Cooking With Cast Iron While Camping

by | Sep 23, 2022 | campfire, cast iron | 0 comments

About Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is a great option for cooking while camping. It is durable and easy to clean. Cast iron cookware can be used on the stove, in an oven, or over a campfire. They distribute heat evenly and retain heat long after they are removed from the heat source.

Cast iron is heavy, but it is worth the extra weight even when camping as it performs so well. Cast iron cookware can be expensive for the initial purchase, but it is worth the investment. It lasts a lifetime if taken care of properly.

Cast iron cookware is made of a mixture of iron, carbon, and silicon. The ingredients are heated to the melting point and poured into a sand mold or carved out with a chisel. When the metal cools the result is a hard, durable pan that will last for many generations.

cast iron camping

Are Cast Iron Pans Good for Camping?

Cast iron cookware is the best for cooking over an open fire or camp stove. It heats evenly and retains heat for a long time. It is not very easy to damage so even when you’re lugging them through to the campsite and possibly, god forbid, dropping them, they should be fine.

Although the initial purchase can be expensive, if you keep an eye out, you can purchase an old cast iron skillet at an antique store, garage sale, or flea market. It’s a good way to get campfire cookware on a budget.t

Cast iron is best used to cook foods that need a longer time to cook. Foods like soups and stews can be cooked in cast iron. And most importantly, you can fry bacon or eggs in it for the perfect camping breakfast!

Essential Items You Need For Cooking With Cast Iron:

When you are cooking with cast iron, there are a few essential items you want to have to hand. One of the most important is, strangely enough, paper towels and oil. To cook, you need to season your cast iron. More on this later, but for now, just understand that you need to keep it well-oiled. Having towels paper towels and oil means you can wipe some oil onto the cooking surface to be able to cook over your campfire.

You will need some gloves or a silicone handle cover. The Cast iron cookware gets hot, I mean hot. That’s one of the many benefits of cast iron cookware for camping. But it means you need some gloves or a handle. Honestly just get some, it’s much better than burning yourself.

lastly, you will need something to carry your cookware in. For our dutch oven, we have a zip case that keeps it together. I find this useful as when packed in the van for a camping trip the lid doesn’t come off and I generally keep some oil in it anyway so it stops it leaking onto the van floor. Get some shopping bags or get a canvas bag just for your cookware to keep it all together and safe.

Cooking With Cast Iron Skillets

Cooking with a cast iron skillet is much like cooking with a pan on your stovetop.

You’ll need a surface to rest the skillet on, so at this point, you’ll want to either make a grill rack stand or use a camping tripod to place your cast iron skillet on. Using both these methods you need to adjust the height of the pan to be able to regulate the heat.

cast iron skillet

As I have mentioned before and will mention again and again. Cast iron retains its heat well, so once you remove the skillet from the campfire it will keep cooking. This is a great way to cook eggs and make sure you don’t burn foods as you can remove them early knowing they are still going to get cooked fully.

Cast Iron Dutch Oven

The cast iron dutch oven is my favorite piece of outdoor cooking equipment. So far we have two in the family but I will be adding a third at some point. It is so versatile and easy to use. It is a must for any camping set and is perfect for cooking over an open flame or charcoal briquettes.

The dutch oven is a classic and timeless design that has been the campfire cooking focal point for 100s of years. If you are baking, roasting, boiling, or simmering a dutch oven can do it all.

cast iron dutch oven

A dutch oven can be used hanging over the fire with a tripod or a cooking station or can be sat directly onto the coals. Its design also enables you to put coals on the dutch oven pot lid. This provides heat on all sides and is perfect for making campfire bread.

The dutch oven lid can also be used as a skillet, flip it over and place it on the coals or the grill and you can cook bacon and eggs on the dutch oven lid while you cook some campfire beans in the dutch oven.

The possibilities for dutch ovens are endless and I will be writing more about this most versatile cast iron cookware.

Cast Iron Griddle

A cast iron griddle is another piece of very useful campfire equipment. It can be used for cooking your favorite bacon, sausages, eggs, and the family’s favorite pancakes. It has a very thin surface that gets hot very quickly and is usually quite large so you can cook quite a lot of food in one go.

cast iron griddle

If you are looking for a space-saving alternative to a skillet then the griddle is a great idea.

Cast Iron Combo Cooker

Another useful bit of cast iron cookware is the combo cooker. This cool design incorporates a deep bowel lid with a handle that works just like a skillet and leaves a useful pot that you can cook a stew or chili in over the campfire.

cast iron combo cooker

When put together it works as a dutch oven. This is quite useful and saves taking two pieces of kit with you. Well worth considering.

Cast Iron Baked Potato Cooker

A very unique and simple design enables you to cook baked potatoes on a grill or even on your wood-burning stove top. You could always just wrap your potatoes in foil and cook them on the coals, but it’s quite easy to burn the skin that way. Using one of these cast iron baked potato cookers ensures that they are cooked evenly all around.

cast iron baked potato

Cast Iron Cooking Over A Campfire

We all love cooking over a live fire, it’s possibly my favorite way to cook. It just feels so authentic and timeless. It does take a bit of extra work though and requires some concentration and a little safety awareness. But getting to enjoy the cooking process with friends and family makes it worthwhile.

You can cook on a grate over a fire. There are simple methods such as using stones to hold grate over the flames or hot coals. You can use an old grate from an oven or you can buy a cooking grate with legs or a stand that makes the balancing process easier and safer. Many campsites have open fire cooking grills free to use for campers.

cast iron tripod

My favorite method is using a tripod. They let you hang a grill or a dutch oven from the handle. You can buy handmade iron tripods, factory-made tripods of various qualities, or make your using string or a well-designed tripod board which means you can make a cooking tripod anywhere. This method is perfect for bigger fires and you can cook over flames safely.

Cooking directly on the coals is probably the simplest of methods, just prop the dutch oven or skillet on the hot embers and cook right in the fire. This is quite hard to control the heat but is simple. More about this method is below.

Dutch Oven Cooking With Charcoal

When cooking with charcoal the most important this consider is coal placement. You’ll need to think about how much charcoal is on the top and the bottom to keep your cast iron at the right temperature.

For baking I recommend a 3:1 ratio of coal top to bottom to top, this ensures that the heat is penetrating the top whilst also ensuring that the heat is even at the bottom.

Cooler weather, humidity, and elevation can all affect the temperature and heat times. Therefore, it’s crucial to set the temperature appropriately. Using this helpful Dutch oven guide will make it simpler to see the desired temperatures and the number of tops and bottom coals that are required. 

Cast Iron Cooking On A Barbecue Grill

Just like cooking over a campfire grill, the dutch oven can be used over a convention barbecue grill should it be required. I have used our dutch oven on a kettle BBQ to great effect when we’ve not had enough space over a fire.  

Often when you go to a campsite you can find BBQ grills in place which are perfect for all cast iron cookware. 

Using a skillet on a barbecue grill is a great way to cook your breakfasts and those steaks and burgers.  

Cast Iron Cooking With A Camping Stove

Cast iron works perfectly with a camping stove, it’s super quick and efficient. Because the heat from a campfire is instant and the cast iron holds heat so well the cooking can start quickly.  

It’s a great idea to have a camping stove with you on any trip, even if you do plan on using a campfire.  In the case of bad weather or even after a long day trekking you can rely on a gas camping stove to get your cast iron up to the right heat and start cooking immediately.  

Cast Iron Camp Cooking Accessories

Throughout the article, I’ve praised some of the cast iron cookware that I like to use and have mentioned some accessories but there an also a few more items that on occasion I have to hand or take with me on a camping trip.


meat thermometer

Dutch oven stand

Dutch oven stand

Silicone grip

cast iron silicone grip

Heat resistant gloves

heat proof gloves

Dutch oven temp chart

Wax firestarters

wax fire lighters

Long-handled tongs

long handled cooking tongs

Fire poker

How Not To Ruin Your Cast Iron While Camping

It’s best to keep your cast iron in protective carry bags or wrap it up in towels or bags.  This stops them from getting damaged and scratching.  Although very strong if you drop cast iron on a hard surface there is always the chance that you can crack it.  

Using a crate to carry it is a great way to store it and move it from the vehicle to the campsite. 

How To Clean Cast Iron While Camping

Lastly, one of the most important things about cast iron cookware is cleaning it.  You may have used someone else cast iron pan and had them frantically stopping you from putting it in the dishwasher or leaving it after a quick wash.  It’s because of rust, the cast iron can rust so quickly but all it takes is a little bit of effort to clean it correctly and they will be good as new for all your campfire and cooking occasions. 

First of all, don’t run cold water over a hot piece of cast iron cookware.  It can crack.  

Remove any leftover food, sauce, or crease.  I often use a wooden spoon, paper towels, or just tap it out.

Pour some warm (ish) water into the pan and using a scrubbing brush remove all the remaining food scraps.  You can use a scrubbing pad, sponge, or even a chain mail scrubber that is specifically used for cast iron cleaning.  You can use some bio-degradable dish soap but I very rarely use any. 

This is important to Dry it thoroughly – this stops it from rusting, and moisture on the pan will cause some rust. 

Hot tip: to dry it perfectly put it back on the fire on medium heat for a few minutes to remove any of the moisture.  

Then protect it again by adding some cooking oil to a paper towel and rubbing it onto the surface, just a thin layer.  This is one of the reasons I don’t use soap when cleaning it.  It keeps it seasoned and required less oil after each clean.  




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


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