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Why Cast Iron is a Prepper Essential

Jeremiah Johnson
September 5th, 2018
Comments (45)

This article was originally published by Jeremiah Johnson at Tess Pennington’s ReadyNutrition.com

Tess is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint: How To Survive ANY Disaster

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.  JJ out!

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The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her website at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

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Author: Jeremiah Johnson
Date: September 5th, 2018
Website: http://readynutrition.com/

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  1. JayJay says:

    If my skillets aren’t real dirty after frying, I just use paper towels and clean, heat on the still hot eye, or in the still hot oven.
    Rub a little oil on inside, remove access with paper towel and store.
    Memories of my granny, born 1900, come to mind watching her do this.

  2. repr sleepr says:

    I’ve picked up several cast iron skillets through the years at yard sales and flea markets. Got a No.8 Griswold, two No.5 Wagners, two No.8 Wagners, and three No.8 “no names” and one N0.8 stamped ‘Korea’ which Maw gave me when I struck out on my own. The Korean one is the one I use the most. I cook my salted mackerel up in that one for breakfast.

  3. Maranatha says:

    Oh sure, never throw away a good cast iron skillet. Heck our ancestors routinely baked in them. You can make either the best fried chicken or a delicious pineapple down cake. And of course it’s proven to be reliable for camping gear.

    It’s your go to cookware…just like a dutch oven.

    I’m curious if it actually has any health benefits? Does anyone know?

    I would suggest making a robust durable oven mit for transferring it into an oven or handling a scorching hot one from the stove.

    I see no valid reason to own a teflon coated pan or ovenware.

    If you like making pudding, you don’t need a double boiler but if it’s custard then you need one.

    Otherwise a good cast iron skillet works for any cooking task.

    • Richard .R says:

      As for the health benefits, yes there is. Your blood needs iron and when you cook anything acidic, like spaghetti, you get some iron from the pan. Probably not a lot, but there is some.

      • Maranatha says:

        The general question in nutrition specific to biochmistry is whether a substance like Iron in this manner from a skillet is bioavailable when ingested. In other words, the particular element or part of a molecule can it be digested and absorbed through metabolic pathways?

        Not always even when it is present…so it’s a complicated question. And this comes up all the time in either cultivated food or wild edibles but it is applied science and medicine and something a nutritionist would study in grad school.

        • Maranatha says:

          This is an synopsis from nutritional research in 1986 testing whether cooking in an iron pot had any addition of iron to the diet of the rats they studied. It did not.

          Now what we do not know are there catalysts as per your acidic food response which enables it? Or are rat metabolic pathways significantly different regarding iron absobtion? Or is it potentially possible by other mechanism? Or has more recent research shed any light on the subject?

          So far as I can tell, no one knows….

  4. You hear some women complain that cast iron is heavy and difficult to lift. It is. That’s the beauty of it. When a man cooks with cast iron it is an extension of his workout weights. He will lift up the pot with pride. When women stop complaining and get into the regular habit of using cast iron pots they will find it easier, and their arms will not develop into saggy wings as they age.

    Keep a mason jar filled with baking soda on your counter. If a paper towel is not enough, sprinkle baking soda and scrub with a stiff brush. I have a cheap plastic brush with a handle that works great on a cast iron grill. Baking soda puts out grease fires. Keep it near the stove top.


  5. Brotherhorse says:

    It’s the cannibal’s choice..
    Cook your long pork the right way !

  6. I agree it’s good to have cast iron and especially good to know how to use it. I have it and know how to use it along with the cookstove to use it on.

    But, after ten years of waiting for the STHTF, I only use the cast iron skillet to fry a big mess of Sunday chicken once in a while. And I don’t use the cookstove, I use the electric stove.

    I always wondered if the way they discovered lye and lye soap was by using wood ashes from a cooking fire and water to clean their skillets. Hey! This cleans purty good. Here, dump that there wood ash water in this here bucket of dirty pans… NO, you yardbird, that there is the grease bucket. HEY, it made lye soap. Now I can take a bath…

  7. Maranatha says:

    If you want the best tasting fried chicken cooked in a skillet…

    Acquire a fresh free range chicken as their musculature is very robust. The animal had plenty of insects, earthworms, hopefully some circadas, various plants, and lots of grit in its crop and gizzard. There is no comparison to that corporate raised cousin which is a pale shadow.

    Butcher it. Make a mild vinegar and salt brine. Soak the pieces for four hours. Drain.

    Soak the chicken parts in buttermilk with an egg in it.

    Make up some seasoned flour. Add a little cornmeal. Toss in some cornstarch and baking powder. This allows the batter to coat and stay adhered to the chicken. The variances create a wonderful crusty delicious taste. If adventurous, add a small amount of panko breadcrumbs. The latter is terrific on fried prawns or any fresh catch fish.

    Dip the chicken, piece by piece, in the flour/corn meal mixture.

    Heat up some lard and bacon drippins. Keep it on just shy of medium heat so you get full cooking internally but the coating doesn’t brown too soon.

    It tastes better spicy. So either you added that in the flour and or you have some hot sauce you drizzle on top.

    It goes especially well with homemademashed potatoes and chicken gravy and fresh sweetcorn and fresh greenbeans with a little onion and bacon.

    For extra credit make fried apples and angel bscuits. The latter is a southern recipe that uses double leavening (both yeast and baking powder).

    Happiness follows.

  8. Maranatha says:

    If you want an ideal way to handle hot skillets or dutch ovens, acquire or make some welder’s gloves. Those will protect your hands and are very useful in lots of ways whenever handling extremely hot items. They are far superior to any ordinary oven mits or potholders.

    Mostly the ladies are concerned about getting burned. This simple solution prevent this from happening.

  9. Beaumont says:

    I think, junk quality used to exist, in our great grandparents’ time, just hasn’t survived, to this day.

    I don’t buy Chinese for other people, and would never ask anyone else to buy it, with me in mind. Had it never been passed around, it would never be in my presence, usually.

    This is a social bubble / safespace kind of thing, where I would typically never like to think about it.

  10. C Howard Fields says:

    Corn bread baked in the cast iron skillet, the best.

  11. Stuart says:

    In an effort to control costs, modern cast iron has too rough an interior surface. Makes it a pain to work with.
    Find older smooth cast iron at the flea market or buy an orbital sander and get to work. As a guy who grew up in South Louisiana, cast iron is just about all I use.

    Also, buy a Dutch Oven with a flat lid – not domed. That way you can invert the lid and make flat bread or tortillas. Forget the tripod feet. They don’t have any practical use and make it troublesome to use on the stove.

  12. Sgt. Dale says:

    This is why I have three sets of it.


  13. Mr West says:

    There are still smooth skillets available like you parents old Martins, Griswolds, Wagners etc. But those old pans are super expensive,thin and heat unevenly at times. Grab a new Lodge for under $50. Use an abrasive disk to smooth, then wash and season. Makes a hell of a skillet, thick and rough on the outside, silky smooth on the inside. And affordable. Albeit heavy.

  14. Phoenix says:

    One time out camping, the eggshad gotten a little stuck. I could’ve walked over to our friends’ trailer and borrowed a scrubby, but for me camping means “roughing it” as much as possible. So, I walked around the campgrounds looking for something nature might have handy, and sure enough, I found some tough, rough-feeling clumps of some form of dried grasses. I grabbed some, made a ball similar to steel wool, and that pan came clean very easily with very little effort! The material I used even took up the excess bacon grease (whereas a scrubby would’ve clogged up and just spread it all around)! Cast iron rules, even if the big frying pans are extremely hard on my lady wrists – just have to angle your wrist the right way so your forearm carries the weight instead 😉

    • Maranatha says:

      Y’all say that but I have seen proper Southern ladies weighing little over a hundred pounds dripping wet, then carry a baby one handed in the crock of her arm. It’s the mysterious arm muscle y’all get.

      I’ve seen the same pretty peaches stir up big bowls of bread dough as well.

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      i heard somewhere to just throw it in the fire if it gets stuck food on bottom. i tried it once, and made a bit of a mess, but i bet there’s a way to do it right…..cleaning with salt is how our scoutmaster does it. don’t use vegetable oil to season them with, it’s sticky.

      • Maranatha says:

        If your skillet is seasoned well, food shouldn’t stick. If it does, add water and heat it up and it ought to loosen up.

        I used to do that with a huge griddle we had at church and then reseason it.

  15. Roy in Maine says:

    I just put the pot on the floor, and it is Beagle Clean in five minutes. Then a little dish soap and hot water with a sponge/scrubber finishes it up. And , Jack the Beagle can’t scoot it around like a lighter pot.

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      i had a brother that used to mooch food all the time. one night we had sphagetti, and when we were done eating, we put all the dishes on the floor for the dogs to lick clean, then picked them up and put them back in the cupboards. he never ate at my house again….

  16. john stiner says:

    The only Dutch Oven I use is when I fart then pull the blankets over my wife’s head.

  17. Traitor Hator says:

    And a mini pressure cooker?

  18. Traitor Hator says:

    The plastic 2 foot diameter plus fresnel lense in an old projection tv can be framed and used as a large magnifying glass aimed at the pot.

  19. Maranatha says:

    If you do any ministry whatsoever, then you end up cooking. Why? Because home cooking is a powerful motivator to encourage fellowship. It builds community in a powerful way when people break bread together.

    This happens in youth ministry, at summer camp and conferences, all manner of hospitality ministries like bread ministry to strangers and new comers, throwing a Mother’s Day brunch at church so all the ladies and their families get a delicious meal, cooking for the homeless, making a meal before a stewardship drive, cooking at an elders’ retreat while they do the very difficult task of church governance, etc.

    Yet a lot of people neglect this crucial ancestral skill. Everyone needs to learn to cook. Single guys seldom know it. Unbelievably young ladies are not taught. Lots of married ladies have no clue how to do it. Adolescents don’t know the first things like making breakfast and lunch, how to chop, safety in the kitchen, etc.

    You find all these things out when you are trying to “ramrod” ie organize all the volunteers in a ministry as lots want to help, but know nothing. That is true for just about anything like construction, organizing sports and games for youth groups, any aspect of camping, etc.

    People are seriously not mentoring young people so they know these things. Church ministry is not just witnessing, but mostly practical stuff like showing people how to garden or fish.

    No church camping trip will succeed without an excellent cook and without a skilled camper and without a skilled organizer of adventure activities.

    Please, if you know how to do these things, volunteer at church or heck, if you’re a nonbeliever, volunteer to help out at your high school,or scouts, start a group teaching young people.

    Campers eat like hungry bears because on a well organized trip, they’re having a great time and getting lots of exercise, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, hunting,fishing, rafting, swimming, etc.

    When they have a great time, learn practical skills, and you worship together and sing outside, then immersed in Nature, many will have a “peak experience” and draw very close to YHWH.

    People are innately tribal so it speaks to their soul. They intuit how unnatural being in an office is, and how awful people treat each other ordinarily. GOD wants us to live in community and take care of each other. It charges up a spiritual battery.

    • Philosopher Deplorabilis says:

      I plan on staying far away from Jehovas Witnesses, like you.

      • Maranatha says:

        Hey Goofy,
        I am not a Jehovah’s Witness! How funny! But this should be obvious as I always write YHWH which is most likely pronounced Yahweh. If you only knew how ridiculous and uneducated your retort was…you would hang your head in shame.

        I generally don’t say God because practically anyone might use that term and NOT mean Yahweh. Heck freemasons always talk about God, but it’s this monsterous version that combines Allah or Osirus, Baal, and Jehovah.


  20. Maranatha says:

    Here’s Amy Lynn’s near goof proof fish batter recipe. You could easily spice it up for fried chicken. I reckon she’s a Kentuckian based on her accent and manner…plus she made jam cake which is notablely a Kentucky recipe


    The most delicious Kentucky desserts are Derby Pie and a Chocolate Chess Pie. Those are always popular.

  21. Maranatha says:


    Your go to flatbread while camping or roughing it when the SHTF is Lebanese Mountain Bread and that can be made in a skillet and is a lot like pita bread and takes minimal heat.

    But sometimes you want some good old artisan European bread, and this no-kneed bread is cooked in a skillet. Under disaster conditions, you could use two skillets (or a metal lid) f you didn’t have a dutch oven. Your coals on top…brown the crust.

    Any no-kneed bread has a very yeasty taste and is hearty. A d it is far easier then regular yeast bread as the yeast does all the work.

  22. Maranatha says:

    When cooking outside when camping, you get lampblack on your pans. So you rub soap on them first before cooking to get it off. Otherwise you’re going to get it all over your hands and everything else when it you pack it all up.

    Since lampblack will form on the inside of the glass in your fireplace insert, you wet a paper towel and dip it in the wood ash, and wipe the glass with that lye. That keeps it clean and the lampblack from forming. So you can try that as well on the outside of your cooking pans.

    It should burn off leaving a fine residue,just be aware it’s there and tell everyone else who might be washing to rinse it off well as it’s caustic.

    It is very handy to have one of those self-dispensing dishsoap scrubbies when camping for cleanup as you’re working with minimal water.