This is your guide to the best cast iron recipes that are perfectly suited to your grill or smoker. We all know that food tastes better in cast iron, and it also tastes better cooked outside, so why not combine those two flavor enhancing methods to make the most delicious meals? Camp Chef feels the same way as I do about cast iron grilling and smoking, so they’ve sponsored this post to bring you some tips, how-to’s, and recipe ideas!
How to Grill with Cast Iron
Most people love cast iron because of it’s versatility. Cast iron can go from a hot stove top to the oven or even into hot campfire coals without any issues at all. One underutilized method for using this amazing piece of cookery is to take that same skillet and pop it onto your grill! You can use the heat from your grill or smoker exactly as you would the heat from your stove top or oven (this is even more true for indirect grills, like my Camp Chef SG Pellet grill).
High Heat Cooking Method
The thickness of that cast iron will help you cook over direct flames (on a grill) to distribute that heat more evenly distribute throughout the pan. This method will give you a nice hot cooking surface for sauteed vegetables, perfectly seared steaks, or crispy edged pancakes in the morning. Cast iron takes a minute to heat up, but once it is warm it will conduct that heat like nothing else, giving you an amazing high-heat surface for crisping, searing, pan-frying, and roasting. If you’ve got a Camp Chef pellet grill, this method works best by utilizing the SearBox or direct flame option on the SG model. Avoid placing your cast iron directly on hot coals or into a fire.
Indirect Cooking Method
You can also slow things down and use cast iron to bake in an indirect heat environment like on your smoker or grill set up for two zone cooking. The options at this point are seriously endless! I’ve done pretty much everything you can imagine in a grill or smoker and a lot of that was only possible because I treated my grill like an oven and used cast iron as my cooking vessel. Pot pies, slow braised briskets, baked beans, cobblers, bacon apple crisps… you name it, you can probably cook that cast iron recipe outside (I’ll be linking all of my favorite cast iron recipes are the bottom of the post)!!
Tips for Cast Iron Grilling and Smoking
-Start with one basic cast iron set to get a hang of how it cooks and holds temperature. My recommendation for is to start with this 12-inch set from Camp Chef. It includes a skillet, deeper Dutch oven, and lid that fits both pieces.
-Preheat your cast iron before adding your food to the pan. Cast iron can take a few minutes to get up to the right temperature.
-Keep some pot holders nearby at all times. There aren’t any cool spots on cast iron pans, so be prepared to use heat protection to move things around as needed.
-Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment. Some of my favorite cast iron recipes were developed by asking myself “how could I cook this outside?” The answer to that question was usually “use cast iron!”
How to Clean Cast Iron
Cleaning cast iron can be intimidating for normal, indoor use. We are taking that up another level by utilizing wood fires and cooking outdoors. Cast iron cleanliness is crucial for long term maintenance and better performance. It’s really not any more difficult than cleaning any other pan, it just takes a slightly different approach.
For simple cleaning, I can typically get most everything out of the pan using really hot water and a firm scrub brush. I have a scrub brush that is specifically dedicated to my cast iron because it is very firm and has a plastic scraping edge on the top for stubborn bits. Don’t forget to scrub the exterior of the pan thoroughly. Cooking over a fire for your cast iron recipes will leave smoke and sooty deposits on the outside of your pan. There is nothing more frustrating than getting the inside sparkly clean just to grab the pan and see black smudges from underneath on your hands. After scrubbing and rinsing, place your pan over high heat for just a minute to get any excess water to evaporate and dry. Standing water or any other liquid on cast iron = rust. While the pan is still hot, drizzle in about a teaspoon of oil (I use canola oil, simple and affordable) and spread all around with a folded up paper towel. Voila! Your pan is ready to store until you need it next.
If you are dealing with stubborn or stuck on bits of grease or food, your pan might need a good exfoliating scrub. Pour about 1/4 cup of coarse Kosher salt in your pan. Use your firm scrub brush, or even a chain mail scrubber (like this one) and work in circles all around your pan until every bit of stuck on food comes loose. Rinse thoroughly with water and then dry and oil using the method above.
Cast Iron Recipes
Like I said, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to cook my absolute favorite recipes outdoors. Here is just a small collection of cast iron recipes for you to try at home! Let me know in the comments section if you give any of these a whirl!