and rub coarse sea salt over tough pieces of food that won’t break loose.
- Rub a thin layer of oil on the pan before putting it away.
- To store a cast iron skillet during travel, wrap it in newspaper and then slip it into a pillowcase.
Spicy cola adds just the right “bite” to this one-pot meal. For vegetarians or vegans, meatless soy crumbles can be used instead of cooked, crumbled beef and sausage.
- 12-ounce package of fully cooked beef crumbles*
- 12-ounce package of fully cooked sausage crumbles*
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Large onion, peeled and diced
- 2 tsp. powdered bouillon (chicken, beef or vegetable)
- 1 1/2 cups raw pasta such as macaroni or veggie-spirals
- 15-ounce can pinto beans, undrained
- 2 cans, 12 ounces each, spicy cola such as Dr. Pepper (regular or diet)
- Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
* You can also cook, drain and crumble a pound of ground beef and a pound of lean sausage yourself.
Spray a cold cast iron Dutch oven with cooking spray and arrange your beef and sausage crumble in the bottom. Sprinkle the meat with cloves and cinnamon. Next add diced onion, bouillon powder and pasta. Spoon the diced tomatoes into your pot, add beans, and pour the cola on top. Cover and place the pot in hot coals for 50 to 60 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, covered, until the onion and pasta are tender.
When finished, add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t forget to pass the hot sauce.
- 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 packet dry mushroom soup mix
- 4 cups diced root vegetables such as potato, yam, carrot, parsnip, onion, turnip and rutabaga
- 2 cans condensed, low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
- 1 soup can water
Spray a cold cast iron Dutch oven with cooking spray, and scatter bacon on the bottom in an even layer. Cut chicken into bite size pieces and put it in a clean bag with the soup mix. Shake to coat all the pieces. Cover the bacon layer with your marinated chicken, discard the bag and arrange your root vegetables over the chicken. Spoon the mushroom soup evenly over your vegetables and pour a can of water over the top. Cover your Dutch oven and nestle it in hot coals for 50 to 60 minutes. Check for doneness every 30 minutes until it’s done. Continue to stir, and add water if needed.