Gear Review: Pie Irons

There are few things we look forward to more while camping than a steaming hot, golden-edge pocket pie cooked over our campfire.

Variety of pie irons on campfire

An incredibly versatile tool, pie irons are the first piece of equipment we used over the campfire. They allowed us to cook all sorts of foods, experimenting with flavors and ingredients, customizing each iron to the eater’s tastes. Some of those early experiments are still our go-to recipes on every camping trip. We can’t imagine going camping without them!

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Types of Pie Irons:

Pie Irons come in both cast iron and aluminum these days. Once upon a time they also came in stamped metal, but we haven’t found any of those on the market and have never used them. We love our cast iron ones for heavy duty cooking and tend to use our aluminum ones for items that are already cooked and just need to be heated through to be enjoyable.e enjoyable.

Cast Iron

Pros:

  • Develops its own non-stick coating when seasoned properly
  • Can be placed directly on coals
  • Provides even heat distribution

Cons:

  • Needs to be seasoned and maintained
  • Heavier which makes it difficult to hold

Aluminum

Pros:

  • Lighter which makes it easier to hold
  • Available with or without non-stick coating
  • Even heat distribution

Cons:

  • Could melt or warp if placed on coals
  • Non-stick coating can scratch
  • Not as durable as cast iron

In addition to choosing your material, you can also choose what shape or shapes you prefer. There are square ones, rectangle ones, round ones, even a heart shaped one available from Rome Industries. They make them flat, ridged, or even waffled in both circle and square. Additionally, there are specialty ones geared towards cooking up hot dogs and brats. Whatever your preference, you are sure to find ones you will enjoy using.

Brands of Pie Irons:

There are several brands of pie irons on the market today. The most famous is probably from Rome Industries. They have been making pie irons since 1964. The sturdy cast iron manufacturing is nice and the internal ridges are handy as cutting guides. However they don’t break down very well. The rods are attached to the irons which means you are dealing with the full length of the iron while cleaning and storing. This is our biggest issue with the Rome brand irons we own.

Another brand on the market is Field & Stream. They are also made of cast iron with wood handles (same as the Rome Brand). Luckily, with these, the handle does remove for ease in cleaning and storing. These have a flat interior instead of the ridges inside of the Rome irons.

The last brand that we have personal knowledge of would be the Coghlan’s Camp Cookers. These Camp Cooker irons were certainly less expensive but we don’t want to call them cheaper. They are made of aluminum and have plastic handles but they are holding up to use and so far nothing has gone wrong with them. Coghlan’s does also have cast iron cookers however we have not used them so can’t speak to how well they are made.

There are other brands out there but again we do not own them, nor have we used them, so we are going to stick with telling you about the ones we know and love.

Prepping a Pie Iron:

Preparation is simple. You will need something against the plates to keep your food from sticking. This could be cooking spray, some sort of oil, or even butter. We use different items depending on what we are using for our pocket. If we are using some sort of refrigerated dough (pizza dough, crescent roll, etc.) we tend towards cooking spray. If we are using some sort of precooked item (tortillas, bread, etc.) we typically reach for the butter. And if we are cooking something without a pocket (steak, vegetables, etc.) we brush on some olive oil.

After that it is as easy as one, two, three, four, five:

  1. Place your pocket item against the metal
  2. Add your filling to one side
  3. Clamp together and close
  4. Place iron in the hottest spot of your fire pit and cook
  5. Wait for it to cool off and enjoy

Our collection:

We own two cast iron double pie irons, two cast iron single pie irons, and two aluminum single pie irons. Recently we also acquired a circular iron and a waffle version. They go out of stock extremely quickly so if you see one available and are interested, don’t delay! Pie irons also come in a variety of other specialized types such as hamburger (round with slots for draining grease), and hot dog/bread baker versions. Most of our pie irons come from Rome.

Cleaning/Maintenance:

Cleaning the cast iron ones is simple, just treat these the same as you would any other cast iron cooking item. Our favorite new tool for these is a tawashi brush, a vegetable brush from Japan. We bought a three pack and keep one in the RV, one in our tent camping supplies, and one in our home kitchen. If you do need to do a deep clean, don’t forget to re-season your item!

For our aluminum ones, we treat these the same as we would our non-stick skillets. We don’t use abrasive items that would damage the surface and we make sure to dry them thoroughly before storing.

Now, how to actually get in there to clean? Well luckily on one of the handles is another simple hook that is used to hold the two handles together. The ability to unscrew the handles from the pie irons helps with clean up or storage and both our Field & Stream and Coghlan’s irons do have handles that can be removed. We really like that feature although we had to develop a mnemonic to help with reassembly: the ‘hooks’ go together – the hook of the handle gets screwed into the iron with the hook. That way we ensure that all irons have both hooks and slots. The Rome ones are a bit more unwieldy but are such good irons that we still grab them. Their Australian Jaffle Irons do have detachable handles but we can’t get them here that I have found.

Design:

Speaking of hooks and slots, the basic design of a pie iron is two sides hinged together like a clam shell. One side has a hook portion while the other side has a slot with a rod. The hook wraps around the rod in a Tab A fits into Slot B fashion.  Both sides look the same in terms of cooking design so there is not really a Top or Bottom designation. However, when getting ready to fill your irons you will need to designate one side as bottom and one as top. We tend to think of the side with the slot as the bottom and the side with the hook as the top.

How we use them:

It is not a hard and fast rule but we tend to use the cast iron singles to make Tadpole (kid) size meals to go along with our (adult) doubles. Some of the recipes are more convenient that way.  Think pie iron pizza, breakfast sandwiches, omelets, etc.

The aluminum ones are great for things that don’t require long cooking times, especially items that have already been cooked and just need to be heated through. Our s’mores sandwiches come to mind.

The cast iron ones are the ones we turn to when we need to cook or bake something as they will stand up to the heat for longer. A recent favorite for these would be biscuits and gravy in the pie iron.

Questions Answered:

What are some other terms for a pie iron?

Other names for these are Camp Cookers, Hobo Pies, Jaffle Irons, or Pudgy Pies. I have also heard Sandwich Toastie, Toastie Iron, Tonka Toasters, and Toas-Tite (which is a brand name/registered trademark). We use many of these terms but tend to default to Pie Iron most of the time.

What can you cook in a pie iron?

We almost want to respond with “what can’t you cook in a pie iron?” but we won’t. You can cook breakfast, lunch, dinner, side dishes, and dessert though and we have many favorite recipes listed over in our food category. Truly you can go from savory to sweet and the only limit is your imagination.

Do they have to be seasoned?

If the pie iron is made of cast iron, yes you need to ensure it is kept seasoned. We provide detailed instructions in our article How to Clean and Season your Cast Iron. Aluminum or non-stick pie irons do not need to be seasoned, but you should use some butter, cooking spray, or oil to coat the insides.

Can I use my pie iron on the barbecue?

We have used ours on the campfire, on the barbecue, and even on a stove top (carefully). There are ones made specifically for use on a barbecue with a shorter handle, but we just use our traditional ones and keep an eye on them.

Some Other Favorite Pie Iron Recipes:

Why do we think every camper should own pie irons?

Because pie irons enable us to cook delicious meals and snacks with a minimum of effort. They are easy to clean and maintain. And we feel they should be part of every camper’s arsenal of cooking tools. If you have any other questions, please reach out to us and let us know.

Also, if you cook anything with a pie iron, tag us on Instagram @campinganswer and share your pictures of pie iron delectables!

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