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.