The Steel Frying PAn

Forget titanium, fie on aluminum, toss the stainless steel, dump the camp stoves and opt for the most practical way of cooking around, the ubiquitous stamped steel frying pan. They were the item of choice when pioneers headed west, they swung on the sides of the Mormon's Handcarts and nestled in the bedrolls of cowboys. In addition to cooking anything from rabbit to breakfast, they could be used to heat a can of beans or pan for gold.

I have a 1908 Sear Roebuck catalog which lists various sizes of them ranging from 19 cents for a 4" version up to 60 cents for one two feet across but the most popular size has always been the No. 8 which is 8" across the flat bottom. They are rather hard to find any more except in antique and junque stores or at hardware stores in Indian or Amish areas. They have been replaced by aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, copper bottomed, Teflon coated and electrically heated but they have never replaced the utility of the steel frying pan. Food won't stick in a well seasoned steel frying pan.

One of the best things about cooking in a steel frying pan is their simplicity of use. They heat up quickly and do best over a very small fire. Three stones roughly the size of grapefruit placed in a triangle and a fire of twigs and small sticks built between them make a great support for the pan but lacking that, dig a trench about four inches wide and four inches deep in the ground and pile the dirt on either side. Build the fire using sticks longer than the pan is wide so they can be pushed in as they burn in the middle.

For breakfast, cook the bacon first to get the grease to cook the potatoes and eggs. Slice the potatoes thinly so they will cook faster. When the potatoes are done, push them aside and cook the eggs. When the eggs are done to your liking, you have a nice hot plate to eat them from. Bring half a cup of water to a boil in the pan, swish it around, wipe the skillet out with a handful of grass and it's ready for the next meal.

Cover the fire with the dirt on either side and you are ready to break camp.

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Copyright 2006 by Jim Foreman