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Cast Iron Cooking
When it comes to durability and versatility, there’s nothing quite like cast iron cookware. Prized for its amazing ability to retain heat, cast iron has been used in cooking for thousands of years. It’s also the original nonstick cookware. The more you use it, the better it gets, and with proper care, your cast iron frying pans and Dutch ovens can last a lifetime. Here are a few tips for using cast iron cookware along with a few recipes to try:
‘Tis the Season
You’ve probably heard that cast iron needs to be “seasoned,” but what does that really mean? It involves coating the surface with a small amount of vegetable oil that gets baked into the pan’s surface when heated to create a nonstick finish.
Wash or Wipe Out?
Many cast iron aficionados avoid washing their cookware, opting instead to simply wipe it clean after each use to preserve the seasoning. However, it’s perfectly OK to use a mild soap to care for your cast iron. Just be sure to dry it immediately, then apply a small amount of vegetable oil to the surface to refresh the seasoning. If you have stubborn, stuck-on food, you can scrub it away with a paste made of water and coarse salt. And never put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher when you use it at home.
Now comes the fun part — cooking in cast iron! Here are a few recipes to try on your next camping trip:
Skillet Sausage and Potatoes
½ lb. cooked smoked turkey sausage
3-4 tbsp. olive oil or canola oil
1 3/4 lbs. red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
2 medium onions, cut into wedges or chopped
1 green or red pepper, diced
1 tsp. thyme
1 ½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper
Pour three tablespoons of oil into a 12” cast iron skillet and place it over the campfire or on the grill to heat up and coat the bottom of the pan. Add potatoes, onions and peppers and cook uncovered until potatoes are almost tender. Add sausage to potato mixture, adding the rest of the oil, if necessary, to prevent sticking. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until potatoes and onions are tender and slightly brown, stirring often. Add seasonings and cook for one more minute.
Dutch Oven Chicken Enchilada Pie
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2” pieces
½ onion, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 green pepper, chopped
1 15 oz. can yellow corn, drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 package corn tortillas
1 28 oz. can enchilada sauce
1 small package cornbread mix (plus egg and milk specified on the box)
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
Start heating your Dutch oven over coals. In a separate pan, cook the chicken, onions and peppers in olive oil and add the cumin and cayenne pepper. Add the corn and black beans to heat through. Put one cup of enchilada sauce and one cup of the chicken mixture in the bottom of the Dutch oven and cover with a layer of tortillas. Repeat these layers. Mix cornbread according to package instructions and pour it over the layers. Top it off with the cheese. Cook covered about 30 minutes at about 350 degrees* or until contents are solidified.
Convenient Campground Cobbler
Cobblers are a sweet way to finish off a meal, and they’re so easy to make. To save time, mix the dry ingredients together before you leave home and store the mixture in a zip lock bag.
1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 cup flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup butter, softened
6 cups fruit (peeled and sliced peaches or apples or berries of your choice)
Place the fruit in the bottom of a 10 or 12-inch Dutch oven. Add butter to the dry mixture and stir until crumbly. Spread the topping mixture over the fruit and bake for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees* or until the topping has a “cookie-like” texture.
*To heat a 12” Dutch oven to 350 degrees using charcoal, place 8 briquettes underneath and 16 briquettes on top. For a 10” Dutch oven, use 6 briquettes underneath and 14 on top.