I love my iron skillets! They are so simple and versatile and that really appeals to me. They are able to handle anything from gravy and goulash to frying to making pancakes!
They are the only pans I have that can be used on a kitchen stove-top, on a woodstove, or even on top of a campfire. If you are looking to buy a skillet, don't limit yourself to trying to find a vintage model. Older skillets are broken in and usually well seasoned, but it is easy to “break-in” a new skillet. Sometimes, unique-purpose skillets can be found in camping sections or in sporting goods stores, and though they are sold for camping, they can be used just as well on your stove-top, as long as they are an appropriate size.
My uber-sized skillet (13-inch) is awesome, but can really only be used on my woodstove or over a campfire. A good multi-purpose 10-inch skillet is perfect to start with. Many articles online can be found for seasoning a new skillet and while working on breaking it in, try frying some bacon or sausage in it.
One of the most delightful things about camping is the cook-out! Last time we went camping with some friends we put together a skillet meal that we all really enjoyed:
Place the cast iron skillet on a grate over some hot coals of the campfire. Add a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil and let heat. For this meal, medium heat works best. If the skillet is getting too hot, simply remove some of the coals from underneath the grate with a fire poker.
First I sliced up a dozen shallots and a large bulb of garlic. Two large onions could be substituted for the shallots. Pour the shallots and garlic into a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots start to carmelize a bit. To the shallots add the equivalent of three medium size bell peppers of any color. We had about 2 cups of sliced bell pepper saved from the previous evening's meal that we added. After the pepper cooks down a bit, I add three peeled and thinly sliced sweet potatoes. Add up to a ¼ cup butter and let this cook for twenty minutes gently flipping over the potatoes to keep them from smashing too much or burning on the bottom of the pan. Add twenty-four ounces or two pounds of your favorite variety of sausage (we had two packages of cheddar and jalapeno sausages) sliced into 1-inch pieces. Using the spatula or large spoon, frequently turn the mixture to keep from burning. When it's at the desired doneness it's ready to serve! We just happened to have some leftover breakfast sausage that we crumbled up and added to the mix, and also some leftover fried potatoes and onions from breakfast. Oh, it was so yummy and I can't wait to have some more.
What's your favorite campfire skillet meal?