Cast Iron Cooking - Tips and Tools Camping Meals

My Dutch Oven was my first piece of camping cookware, and I still love it as much now as I did then!

I've long since had a love for cast iron.  I grew up cooking in a cast-iron skillet that is older than I am.  Early in my marriage, my father in law commented that "you sure do cook in a cast-iron skillet a lot".  I have continued my love for using cast iron at the campground, and I've also learned some new things over the past few years that have improved our meals and my cooking techniques.

A cast iron griddle over a camp stove is perfect for cooking everything from burgers to pancakes.

Cast Iron Cooking - Tips and Tools for the Campground

When we started camping as a family 3 years ago, the first piece of gear my husband bought me was a cast iron dutch oven for Christmas that year.  I still love and use that dutch oven.  I wanted it for a multipurpose cooking vessel in our pop up camper since we would not have an oven.  It is the ultimate campground cooking tool because it is versatile for many styles of cooking.  However, there are five key things that I have discovered over the past few things that can help you too with cast iron cooking.

Select the Right Cast Iron Tools

You can really weight down your rig in a hurry with too many cast iron pieces!  While some enthusiasts may disagree with me and think you can't have too many pieces of cast iron to cook with, you can.  Think carefully about how you cook and what you enjoy cooking and select pieces that will meet those needs.  We have 4 basic pieces that I love and feel like they are essential items.
  1. Dutch Oven - A dutch oven can bake, stew, braise, and saute.  Think of it as your tool that can be an all in one piece for doing lots of different cooking.  If you only buy one piece of cast iron, I would recommend this over any other.  
  2. Griddle - We have a griddle with a raised grill on one side and a flat griddle on the other.  We have used this for everything from pancakes and eggs to burgers and steaks.  
  3. Waffle maker - Use a cast iron waffle iron over your camp stove.  It makes some of the best waffles you will ever eat.  This is a piece that may not be right for every camper, but we love a good breakfast.  Its a piece of gear that I use often, and I do love it!
  4. Pie Iron - Use this tool to cook over an open flame for both sweet and savory treats at the campground.  It is a piece that isn't necessary, but it is fun to have.  And they don't take up a lot of room or weight, so it is easily justifiable in my book!
Our new pie irons will make both sweet and savory treats.

The main advice I would give to any campground cook is to start small.  Buy one or two pieces that are really practical and versatile.  The Dutch Oven and griddle would be the two pieces I would purchase first because you can use them the most.  Add pieces that would give you more options and flexibility.  The pie irons and waffle makers have been excellent additions to our gear, and I really love both!  Every tool is not for every camper.  

Crispbee Stick will help maintain and season your cast iron cookware.

Seasoning and Maintenance

Some cast-iron will come pre-seasoned.  Most Lodge Cast Iron will be ready to go out of the box.  Give it an initial wash and start cooking.  However, not every piece of cookware is created equal.  Both my waffle maker and pie irons needed to be seasoned before use.  It has been a really long time since I have needed to season a piece of brand new cookware.  

I have recently started using Crisbee Stick seasoning.  Use it on your cast iron to season for initial use and after use to maintain your cast iron.  Get your pan hot and use a little on the surface and continue to heat and soak into the surface.  Blot or wipe with paper towels for a seasoned surface.  This is the easiest best way to keep your cast iron maintained.  I keep this in our RV and ready to use it all the time.  

I use an app to help me determine how many briquettes to place under and over the dutch oven for the desired temperature.


For waffles, baking, sauteing, pancakes, or grilling, you need to preheat the cooking surface.  I even recommend preheating pie irons.  Really unless the recipe specifies beginning with a cold surface, I believe in pre-heating cast iron.  Allow enough time to get a nice, evenly heated surface.  You will get a better-finished product by following through with this step.

If you are using a dutch oven, place the coals under the dutch oven and on the lid to preheat.  I use an app on my phone called Dutch Oven Helper for this purpose.  It tells the correct number of briquettes to place in each location to achieve the proper heat based on the desired temperature and size of the dutch oven.  And remember, you may need a second chimney of coals to finish cooking some dishes.  The longer the cooking time, the more coals you may need throughout the process.  

The Camp Maide Dutch Oven Accessories are so helpful in using your Dutch Oven in more ways than you thought possible.

Additional Tools

If you really get into cooking with a Dutch Oven, you might consider the Camp Maid Dutch Oven Accessories.  This set contains a lid lifter/stand and charcoal holder.  The lid lifter allows you to easily lift the lid and rotate your coals while cooking.  You can also use the stand to hold the lid and use the surface to cook as a flat surface for things like pizzas.  I have done this, and it works well.  The charcoal holder does allow you to control the heat and coals underneath with better precision.

I also advise people using a Dutch Oven to invest in a set of Pit Paws.  I have owned a set since we began camping as a family and still use them.  These will protect your hands as you work with coals, move your lid, dutch oven, and more.  You also need some charcoal tongs to move and manipulate coals.  

An electric charcoal starter is an excellent tool to have if you are grilling or doing dutch oven cooking.

To light my coals I use a charcoal chimney and electric charcoal starter.  The charcoal starter will keep you from chemically treating your coals and give you a quick light every time.  

A Coleman Camp Stove is an excellent piece of gear to cook meals outdoors at the campground.  It fits a griddle perfectly but also works well for my cast iron waffle maker.

For cooking outdoors we have a vintage Coleman Camp Stove.  You can still purchase them new.  You can fit a cast iron griddle perfectly over the top and you can also use it for making waffles.  While I know that flat griddles are all the rage right now, I like this old school set up.  I can fill my fuel tank for my stove with white gas.  I don't use disposable tanks to heat it.  And, I can use my camp stove with a cast iron griddle or the grill side.  I can use it with skillets or my waffle maker.  I like the options and flexibility it provides.  Flexibility is key to my camping experience.  

Cooking Tips

I have a couple of Pinterest Boards that might help to inspire some of your meals.
I have also gotten some great ideas and recipes lately from the Happy Camper Cookbook.  It has excellent ideas and recipes for using Pie Irons.  We have recently tried little corndog pockets in our pie irons as well as little puff pastry pies. Both have been hits at the campground.

These enchiladas are a favorite at the campground!

One of our favorite meals for a crowd in our Dutch Oven is Stacked Dutch Oven Enchiladas.  It is easy to make and delicious, and you can substitute items to adjust to your personal tastes.  Plus, I do some of the prep at home and just layer everything at the campground.  You can't beat this dish!

Sourdough waffles are really delicious and easy to make!

Finally, I have been experimenting with sourdough during the quarantine.  I have been making sourdough waffles and pancakes.  This is the best recipe that I have tried, and works well on the griddle or waffle iron!  There is something unique and special about sourdough anything to me.

If you pick the right tools for the job and take good care of them over time, you will have heirloom tools and cookware that you can pass on to your children or grandchildren.  We have made so many memories at the campground around the dinner table.  I love experimenting with new recipes, cooking tools, and techniques.  So naturally, I gravitate towards fun recipes and getting everyone involved in the process.  I also enjoy feeding my family meals that they love.  As we move into a new season with cooler weather, this is the perfect time to try some new cast iron cooking at the campground!  There is nothing like warm apple crisp right out of the Dutch Oven with leftovers for breakfast the next morning!

Until next time...

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