Why Cast Iron is a Prepper Essential
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!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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