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Camping on the Cheap | BEST Camping Frying Pan

Don't spend too much for a camping frying pan!

Have you been searching for a new frying pan for the upcoming camping season? If you have shopped your favorite camping store or the online options, you may have been discouraged by the prices the top brands charge for a "camping frying pan". You can easily spend $40.00, $50.00 or more for the latest and greatest camping frying pan. That's MORE than I would spend for a frying pan I'd use everyday at home!

Don't get me wrong. I like new, high-tech things, too. But let's be honest. A camping frying pan is going to get ABUSED. You are going to put it in coals exceeding 750-degrees. You are going to place it in a flaming campfire. You are going to scour it out with sand to remove the charred remains of burnt eggs or fried fish.

In my opinion, a camping frying pan is an essential tool that should be CHEAP!

At the same time, "camping frying pans" are usually smaller and lighter than your home cookware. You should reject all the tiny, thin camping frying pans. This is the OPPOSITE of what you need for cooking hearty meals over a hot, concentrated gas burner or super-hot coals. When frying food on a solo trip or as a couple, I don't want anything smaller than a 10-inch diameter frying pan. If cooking for four or more people, I'd go with a 12-inch frying pan, and even then I might need to cook in batches.

You need a large, heavy frying pan for best results when camping. The "Voyageurs" relied on heavy STEEL or CAST IRON frying pans for cooking and baking because their lives depended on it!

The solution: the BETTER, CHEAPER, LARGER, and DURABLE camping frying pan. Here are my TWO options for you:

Number 1: The recycled home frying pan. Instead of buying a specific camping frying pan, I just recycle my home pan. Every few years, the frying pan in my kitchen starts to show its age. It has scratches and thin spots in the non-stick coating. So I encourage my wife to buy a new pan - and then I transfer the old pan into my inventory of camping gear.

Just for fun, I stopped at my local Thrift Store and examined their cookware selection. They had at least 25 frying pans in various sizes, stages of use, and suitability for my needs. I bought a used Tifal frying pan for $1.49 that still has a few years of campfire abuse left, especially since my main use is deep frying battered fresh walleyes!

Number 2: If you aren't ready to recycle your kitchen frying pan, or can't find a suitable used pan, then you can always buy an inexpensive new pan at your local Big Box store or online. I have found numerous new, 10-inch frying pans selling for $6.99 to $10.99. Which would you rather abuse: a $9.99 heavy cast aluminum frying pan or a thin, stamped aluminum "camping frying pan" that cost $30.00 or more?

Let me answer your obvious objections:

First, some campers will say that the standard kitchen frying pan is TOO HEAVY. Yes, the basic kitchen frying pan will be heavier than the thinner camping version - and this is an ADVANTAGE. The worst camping invention is the titanium frying pan. Thin metal dissipates the heat and makes cooking a chore. Thicker metal spreads the heat more evenly, and this is more important when cooking over small camp stoves or an open fire than it is on your home range with multiple burner sizes and infinitely variable heat.

Again, let's be honest. The difference in weight is less than the extra camera batteries you are lugging around (or drone!), your spare fishing rod, or the oversize sleeping pad that you insist on packing. In addition, I rationalize carrying the larger frying pan because it can also serve as a mixing bowl, plate, or lightweight "Dutch oven" - see the related article.

camping cooking
Pie Pan Dutch Oven

Second, you may balk at the added size of the standard kitchen frying pan. After all, most expensive "camping frying pans" have folding handles! In my experience, these folding handles make nesting cookware impossible. They also tend to get charred along with the pan, any plastic coating will turn into molten lava, and the metal gets hot enough to require gloves.

I solve ALL these issues by simply removing the handle from my recycled frying pans! (Some pans are better suited - look for pans that have one screw holding the handle in place). Worst case, I simply cut off the stock handle and file the mount down as close as possible to the pan. Don't mess with the rivets.

camping cooking

Then, I substitute a pair of pan pliers (also sold as pan grippers or pizza pan tongs). These handy pliers serve double-duty. Not only can I grab the frying pan and other cooking pots by the rim, but I can also grab pots full of boiling water by the bail with the hooked end. I NEVER need to rely on a dirty stick to grab my billie pot again! In the case of the model shown, I cut off a tab on the handle to better fit my big hands.

In conclusion, you don't need to spend more on specific camping gear. A little ingenuity can yield a BETTER frying pan for your camping meals. Your cost may range from ZERO to $10.00. Get more for less. Win-Win!


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