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  1. #1
    Cyclist storckm's Avatar
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    Cast Iron Cookware

    So far, I've only gone on one tour, and it was only one night; I didn't cook. While I know that weight is a concern for bicycle touring, it is much less of a concern than for tourers than it is for other cyclists. So I'm wondering whether anyone brings cast iron cookware on a tour. I like cooking with cast iron, especially while camping, and if I were ever to take a longer tour, I would want to cook occasionally. Is this crazy? A titanium frying pan seems sort of like having gold flashing on your roof--it wouldn't rust, but it doesn't seem the best use.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Thulsadoom's Avatar
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    After riding a bicycle all day, I doubt that your stomach cares much about what manner of metal that the food it's being fed, was cooked in.

  3. #3
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    I had a customer that had a titanium roof. Looked just like a galvanized roof. But he say he had a Ti roof...I understand cooking in CI, but wouldnt carry same on tour, it's not that much better.

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    Senior Member NCbiker's Avatar
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    I love my cast iron, but not that much.
    __o
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    Goes to 11. striknein's Avatar
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    I'd rather carry 5 lbs. of ingredients than 5 lbs. of pan. I only cook specific things in cast iron at home anyway, and I wouldn't prepare those same meals on tour.
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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    I've been known to bring cast iron cookware on cycle outings. It really depends on what you want to cook. Thin lightweight cookware is perfect for only one thing - boiling water. There's a reason that quality cookware for home use has heavy metal bottoms - even heat distribution and more temperature control. If you really want to know what something's like - try cooking with it at home on a normal stove for a while.

    If travelling in a group - a small cast iron paella pan can be used for omlettes, pancakes, fried fish, stews, couscous, fried rice - and of course -paella. Alternatively I have a couple really small stainless steel pots and pans that are perfect for cooking for two. Each unit is about 5 1/2 inches accross. Pefect for oatmeal, or soup, or KD, or rice - and the frypan will do 2 eggs perfectly. Some people can live of freeze-dried camping foods -I can't.

    But during hotter weather I generally leave it all at home and stick with salads, cold drinks, fruit, cheese, nuts, energy bars and whatever turns up along the route. There's usually no shortage of restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores.

  7. #7
    breaker of spokes
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    I've been touring with a cast-iron skillet for about 3 years now. Started with an 8" (3.5 lbs) but switched to a 9" (4.5 lbs) for my cross-country trip. Never regretted it. I don't like burned food, and the cast-iron is FAR more versatile than titanium, aluminum, or even stainless. Plus after 6 months on the road it becomes naturally non-stick.

    Yeah, it weighs as much as the entire rest of my camp kitchen, including fuel - but what fun is touring without at least one luxury item?

    I should add that I've used the pan to cook pancakes on overnight outings on Cycle Wild camping trips (www.cyclewild.org), as well as making a sort of "hamburger helper" on tour (1lb ground beef, 1 cup macaroni noodles, 1 pkg stroganoff or meatloaf seasoning, fill most of pan w/ water, cook 10 minutes). I use it with a MSR Whisperlite International stove. Great for cooking bacon, eggs, or anything else which might be prone to burn in thinner pans (i.e. everything but water).
    Last edited by Spokebreaker; 01-09-13 at 09:18 PM. Reason: add info

  8. #8
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    That's the beauty of touring on a bike, you can pretty much carry anything you can fit on the bike. Now pedaling it up a hill, that's is another matter


  9. #9
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Fully supported tour? put it on the truck !

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    Try a French steel fry pan. Steel is less brittle and lighter than cast iron, but it has the same heat distribution properties. It is also as non-stick and rust-proof as cast iron as long as it is properly seasoned. The other bonus is that steel fry pans usually have a milled surface (modern day cast iron no longer does, although vintage cast iron has this feature), and the smoother surface is easier to clean and season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    I've been known to bring cast iron cookware on cycle outings. It really depends on what you want to cook. Thin lightweight cookware is perfect for only one thing - boiling water. There's a reason that quality cookware for home use has heavy metal bottoms - even heat distribution and more temperature control. If you really want to know what something's like - try cooking with it at home on a normal stove for a while.
    True, but I find that the less even heat distribution and temperature changes can be dealt with quite well when one is only using a single burner and can pay full attention to what's cooking in that particular pan - as opposed to preparing an assortment of things simultaneously on a full kitchen range. So even though I'm rarely using the stove to just boil water I find the lightweight camp pans to be quite well suited to the task and wouldn't want anything heavier.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Western Flyer's Avatar
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    I have the now obsolete Trangia SS lined aluminum cookware and love it. Very even heat, no metallic taste, but alas even at a fraction the weight of cast iron they are still too heavy for solo bike touring. My three pan titanium cook set weighs 7 oz. Titanium has poor heat distribution, but by adjusting the pot height over my alcohol stove I can spread the heat out for stir-fry or concentrate it for boiling. Now if someone would come up with cast iron lined titanium pots we would be really cooking with style.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I have and do on occasion. One of my favorite camp cooking pots is a dutch oven, thank god they make them in aluminum!

    Aaron
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  14. #14
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Western Flyer View Post
    I have the now obsolete Trangia SS lined aluminum cookware and love it. Very even heat, no metallic taste, but alas even at a fraction the weight of cast iron they are still too heavy for solo bike touring. My three pan titanium cook set weighs 7 oz. Titanium has poor heat distribution, but by adjusting the pot height over my alcohol stove I can spread the heat out for stir-fry or concentrate it for boiling. Now if someone would come up with cast iron lined titanium pots we would be really cooking with style.
    Hi ! I'm a little curious cause I like an alcohol stove myself. I'm guessing you're talking about something like the SnowPeak cooking set. How do you deal with multiple cooking pots a d a single burner - or do you bring more than one stove?

    I've had good luck myself with stacking SS tiffin style containers but generally only bring one heavy bottomed pot and a thermos with a single burner stove.

  15. #15
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    Storchm, If you don't mind toting the weight, absolutely bring a cast iron skillet. I've used cast iron cookware my whole life and some of mine are over 30 years old and becoming better every year.

    Brad

    PS My daughter recently told me that for a Zombie apocalypse she'll grab one of my skillets and a skinning knife. I didn't ask why, but it leads to a couple of tasteless scenarios.

  16. #16
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    You used to be able to find quality, spun steel backpacking skillets by sigg or one of the other euro manufacturers. Thick bottom, thin sides (think "wok")and very lightweight, but I haven't seen campers' spun steel pans on the market for a while, and i've lost mine.

    It's a shame, too, cooking in a wafer thin slice of teflon coated aluminum simply doesn't cut the mustard for an outdoor gourmand.

    I had a friend often pack a quite small, spun steel wok on backcountry and bike trips. I would suggest this.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 01-10-13 at 07:05 AM.
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  17. #17
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadCityCyclist View Post
    Try a French steel fry pan. Steel is less brittle and lighter than cast iron, but it has the same heat distribution properties. It is also as non-stick and rust-proof as cast iron as long as it is properly seasoned. The other bonus is that steel fry pans usually have a milled surface (modern day cast iron no longer does, although vintage cast iron has this feature), and the smoother surface is easier to clean and season.
    can you point to a link or photo of a currently available camping oriented one? I had a spun steel LW frypan with a folding handle, and it sounds like a version of this French pan, but haven't been able to locate from any gear wholesalers.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  18. #18
    Senior Member
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    I assume you are talking about cast iron only for a fry pan or skillet, not the sauce pan or deeper cooking pot.

    I tried several camping type fry pans and disliked them all. Too thin which resulted in very uneven heat.

    I saw a nice cheap kitchen type non-stick aluminum fry pan on sale in the farm store that had a bolt, not a rivet for the handle. Thinking that I could remove the handle to cut the weight in half and use a camping type pot gripper I bought it. It is 10 inch and 410 grams without handle.

    Works great. The thickness of the aluminum is almost exactly half way in between the thicker aluminum omelet pan I use at home and the thin camping pans I hated. I have used it on several week long canoe trips and a week long backpacking trip.

    reIMGP2335.jpg

    The outside bottom was smooth black paint which is a bit slick, the pan has slide on my stove so I recently went over the bottom with a course sander to roughen it up but have not tried it since I sanded it.

  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    MSR has a stainless pan with an aluminum heat spreader disc bonded on the bottom..

    a sand blaster prep, and some of the high temperature paint for Automobile engine exhaust headers,
    seemed to stick, fine, when I applied it to my Sigg Stainless steel cook pot.

  20. #20
    lowlife bottom feeder BassNotBass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ncbiker View Post
    i love my cast iron, but not that much.
    lol, +1.
    I plan on living forever... so far so good.

  21. #21
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    So far, I've only gone on one tour, and it was only one night; I didn't cook. While I know that weight is a concern for bicycle touring, it is much less of a concern than for tourers than it is for other cyclists. So I'm wondering whether anyone brings cast iron cookware on a tour. I like cooking with cast iron, especially while camping, and if I were ever to take a longer tour, I would want to cook occasionally. Is this crazy? A titanium frying pan seems sort of like having gold flashing on your roof--it wouldn't rust, but it doesn't seem the best use.
    Somethings to consider: A 10" cast iron frying pan weighs 5 lbs (2.2 kg). A 9" aluminum MSR frying pan weighs 7 oz (0.2kg). An 8" steel MSR steel frying pan weighs 11 oz (0.32kg). There's the weight factor to consider but a more important consideration is the heat capacity of the metals. You have to provide energy to get the metal up to the temperature that you want to use. The formula for doing this is very straight forward. The heat needed (Q) is equal to the weight (in kg) times the metal's specific heat (in kJ/(kg*C) times the temperature difference. If you want to sear beef, for example, the temperature needed is 350 F (175C). Let's assume that you are heating from about 70F or 20C.

    The amount of heat needed, in kilojoules, for the aluminum pan is 28 kJ. For the steel pan, it's 24 kJ and for the cast iron it's a whopping 162 kJ. The actual units don't matter but the magnitude does. In essence, a thin steel or aluminum pan takes about the same amount of heat to get to temperature while the cast iron takes a bit over 6 times more heat just to heat the pan. If you are cooking at home where you have a pipe to a nearly infinite supply of fuel, this doesn't matter too much. But out on the road, you have to carry not only the 5 lb pan but you'll need to carry 6 times as much fuel to do the same job.

    Leave the cast iron at home.
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  22. #22
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    We've been cooking very elaborate meals in our plain aluminum pans for 45 years. However, we don't fry anything, other than browning a roux, scrambling eggs, or browning FD hash browns a little. It's a myth that aluminum is bad for you:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...y-proof-that-a
    http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-a...t-facts-safety

    It's the most abundant metal in the earth's crust. Our 45 y.o. cookware is still all there. We haven't eaten it. Ti pots and pans suck, IMO. Terrible heat conductivity, one of the very worst metals. You want the most conductive metal you can get for camp cooking, which is aluminum, 4 times better than cast iron. Copper is best, except for being heavy and a heavy metal poison as well. Copper clad SS is popular at home, but is less conductive than aluminum and also heavy. Thermal conductivity chart here:
    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/th...als-d_858.html

  23. #23
    breaker of spokes
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    The amount of heat needed, in kilojoules, for the aluminum pan is 28 kJ. For the steel pan, it's 24 kJ and for the cast iron it's a whopping 162 kJ. The actual units don't matter but the magnitude does. In essence, a thin steel or aluminum pan takes about the same amount of heat to get to temperature while the cast iron takes a bit over 6 times more heat just to heat the pan. If you are cooking at home where you have a pipe to a nearly infinite supply of fuel, this doesn't matter too much. But out on the road, you have to carry not only the 5 lb pan but you'll need to carry 6 times as much fuel to do the same job.

    Leave the cast iron at home.
    Wasn't a problem for me. 154 days on the road with a cast-iron and MSR Whisperlite with white gas. I *did* go through more fuel than I would otherwise, but still not all that fast. I had a 20 oz and 30 oz fuel bottle, and refilled them 4 times over the course of the trip. Some of the days were cooking over a fire, with no fuel use, and about 1/4 were "no cook" days where I ate in a restaurant or home stay. I'd rather carry the fuel than burn my food. Also, that "extra" heat to heat the cast-iron allows for a lot more variation in how the food is cooked.

    If you only care about "food", leave the cast-iron at home. If you want a *meal*, then cast-iron is a good investment for the road. Seriously, a well-cooked meal goes further than any other item for making a tour enjoyable. (for some of us)

  24. #24
    Senior Member Western Flyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Hi ! I'm a little curious cause I like an alcohol stove myself. I'm guessing you're talking about something like the SnowPeak cooking set. How do you deal with multiple cooking pots a d a single burner - or do you bring more than one stove?
    Yes it is a modified Snow Peak cook set. The pots and fry pan are stackable in the right order. I use a single alcohol burner that has an adjustable flame. So a common meal I make on the road would start with a stir fried onion and/or pepper in the fry pan, which in turn acts as the lid for steaming potatoes. When the potatoes are done I would quickly bring the vegies up to sizzle temp again and serve. Then I might make some apple-pear sauce for dessert from fruit I picked during the day and simmer it while I enjoy the hot main course. I occasionally cook with all three pots stacked on top of each other, which will keep the bigger pot (@ 0.75 L it is not BIG) reasonably warm while the smaller pot is on the bottom at cooking temp. If there is anything in the fry pan on top of the stack it will need to be reheated before serving.
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  25. #25
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    With all the references to thermal conductivity and whatnot - nobody's mentioned the importance of thermal mass yet. The stove doesn't have to just heat up the cooking utensil - it has to cook the food too. Drop food into a thin-walled cooking utensil and the heat is immediately absorbed by the food - and you get to start from zero.

    Drop food into a cast iron utensil and the thermal mass will start the food cooking immediately - and continue after the stove has been shut off. Total calories required to cook the FOOD doesn't change.

    Thats pretty basic stuff that was taught in high school.
    Last edited by Burton; 01-10-13 at 02:25 PM.

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