There are few things we look forward to more while camping than a steaming hot, golden-edge pocket pie cooked over our 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.
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:
- Place your pocket item against the metal
- Add your filling to one side
- Clamp together and close
- Place iron in the hottest spot of your fire pit and cook
- Wait for it to cool off and enjoy
We actually happen to own two doubles (a Rome brand and a Field & Stream brand), and four singles (two F&S and two Coghlan’s Camp Cookers). And we are considering purchasing some more. I would love to have some round ones for when we use tortillas as well as some waffled ones for fun.
Cleaning the cast iron ones is simple, just treat these the same as you would any other cast iron cooking item. 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.
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. Our s’mores sandwiches come to mind. We are learning more about the pie irons in terms of what is best to cook in each type but with either metal clean up and care so far has been pretty each. Like with any cast iron cookware such as ‘that one skillet from your great aunt that made the best cornbread ever’ it has to have the ‘seasoning’ cared for to keep the rust away. As long as you remember that, your pie irons should last and last and last.