Good morning! With the hot, busy summer, we didn’t camp for 6-8 weeks, so on our last camping weekend- the pie irons needed care. Even though pie irons are very durable, sometimes they need cleaning and attention.
Today, I’m going to share how we maintain the pie irons and why cast iron ones are our favorites.
Pie irons are one of my favorite ways to cook and experiment over a campfire, so I am glad they are durable and don’t need much maintenance during the camping season.
Clean and Shiny
After using them on a camping trip, I wipe out the pie irons with a paper towel. If it looks clean and doesn’t have food bits or burnt food bits, but it is shiny from oil, the cooled pie iron goes back in the pie iron storage bag. Since they go in the bag and not the camper, I don’t worry about cleaning the soot on the outside of the pie irons.
Clean, but Not Shiny
If they are clean, but not shiny from oil on the inside, I warm the pie iron on the fire. Then while warm, I put a small (nickel size) amount of oil in the pie iron and wipe it around with a paper towel.
Finally, they are heated up on the fire again to set the oil coat. Depending upon the heat of the fire or coals, it can take a few minutes or 5 minutes-it shouldn’t get superhot or hot enough for the oil to smoke. After they cool, they go in the storage bag.
If there are food bits or burnt spots, I put hot water in the pie iron and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Since pie irons are always sooty, I don’t soak them in the camper kitchen sink! Often, the husband will set a table near the outside shower for me to use, or I will set them on the ground with water in them.
After soaking, the food bits will usually wipe off with a kitchen washcloth or rag.
Sometimes, I lightly scrape out the bits with a butter knife. Once in a great while, I need to use a scrubber or steel wool.
Even though our pie irons are cast iron, I sometimes use dish soap when I’m washing them.
After rinsing the pie irons with hot water, I always set them over the campfire or coals to dry.
If the fire is out and cold, I have waited until the nighttime campfire to wash breakfast pie irons.
After the pie irons are thoroughly dry, but still warm/hot, I put in a nickel size amount of oil and wipe it carefully around the inside with a paper towel. Then it goes back on the fire for a few minutes to heat the oil coat.
After the pie irons cool, usually on a piece of fire wood or the picnic table seat, I wipe out any excess oil and store them in the bag. I don’t want oil dripping out of the pie iron, just a nice shiny finish on the inside.
Spring Cleaning Maintenance- or any other extended non-camping time
In the spring, to get ready for the camping season, I do a thorough cleaning of all our pie irons. I also may need to do this if we haven’t camped for a while (like this year’s 6-8 week busy, hot or rainy summer!)
When we use the pie irons, especially after a few weeks or longer, I look for food crumbs, rusty spots or a rusty film in the pie irons. I also check for puddles of excess oil in a pie iron corner that can become sticky. Excess oil, old oil or even a closed pie iron can cause the oil to become rancid and smell bad. Then, it is time to ‘spring clean’ the pie irons.
Steps for Spring Cleaning the Pie Irons
The steps are almost the same as cleaning the ones with burnt food bits, except I start with a bucket of soapy water and I usually do all of the pie irons at once.
- Soak pie irons in bucket of hot, soapy water for 5-10 minutes. I do this outside, not in the kitchen or camper kitchen sink. The outside of pie irons are always sooty and make a huge mess! I use dish soap and a rag that gets thrown away when I am finished.
- Scrub the inside and the outside of the pie irons, using a scrub brush or even steel wool when necessary to remove any rust. The outside soot will not come all the way off, so don’t set it on your leg to scrub- you will end up with permanently sooty, camper jeans.
- Rinse with hot water.
- Dry thoroughly over coals or a fire.
- Carefully!! Add a small, nickel size, amount of oil to each warm/hot pie iron half. I use canola or vegetable oil.
- Wipe the inside of each pie iron half with a paper towel, so it is coated with oil-be careful, they are still hot and the oil is getting hot too.
- Reheat over the coals or fire for a few minutes to set the oil coating. Don’t super heat the pie irons or cause the oil to smoke. But, if it does start to smoke and form little dots of oil on the pie iron-take it off the fire, let it cool a bit and redistribute the oil by wiping it again with a paper towel-carefully, since it’s probably still hot!
- Cool, check pie irons for any excess oil to wipe out, then store pie irons. We like to use the storage bag so the soot doesn’t get everywhere, but a grocery bag also works fine. I also like to store the pie iron halves separated; I don’t keep them hinged together. This way the air can circulate and help the oil not get rancid as fast.
Our Favorite Pie Irons- Cast Iron
I think our pie irons are easy to maintain, care for and use because they are cast iron pie irons.
We have 2 aluminum pie irons that are also easy to care for. I treat them just like cast iron ones. But they have short handles, so they are harder to use. Thankfully, they were $1 garage sale finds.
The cast iron pie irons are our favorites. They are easy to clean and maintain throughout the year and I can’t seem to destroy them.
I love to cook and experiment over the campfire, but I’m impatient. It’s hard to wait for coals to cook over, especially when it’s already mealtime.
With cast iron pie irons, I can cook right over the flames. While sometimes I burn the food, I don’t wreck the cooking surface. If I do burn the food, it’s easy to clean, scrape and re-oil the surface.
I have wrecked all of our Teflon pie irons. Teflon doesn’t like the high temperatures of a campfire. The Teflon finish will start to flake and come off the pie iron. Sooo, we don’t have any Teflon ones left. Even my beloved double one, that made more breakfast hash browns, is gone. A double cast iron one would be a great Christmas present for camping, though-don’t you think? Hopefully, the husband thinks so!
Cast iron pie irons are heavier than the aluminum or Teflon ones, but it’s easy to set them on a fire grate to cook. Sometimes, we rest the pie irons on the fire ring or an extra log while cooking to reduce the weight.
I’m so glad the hot, busy summer is over and we are able to camp again!
Even though I had to ‘spring clean’ the pie irons after our break, it is so easy to care for and maintain them. Since I love cooking over the campfire, I’m glad the cast iron pie irons are so durable. I hope you have learned a few pie iron maintenance tips and I can’t t wait to share new camping recipes with you soon!
Happy Camping (or pie iron cooking!!)
Thanks for the advice. I found 2 pie irons that were rusted pretty bad. I guess the owners didnt want to mess with them. I took a dremel wire wheel and scotch brght wheels and cleaned them up. Now I’m going to start from scratch to prep them. Thanks again for your advice I’ll follow it through.
You’re welcome! It is so fun and frugal to be able to fix and use rusty pie irons. I have used steel wool on garage sale pie irons, but I will have to try the dremel wheels.