By far, my favorite piece of camping equipment is the humble and very versatile cast-iron skillet. My 10-inch skillet has been a game-changer in the dishes I can prepare while on the road. Why? The cast-iron skillet can be used for all three meals from appetizers to desserts. Even better, cast-iron has the ability to go from cook-top to oven, to campfire or an outdoor grill.
My experience with cast-iron started about 5-years ago when my dear friend and fellow foodie, Diane McCormack, introduced me to cast-iron by preparing a simple potato dish. I was amazed at the crispy potato outsides and tender insides. I didn’t really give it much more thought until I received my very own 12″ cast-iron skillet a few months later for my birthday. I was hooked.
Don’t have a cast-iron skillet? No problem! My recommendation would be to purchase a 10″ pre-seasoned skillet for the RV. Besides working well for most recipes, size matters with those tiny RV ovens. The iconic brand for cast-iron is Lodge which has been around for over 100-years and offers an excellent product. You can find Lodge on Amazon, in camping stores, and even Wal-Mart. Average price is about $15 and worth every penny.
The most intimidating part of cast-iron is how to clean it. I have heard horror stories of unsuspecting cooks putting their pans into a soapy sink of water or even worse (gasp) into the dishwasher and ruining their pans. Another long-time cast-iron user mentioned that while growing up in Iowa, her mother cooked absolutely every meal in cast-iron for their large family and she washed hers in soap and water with no problems, even leaving submerged in water overnight with little noticeable affect, although I wouldn’t recommend it. The cleaning process is debatable and there are many articles and advice columns available on the internet. Here is my cleaning method that has works well for me and easy to do in the trailer:
Step 1: Wipe out any residual crumbs or food
Step 2: Fill the pan 1/2 way with water and put it back on the stove to boil
Step 3: Use a brush or scrapper to clean the bottom and sides of the pan, then throw the water outside. DO NOT pour the water down your RV drain! Boiling water in addition to residual oils and food debris will cause damage to pipes.
Step 4: Once empty, put the hot pan back on the stove and let the remaining water evaporate and check the pan to make sure no food is left. If so, use a bit of course salt to scrub out remaining debris, rinse and let water evaporate.
Step 5: Apply a small amount of cooking oil to a paper towel and wipe the interior of the skillet to protect the seasoning and prevent rust. That’s it until the next meal!
So what’s for breakfast? Of course cooking bacon and sausage works awesome in cast-iron and actually is great to do when your pan is new. It contributes to the seasoning of the pan. Here are a few of our family’s simple breakfast favorites:
Cornbread – Cornbread prepared in cast-iron has a delightfully golden crust. I add a tablespoon of butter to skillet, melt it in the oven then pour prepared cornbread mix into the pan. Note that cooking time may be a little less than a package directs so check often. Cornbread also makes a great addition to dinner (think chili). For dinner items, I sometimes add some fresh or frozen corn or jalapenos to deliver an extra punch.
Packaged Cinnamon Rolls or Biscuits – Place rolls in skillet and bake as instructed. Check often as these can overcook on the bottom if you are not careful. Biscuits can also be another easy addition to dinner.
Danish Pancakes (aka ebelskivers) – We love Trader Joe’s frozen version of this Danish treat. These round pancakes are fantastic and each of us have our own personal way of enjoying. Mia likes maple syrup, Drake likes powered sugar and honey, Troy enjoys his with table sugar and I love jam with powered sugar.
If your pan is new and not yet fully-seasoned, eggs can be a bit difficult. When I make scrambled eggs, I generally cook them with residual bacon grease and know that there will be sticking.
Generally for lunch we are on the go with a packed picnic. When we do spend a day at the campground, I love to make grilled sandwiches. Nothing like a gooey grilled cheese. To take things a bit further, I like to use left-overs such as chicken, pot roast or pork, add some cheese, add some vegetables and make “pressed sandwiches” by using a heavy pot or pan to “press” down while cooking. Be creative!
Nothing is better than the cast-iron skillet for dinner. It is perfect for one-pan hits. Did you want to BBQ but the weather didn’t cooperate? Cooking hamburgers or hot dogs is a cinch in cast-iron. I also like to add some oil and brown both sides of a steak or chicken then place in a 350 degree oven to finish cooking (a meat thermometer is another great tool to have on hand).
One of our family favorites is Chicken Parmesan. I make it often at home and now make it in the trailer all the time as a one-skillet meal. My recipe uses two chicken breasts which gives each person 1/2 a breast. Super easy to add chicken to accommodate larger appetites or more people.
Here is my simple recipe:
Fletcher’s Favorite Chicken Parmesan
1 egg beaten
2 oz dry bread crumbs (I like Panko crumbs for extra crunch)
1 tsp or to taste Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp Parmesan Cheese (divided)
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 (16 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly add olive oil to cast iron skillet.
2. Pour egg into a shallow bowl and beat slightly
3. Mix bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and 1 tsp Parmesan cheese (tip: I mix it at at home and bring in a Ziplock for easy use). Dip chicken into egg then into bread crumbs. Place coated chicken in cast iron skillet and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until no longer pink.
4. Pour spaghetti sauce over chicken and cover with Mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan on top and return to oven for about 15 minutes or until cheeses are melted.
Serving Suggestion: I usually cook pasta as a side to use the remaining sauce and serve with salad.
Another very simple and delicious dinner is Fajitas. You can use the dry seasoning packets, or I really love to use Frontera’s Classic Fajita Skillet Sauce. You can find it in the Hispanic section of many markets.
You can prepare vegetarian style or add your favorite meat such as chicken, beef for shrimp. I like to buy the “stoplight” peppers that come in a package (red, yellow and green). You will also need an onion. Serve with flour or corn tortillas, refried or black beans, sour cream and a favorite hot sauce!
I recently received a cast iron recipe from my friend, Diane McCormack that I cannot wait to try. She uses her cast-iron skillet for deep-dish pizza! Here is the recipe she shared with me.
Diane’s Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza!
Pizza crust – thawed (pre-made dough can be found in many supermarkets including Trader Joe’s)
1 package Sliced Mozzarella cheese
Pepperoni and/or other toppings to taste
1 – 1 1/2 cup Prepared pizza sauce
Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese
Sprinkle Red Pepper flakes
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cast Iron Skillet – greased with olive oil
2. Unwrap your dough and put in an oiled bowl for 1 hour.
3. After the hour, stretch out dough and place in skillet. Let rest for another 30 minutes, stretching it out as it shrinks back. Make sure the dough is stretched halfway up the side of the skillet.
4. Shingle the cheese slices starting in the middle and working outward until all the cheese is used, making sure you press the cheese so it too goes up the sides of the pan. (This cheese and crust gets all browned and is EVERYTHING!)
5. Next put your toppings directly on the cheese. Then add lots of sauce over the cheese and toppings.
6. Finish by sprinkling Parmesan cheese, pepper flakes and oregano over the sauce.
Bake for 30 minutes then check the bottom of the crust. If it’s lightly browned and crusty it’s done, if it’s pale and/or still doughy bake for another 10 minutes. If the sides of the crust look overly browned cover with foil to finish cooking the bottom!
My favorite side dish is roasted vegetables. It is super easy and works well with broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, and Brussels Sprouts and works for carrots, corn and many others. Start by pre-heating oven to 350 degrees. Toss cut vegetables with olive oil (you don’t need much) and some Kosher salt in your cast-iron skillet. Roast for about 1/2 hour, checking for desired texture. Voila! A healthy and delicious side dish that kids love!
Why not try a skillet cookie! Press refrigerated cookie dough into a very lightly oiled cast-iron skillet. You most likely will cook a little less time than instructed as to not overcook bottom. Serve warm with ice cream!
A “friend favorite” is baking Pineapple Upside Down Cake in cast-iron using the simple instructions right on the Jiffy brand yellow cake mix! It sounded so delicious, the kids and I decided to bake a “test” cake at home to try it out. Jury says, it’s a winner!
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
(9 – 12 Servings)
1 pkg. “JIFFY” Golden Yellow Cake Mix
1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple, drained (reserve 1/2 cup of juice)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt margarine or butter in 8” square or 9” round pan and sprinkle with brown sugar. Place pineapple over margarine or butter and brown sugar mixture. Set aside. In separate bowl, beat cake mix, egg and reserved juice for 4 minutes on medium. Pour over pineapple mixture. Bake 40 – 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 1 – 2 minutes. Invert on serving plate. Cool or serve warm.
Do you have a favorite cast-iron skillet camping recipe? Please share with me! Leave a comment or send an e-mail.