Food always tastes better while camping.
Maybe it’s because camping is typically paired with exhausting activities like kayaking, hiking, fishing, or swimming. Or maybe it’s because serotonin levels are always higher while camping.
I like to believe it’s because everything tastes better cooked over an open flame. Especially when you cook in cast iron!
If you’re looking to impress your camp guests—grab a cast iron and whip something up over the fire. Here’s the best cast iron set for camping and a complete guide on how to use it!
An Affordable & Versatile Camping Cast Iron Set
Cast iron pans and dutch ovens are ideal for camping cooking because of their ability to distribute and retain heat evenly. This makes it possible to achieve crispy, flavorful food every single time.
If you haven’t been blessed with a multi-generational cast-iron heirloom—you’re not alone. This kind of cookware is built to last for generations. Every decadent meal full of crispy cheese, buttery steaks, and seasonings will all work together to add richness and depth to the history and story of your meals.
If you’ve had to buy your own cast iron instead of inheriting one—here is exactly how to find one and what to look for.
You can buy a brand new cast iron set like this Lot45 7-piece camping cast iron set. This cast iron cookware set is incredibly inexpensive, great quality, and versatile. It comes with a pot, a pan, a griddle and a dutch oven. Just like most of the new cast iron cookware on the market— these too are pre-seasoned.
You can also opt to find a multi-generational cast iron from an estate sale, garage sale, or even Craigslist. Expect to have to put in some work to either restore or deep clean your cast iron cookware if you choose to go this route.
Cast iron is notorious for rusting, cracking and clinging on to old food particles. This means the degree to which you will have to restore your cast iron could vary greatly. If you’re willing to put in the work— you can find some beautiful antique cast iron cookware.
Camping Cast Iron Accessories
These are some of the best accessories you can have on hand to create the most delicious camping cast iron meals.
Having a good pair of tongs will be invaluable in your cast iron cookware set. Tongs offer dexterity that a spatula can’t. This means you’ll be able to flip, turn and place things with precision and care.
2. Oven Mit
Again, cast iron cookware is designed to retain and distribute heat evenly. This means the bottom, sides and lid will all be scorching. Investing in a good quality oven mitt is mandatory.
3. Metal Spatula
You definitely can use a rubber spatula on your cast iron cookware. If it says it is rated for high heat, then I’m sure it’s fine. However, there is something about using rubber and plastic on incredibly hot surfaces that just doesn’t feel right.
I much prefer to use a metal spatula because I don’t have to stress myself out wondering if I’m ingesting plastics. Plus, camping cast iron cookware loves to hang onto loose food particles tight. A metal spatula is ideal for scraping those tough-to-get pieces off.
4. Cast Iron Cleaning Set
I am fairly certain that for as long as cast iron cookware has been around, there has been a debate about what the best way to clean it is.
I’m not here to tell you to use soap on your cast iron (although I am personally on team soap), but I am here to give you the tools necessary to ensure your cast iron stays in tip top shape. This cast iron cleaning set comes with all the necessary tools to get even the toughest messes off easily.
5. Cast Iron Cookware Seasoning Kit
Keeping your cast iron cookware healthy is not a difficult task. There are tons of seasoning kits on the market that will keep your cast iron seasoned and relatively non-stick. This seasoning kit is high quality and comes with everything you’ll need.
6. Fry Basket
Cast Iron pots are absolutely perfect for making dishes such as french fries, fried chicken and any other decadent fried foods. Getting a fry basket designed for your cast iron skillet set will ensure you are getting the most out of your set.
7. Pancake and Egg Ring
If you’re keeping your cast iron camping cookware well seasoned— there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to cook pancakes and eggs on it. Purchasing molds like these will keep your eggs and pancakes great.
8. Dutch Oven Camping Tripod
Although it is totally possible to cook with a dutch oven straight in the fire propped up on rocks, it can be tough to set the dutch oven in just right. A camping dutch oven tripod ensures your cast iron heats evenly over your flame and coals. Being able to keep airflow is what will help your fire stay hot.
3 Methods to Cast Iron Cooking While Camping
Camping cast iron cooking is incredibly versatile, and there are several different ways you can set up your cooking space.
1. On the Stove
The easiest way to set up your cast iron cooking station is over a camping stove. When in a pinch, you can just set your dutch oven or cast iron pot right over the flame of whatever gas camping stove you have like a Coleman stove.
This method is great if you are in a location with campfire restrictions in place, when you don’t feel like outdoor cooking, when you just don’t feel like building a campfire. Just be careful to place your cast iron dutch oven as centered as possible over the flame to prevent hot spots.
2. Over a Flame
Another great way to use your dutch oven is to cook straight over an open flame. The easiest way to set this method up would be to use a fire ring with a cast iron cooking grate already built in. The next easiest method would be to use rocks or a dutch oven tripod.
Just remember that having airflow under your camp dutch ovens and pans is what will keep your hot embers from going out.
3. Using Charcoal
Using charcoal is a fantastic way of cooking foods low and slow. Charcoal briquettes burn longer than wood, and will keep a hot cast iron pan evenly slow cooking. This method of camp cooking does take the longest to set up, but it cooks delicious meals just like a slow cooker would.
A great method of slow cooking with charcoal is by placing the hot coals on the lid of a dutch oven or cast iron pan. This help ensures that the camp dutch oven stays hot from every angle.
How to Care for Your Cast Iron
Caring for your cast iron cookware is a heated topic. Maybe you have heard that you aren’t supposed to use soap, and should only clean your cast iron skillets, pans and dutch ovens with water and abrasive sponges.
Here is the truth— when you are using cooking oil and fats you are seasoning your camping cast iron. When hot enough, these liquid oils harden into a solid non-stick surface. This process is called polymerization. Polymerization is responsible for keeping your cast iron pans non-stick.
The quality and kind of oil will matter in your method of polymerization. To have a well seasoned cast iron you should aim to use oils like vegetable oil, shortening, canola oil or grapeseed oil. Any cooking oil or neutral flavored oil you choose to use should work though.
Although you should continuously cook with hot oils to keep your cast iron seasoned, using soap doesn’t strip the seasoning away from your cast iron cooker. A thin coat of oil to start cooking your meal should suffice in keeping your cast iron seasoned for your next trip and years to come.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron
Seasoning your cast iron can be as intensive as you’d like it to be. Here’s where I think most people get confused when it comes to the concept of seasoning a camping cast iron skillet has nothing to do with adding flavor.
Camping foods will always taste better in a dutch oven though because of their ability to distribute heat, infuse smoke, and cook at high temperatures. It is the easiest way of keeping the quality of cooking high even while in a van, Overlanding or even car camping.
If your cast iron is properly cared for, it should be virtually non-stick and cook you amazing camping meals for generations.
You can always purchase seasoning kits like this one. These are fantastic in keeping your cast iron healthy. However, they are not natural and if they aren’t properly used, they can be toxic.
If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way of keeping your cast iron seasoned, you can simply start every single meal by heating an oil up to high heat before you add your first ingredient. As stated before, this will assist in the polymerization of your cooking oil onto your cast iron pan and maintain the cooking area.
How To Clean Your Cast Iron While Camping
The easiest way to clean your cast iron while camping is to first, wipe everything including food debris and excess oil out with a paper towel. Any camping cast iron cookware will be tough to clean and can be a mess. Starting with a fully wiped out cooking surface will be easiest.
Depending on what you made in your cast iron you may find you need to let some water soak at the bottom of the pot. This is totally fine. It is recommended that you let some hot, soapy water sit on the bottom for about 30 minutes. The longer you let water sit in your cast iron dutch oven, skillet or pot, the more likely you are to experience rust.
Iron rusts very easily, so it is always important to dry it out completely before storing.
Next, you’ll want to finish scraping the food out of your cast iron with a durable scraper. Your cast iron should look clean and free of debris before you let it dry out completely. Once your cookware is completely dry you can store it.
How to Store Cast Iron for Camping
The number one thing to keep in mind when storing your cast iron cookware is that camp dutch ovens, skillets and pots strongly dislike liquid. The best thing to do is either let your cookware air dry completely, or you can bake it over your camping stove’s flame or even an open fire.
When storing your camping cast iron cookware, you’ll want to be sure it stays out of the way of moisture. This means avoiding leaving it in cupboards above your sink and stove, and away from places where condensation can build up. Cast iron cookware loves to keep moisture locked in tight, and this will guarantee a rusty mess. Wiping it down with a paper towel is not enough.
Tips for Maintaining Cast Iron Cookware
The best recipe for a healthy set of camping cast iron cookware is to ensure it stays seasoned and dry. Your cast iron is designed to be super durable, and can always be restored to create amazing meals in the great outdoors.
However, maintaining your camping cast iron cookware in the first place is always the easiest option. You can always buy a high quality bag like this Readywears Dutch oven cover are ideal for keeping your dutch oven safe while stored away.
You can also opt to maintain your cast iron cookware with one of these
3 Tasty Cast Iron Camping Recipes
Here are some great meal ideas for your cast iron camping repertoire. They are perfect for car camping, overlanding, tent camping and even van life. Any of these meals can be made over an open fire or any kind of traditional camp stove.
1. Buffalo Chicken Nachos
One of the best things about nachos is just how creative you can be with them. These buffalo chicken nachos are a perfect balance between fresh and new, and traditional comfort food.
Another great perk of these nachos is that they only require one pot, so the clean up is super quick and easy.
- Pizza crust starter
- Tomato sauce
Did you know that cooking a pizza in a dutch oven is not only possible— but probably one of the best camp dutch oven meals you can make? The perk of using a dutch oven is that the heat distributes well enough to make (some) classic oven meals over a campfire.
For this pizza, you can add whatever toppings you feel like, but you can’t go wrong with a traditional pepperoni pizza!
First off, you’ll need a pizza crust starter. You are more than welcome to make this from scratch, but I find pizza starters like this DeLallo Dough Kit, are perfect for taking the headache out of your campfire cooking process.
Mix the dough up according to the directions of your chosen starter and be sure to start the dough baking process before you add any toppings. Once your dough has a few minutes to start the cooking process, you’ll want to add your toppings and place some coals from the fire and place them on the flanged lid of your camp dutch oven.
From here, your pizza should cook just like the ones your used to cooking at home.
3. Shrimp Fajitas
I try to make it a point to make fajitas almost every single camping trip! They are incredibly healthy, easy to make, and so good! These shrimp fajitas by Dinner at the Zoo are the perfect skillet camping meal.
They would cook best over an open fire in your seasoned cast iron, but cooking them over a camp stove is perfectly fine too. The most important thing is being sure you are using multi-colored peppers to keep your dish gorgeous.
More Camping Tips
We hope you enjoyed this guide to camping cast iron!
If you’re looking for more tips for cooking while camping, check out some of our other guides below: