Many people enjoy camping, and one of the most satisfying parts of the endeavor is cooking your favorite foods in the wilderness, surrounded by family and friends! That leads many campers to wonder: can you use normal pans on a camping stove?
Normal stovetop pans can be used on a camping stove. However, it might be easier for you to get a dedicated set of camping cookware for easier transportation and storage while camping. Cast iron pans are the best, but stainless steel or aluminum pans will work as well.
Below, we’ll discuss the best types of pans to use on a cooking stove and other tips for cooking while camping!
Using Normal Pans on a Camping Stove
Since camping stoves are typically just small stoves powered by either propane or butane gas, it’s perfectly fine to use the same pans you use at home on your camping stove out in the wilderness. However, it is recommended that you get a dedicated set of pans for this purpose, as you don’t want to worry about ruining the pans you use in your home.
If camping is a regular or annual activity for you and your family, it’s worth the investment to buy a set of pans made explicitly for camping. These types of pans are usually more durable, lighter, and easy to transport than a set of pans you’d find at a home and kitchen store.
Below, we’ll discuss some things to look for when choosing camping cookware.
What to Look for When Choosing Camping Cookware
Many outdoor and camping stores will sell pans specifically meant for cooking on a camping stove or over an open fire. Here’s what to look for to ensure you choose the best camping cookware!
Look for Something You Can Easily Pack
Anyone who has ever camped before knows that the equipment you need (tents, clothing, sleeping bags) begins to quickly take up a lot of room in your backpack or car.
You don’t want to have to haul a huge bag of pots and pans while walking from the parking lot to your campsite, so finding an easily packable set of cookware is crucial.
Some sets of camping pans will nest inside each other, and others may even have their own storage bag for easy carry. Choose something like this, so you don’t end up with a sore back from carrying heavy pots and pans by the time you reach your destination!
Make Sure the Set is Lightweight
Similarly, you want something that won’t be too heavy to carry while hiking or walking through the forest. Most people assume heavier pans are more durable, and therefore more appropriate for camping, but there are some excellent lightweight and sturdy options out there, as well!
Get a Set That Includes Covers
The importance of finding a set of cookware that includes tight-fitting covers cannot be overstated. This is especially true if you’re in a location where bears or other dangerous wildlife has been reported, as they’ll be more likely to smell whatever you’re cooking if the smell isn’t contained!
You don’t want any uninvited visitors popping up at your campsite, so covering your food as it cooks is crucial.
A covered cooking set will also keep bugs away and keep your meals warmer for longer. There’s no microwave in the forest, and it’s a lot of work to reheat your meals on your camping stove or over the fire, so covering food to keep it warm is helpful in any occasion where all the campers are not eating at the same time.
Don’t Forget to Consider Versatility
The ideal set of camping cookware should include one or more of each of the following:
- A pot
- A pan
- A griddle
You don’t want to be limited with what you can cook while camping. Finding a versatile set that will allow you to make anything you’d like can make the trip a lot more fun!
What Materials Should I Look For?
There are a few different materials you’ll want to consider for your camping pans: stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to you to choose which option works best for you.
The Case for Cast Iron Pans
Cast iron pans definitely have the edge over stainless steel and aluminum. They can be used both on camping stoves and over open flames, and you can cook a wide range of meals on them. In addition, cast iron pans are:
- Easy to clean
- Hold heat better
These factors are perfect for camping scenarios, but remember that cast iron pans are much heavier than other types, which could be an issue if you’ll be hiking or walking a long distance to your campsite.
If you do go with cast iron pans, remember to clean them after each use to keep wildlife away. To clean them without using any water, wait until it has cooled and then wipe out any residue with a clean towel or paper towel. Then, coat the pan with cooking oil and wipe it evenly across the entire surface. This will prevent it from rusting and keep food from sticking to it in the future.
What About Steel and Aluminum Pans?
If you feel that cast iron pans would be too heavy and cumbersome to take on your camping trip, you may want to choose a steel or aluminum set instead. Pans made from these materials are both lighter to pack and less expensive, but they take longer to heat and generally cannot be used over an open flame.
When choosing an aluminum or steel set of camping pans, avoid stick-free options. Although this might seem like a good idea, these pans scratch more easily and may be less durable than non-stick-free options.
Unlike cast iron pans, steel and aluminum pans will need to be washed with water. It might seem strange, but you should avoid doing so too close to natural bodies of water.
The residue can disrupt natural wildlife and might entice bears or coyotes to come toward where you’re camping!
Can You Use Normal Pans Over a Campfire?
Even if you usually bring a camping stove along on your camping trip, you might want to switch it up every once in a while and cook over an open fire. Many of us grew up roasting marshmallows and hot dogs over an open flame, but is it safe to use a regular pan in the same way?
The answer depends on the kind of pan you’re using. Campfires burn at a much higher temperature than your stove at home, and some pans can’t handle this kind of heat. If you have camping cookware, you should consult the box or owner’s manual to see whether or not the pans are appropriate for this kind of cooking.
However, as a rule of thumb, it’s generally only okay to do this with cast iron pans.
Cast iron pans will cook food over an open flame more evenly and can usually handle much higher temperatures than aluminum and steel pans. If you are using a stainless steel or aluminum pan, you’ll generally want to avoid cooking over an open flame unless otherwise noted by the manufacturer.
The Bottom Line
In general, it’s okay to use normal pans when cooking on a camping stove. However, you probably should avoid using the exact same pans you use at home. Your camping pans will endure a lot more wear and tear out in the wild, and you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good pan!
Investing in a set of cookware made explicitly for camping is always the best option.
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