When making the packing list for the next adventure, I always try to find a reason to pack my favorite cast- iron skillet. I know in terms of gear it is considered very heavy, and so many of the articles we read point to the rule of lighter is better when it comes to overlanding, car camping, and of course, backpacking. This is one rule I have no problem breaking, as my love of cast- iron cookwear overpowers any rule that tells me to leave it at home. I have no problem sneaking a piece of cast- iron in another gear-lover’s backpack and letting him or her shoulder the load! I just feel it is an amazing piece of cookware that is so versatile, amazingly easy to clean, and brings out the flavor in food and that is just has to make the list for every trip we plan. Yes,your light weight jet- boil containers have their spot for heating water rapidly and for preparing freeze dried meals but if you want a truly hearty meal with loads of flavor, cast- iron is the piece of gear to rely on to get the job done…no matter what the rules say! I also find that there is nothing better then cooking at home with the same pan that carries such great memories. When preparing a meal at home, I find my mind drifting back to the great locations and times spent with family on previous adventures. With that being said, the negative of it`s weight is easily offset by the long list of positives.
Some Cast-iron skillets are still in use today that were handed down from several, if not many, generations. There is no reason that your cast- iron cookware will not last several decades or generations.
Cast- iron skillets can be used over an open flame, in a charcoal grill, on a gas or electric range, in the oven, and of course, on a camping stove or any other heat source you can find. You can bake, sear, saute and fry in cast- iron.
Heat Retention and Dispersion:
A quality cast- iron skillet will evenly disperse the heat and allow for cooking without hot spots unlike aluminum and steel cookware. This is perfect if you have to cook on rocks to the side of a campfire where the flames will only contact a section of the pan and not have the constant regulated heat of a stove. The skillet will hold the heat given off by the source and not fluctuate with varying temperature of a stove or campfire affected by the wind.
Cooking on cast- iron 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 anemic.
Easy to Clean
After proper use, a cast- iron pan will out last a non-stick Teflon pan. And, since you don’t use soap, camp cleanup is a breeze. Wipe it out, splash some water in it, wipe it out and you’re done! If necessary, You can clean it with simple metal scrapers or another strong scrubbing tool as the iron can take the pressure without the surface being damaged. Makes for easy very cleaning when trying to conserve water for campsite use and consumption.
Lodge’s cast -iron Dutch oven is the next-level camp cookware, useful if you are in the same spot for a long time and want to cook low and slow over the coals for a whole afternoon. This is truly great when camping in the cold and you want a hot, tender stew for dinner. We have used our Dutch oven (pictured below) on a very cold night in the woods to cook a meal that put a fire in our internal furnace to help us make it through the long freezing night. (see related post) Surviving a night in the dead of winter
Another item we have is a larger cast-iron oven in our lineup. I have yet to use it as there will be no talking the other Gear Guy into hauling it in. The situation with our camping is they tend to be more extreme experiences. We like people and talking gear and adventures with them but we tend to camp off the beaten path, trying to find locations where the beauty and sounds of nature fill our senses rather than the noise and commotion of a congested campground. It will work great for car camping or overlanding but I just need to find a great recipe for its use.