by Joshua Krause, Ready Nutrition:
There’s nothing better than a hard day in the winter of cutting wood than coming home at the end of the day with a Dutch oven sitting on top of your wood stove with elk cuts, carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, and garlic marinating in broth and seasoned up…hot and ready to eat. In the morning, just add some wood to the fire you banked, heat up the stove, and make a nice stack of pancakes on your cast iron griddle along with some eggs and bacon.
Cast iron is coming back into fashion in a lot of ways. Even in the cities, many people cook over a gas stove with cast iron cookware. Poisonous Teflon coating is avoided, as well as “Chinese Steel,” a term of yours truly to describe steel that appears to be stainless, but is not totally steel and is mixed with other metals. Aluminum is not good to cook with and high concentrations in the bloodstream are linked to Alzheimer’s in studies.
Cast iron is durable, versatile, and not expensive. It can work on the happy Hallmark home stovetop, on a wood stove, or over a campfire. The main reason people do not use it is that they perceive it as something that is difficult to clean, and it really is not. If it’s well seasoned and you don’t burn the food in it, then cleaning it is easy. Seasoning is a way to prepare your cast iron cookware by cleaning it and oiling it (with food oil, nothing petroleum-based), and then baking it in an oven for an hour or more until the oil dries.
Periodically you should wipe down the cooking surface of cast iron with fresh oil – just enough to lightly coat the surface. You can do it with shortening, but vegetable shortening is preferable, as lard is more to cook with and not coat. In my opinion, Lodge makes about the best stuff you can readily find, although I buy a lot of the older stuff from time to time from yard sales or thrift stores. I strongly advise making sure you have a lid for each item, whether it is a saucepan, Dutch oven, or skillet.
The lids, saucepans, and skillets need to be seasoned as well. Remember after coating them to turn them upside down, so the heat rises and seasons/dries their interiors. When it comes to a cabin out in the woods or an open fire, nothing beats cast iron. Depending on the size of your campfire, you can have several things going all at once, including a Dutch oven hanging over the fire. There are accessories you can pick up, such as a hook and chain apparatus for the Dutch oven, as well as a support to hang it over an open fire.
You can order these guys at Amazon and have them shipped to your home. Keep in mind: you don’t want to store food in these more than an “overnighter” that is placed right on the fire in the morning. Store your food in CorningWare containers. Cast iron can take a beating and be neglected to where it’s covered in rust, but you can clean it up and re-season it and it’ll be as good as new. There’s something to be said for cookware that you can use on a stove or use directly over hot coals or an open flame. Try it, you’ll like it! It never goes out of style and will serve you well in good times or bad.