Everyone knows that food cooked over a campfire when camping is very delicious. A simple cooking option is a camping pie iron, a small cast iron cooking device designed for use in a campfire. You may recognize these devices by another name, though.
Camping pie irons are commonly referred to as “camp-cookers,” “toastie irons,” or “camp cooking press.”. While there are many ways to refer to them, they all serve the same cooking function.
Typically, camp pie irons are made from cast iron but sometimes are made from aluminum. Because they are metal, they can withstand extremely high temperatures with melting or damage. The two metal plates are joined together by a hinge that can open and close.
When the metal plates get closed together, they form the contents into a sandwich or pie shape. Then, the cooking tool goes into the coals or fire to cook. The pie iron has long metal rods leading to a wooden handle for safe handling. It’s important to use caution and safety around the fire, but camp irons are long enough that you can hold the device without burning yourself.
You can use your camping pie iron over a campfire on a camping trip, in your own backyard during a bonfire, or even on the grill. There are many things you can make, with some popular choices including grilled cheese sandwiches, warm desert fruit-filled pies, and cinnamon rolls. With a bit of imagination, the recipes you can think of are limitless. Pie irons are fun and easy to use, making them a popular option for those who enjoy cooking over a fire.
What Is It Used For?
A camping pie iron is used to cook or bake foods using a campfire. Once you have a campfire going, the pie iron can be held in or above the flames or placed directly on hot coals to cook. You can also use a pie iron inside a fireplace, over a gas range stovetop, or in your backyard bonfire.
The edges of the pie iron clamp together to form a closed envelope of sorts, keeping any fillings sealed inside. This makes a snack or meal ideal for camping as it is easily held and can be eaten by hand. Pie irons have been a commonly used and exciting way to prepare camp meals for decades.
Where Did The Pie Iron Come From?
The pie iron originally comes from an invention by Dr. Ernest E. Smithers from New South Wales, Australia in 1949, though Smithers called it a “Jaffle Iron”. It rose to popularity with campers in Australia and The United States alike. It became well known among outdoor enthusiasts in the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s. The first major manufacturer of the camping pie iron in the U.S. was a company named Rome in 1964. There are some small differences in how pie irons look today, but they all function the same.
What Do You Look For In A Pie Iron?
Pie irons come in various shapes and sizes and choosing the right one is based on how and where you will use yours. There is not much of a difference between a round and a square pie iron, though a round-shaped one tends to be the more commonly recognized traditional “hand pie” shape.
A square pie iron will produce less food waste overall, as most sandwich bread is square, and less will be cut off to fit the iron. If you are cooking for many people, double camping pie irons cook two pies at a time.
How To Cook With A Pie Iron?
Cooking with a pie iron is as simple as adding desired ingredients and placing the iron into the campfire. Open the pie iron so the two cupped pans are face up. Lightly grease the insides, and add whichever ingredients you want. Next, close the pie iron and secure the latch, if yours had one.
Finally, place the pie iron into the fire or the hot coals. If cooking in coals, pile some hot coals on top of the iron to achieve an evenly baked hand pie. Another way to achieve even cooking is to flip halfway through cooking, after about two or three minutes. When you have cooked the pie for four to six minutes, remove it from the fire and carefully empty the iron onto a dish.
Opening the iron during cook time will not hinder the cooking process and is beneficial to ensure your food is not burning, as heat inside a fire can be hard to control. You may find this step easier when using heat-resistant gloves. Be sure to let food fully cool before eating. Once cool, enjoy your camping-friendly snack.
What Can You Cook In Your Pie Iron?
You can cook just about anything you want in a pie iron. Your only limitation is using what will fit. Classic options include sandwiches like grilled cheese, hot ham and cheese, and toasted peanut butter and jelly. To make any sandwich variety you desire, place a slice of butter bread face down, and next add the sandwich fillings.
Finally, add the second piece of bread, buttered side facing the pie iron. You can turn any sandwich into a dessert option by adding sweet fillings like pie filling, peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, chocolate hazelnut spread, and more!
Desert options don’t stop with sweet sandwiches. You can really bake anything with a dough base in a pie iron. A common option is cinnamon rolls. Get creative with the dough by adding chocolate, dried fruits, and candy to make unique treats.
For savory dough-based snacks, think pizza, calzones, empanadas, and more. Tortillas can be used to make burritos and quesadillas with any fillings you wish. An opened pie iron can even be used similarly to a grill to cook vegetables or meat.
Be sure to cook animal products to a safe temperature. Some foods like cheese and pie fillings can produce sticky residue on the pie iron, but the idea of cleaning shouldn’t keep you from discovering delicious combinations.
How Do You Clean Your Pie Iron After Use?
If you have ever owned or used other types of cast iron cookware, you already know how to clean a pie iron. Cleaning a pie iron requires warm water, a sponge, and sometimes a bit of soap or a scrubbing tool.
First, clean the pie iron with warm water and a sponge, using soap sparingly, if needed. People say that you should never use soap on cast iron, but that is outdated thinking. Soap used to commonly include lye, which would break down the coated seasoning on cast iron; this is no longer true for soaps made today. A little bit of soap will not hurt your camping pie iron.
If there are difficult-to-remove food bits still stuck on your pie iron, a more coarse sponge may do the trick in removing them. Alternatively, a plastic food-scraper or coarse salt can scrape/scrub away remaining food scraps.
After cleaning, the pie iron must be thoroughly dried. You can accomplish this by towel drying after washing. To remove all moisture, place the empty pie iron back into the fire or coals until all water has been evaporated. Skipping this step will result in a rusty pie iron or an undesirable cooking experience.
Why Does My Pie Iron Stick?
Your pie iron is likely sticking because there is not enough oil on the cooking surface. Using a cooking spray or other grease is important to prevent food from cooking. You should lightly coat the iron in cooking spray even if your food item is greased (like a grilled cheese).
Another reason your pie iron may be sticking is that you are not letting the iron get hot enough during the cooking process. If proper greasing techniques are applied, food may stick during the beginning stages of cooking but will release itself before cooking is complete.
How Do You Keep Your Pie Iron From Sticking?
A camping pie iron requires some minimal prep before using it for cooking. To properly prevent food from sticking, liberally grease both sides of the pie iron. You can use a cooking spray, butter, bacon grease, or any vegetable or animal fat you prefer to grease a pie iron. Doing this each time will result in perfectly cooked pies, but also maintain the longevity of your appliance.
How Do You Care For Your Pie Iron?
Caring for a pie iron is very similar to caring for any other type of cast iron cookware, and overall is not difficult. Once you have cleaned the pie iron using the method described above, add a light layer of grease to preserve the seasoning during storage. Store the pie iron in a dry place.
If the pie iron becomes rusty, you will need to use steel wool and heavy scrubbing to remove all rust. Then you can begin to re-season the pie iron. To do this, add oil or vegetable shortening to all surfaces of the pie iron and place it into an oven or a fire for 15-20 minutes, allowing the oil to polymerize and create a sturdy coat of seasoning.