What do I need to know about cooking on a propane camp stove?
Take this from someone who has done a lot of cooking on a Coleman propane camp stove, it takes some adjustments from cooking at home. Primarily you have to compensate for the high heat of the gas flame, adjustability of your stove, and other factors such as wind and rain. All of these make cooking on a camp stove a little bit of a challenge. Here are some general tips for cooking on a propane camp stove.
Use oils with a high smoke point
Because propane burns at 3,560˚F, it is really easy to get pans too hot and burn oils with a low smoke point, such as olive oil. Good oils for cooking on a camp stove are avocado oil, tallow, or lard. Many other vegetable oils have high smoke points, but there are enough health concerns over them that I don’t suggest them.
Use the right pans on your camp stove
The classic pan for cooking on your propane camp stove is the trusty old cast iron pan. I always have one in Leif and it is my go-to pan for cooking. Cast iron is great for doing things like cooking bacon, sausage, and of course putting a fantastic sear on steak. The problem with cast iron pans is that while they are durable and hold a lot of heat, they don’t distribute it very well, so over a gas flame, you will get hot spots in your pan, which will burn things like pancakes pretty easily. This makes me suggest the second pan you should have.
The other pan you should have for cooking on your camp stove is a clad stainless steel pan. The cladding on the bottom of the pan will more evenly distribute the heat from your stove, making cooking things like fish, hotcakes, and the like much easier. While clad pans aren’t particularly inexpensive, a good quality pan will last for a very long time.
The third pan you may want to consider putting in your kit for cooking on a camp stove, is a sauce pan with a clad bottom. Again, the clad bottom will help keep you from burning things like pilafs, cream sauces, and the like.
Can I use a Dutch oven on my camp stove?
You absolutely can use your Dutch oven on your camp stove. Whether or cast iron or ceramic coated cast iron, both will work perfectly well for cooking on your camp stove. The only issue you will have is that there will be hot spots on your pan, so I would use it for things like stews and soups.
Baking in a dutch oven won’t work on a camp stove as the bottom will be far too hot and without any coals on top, the top won’t cook. If you want to back while using a Coleman camp stove, you will want to use something like a REDCAMP camping oven.
Dealing with wind when cooking with your camp stove
Wind is a real issue when cooking with a propane camp stove. The wind messes with the flame and makes one side of the burner colder than the other, and blows the heat off of your pan. The classic Coleman stoves have a lid and side wings that function as a wind shield. In most cases, these are enough to make cooking possible. If you are using a different stove that doesn’t have a wind screen, you may need to use your cooler or other objects as a wind break. You can also use foil to build a wind break around your burner in some cases.
Can you use non-stick pans on a camp stove?
While you can use aluminum non-stick pans on a camp stove, it wouldn’t be my suggestion. Most non-stick coatings are not that durable and won’t put up with using anything but plastic utensils or with anything but gentle cleaning. Additionally, the high heat of propane flames greatly exceed the heat at which non-stick pans start breaking down the non-stick surface, which off-gasses toxic chemicals. No one needs to breathe or eat any of those molecules. If your are curious about the different types of pan materials, you should check out this article on pans for cooking salmon. While that article is about cooking salmon, the info on materials applies universally.
Best tool for lighting a camp stove
The best way I’ve found to light a camp stove, provided that it doesn’t have a built in igniter, is to use a long stem lighter. That way my fingers stay well back from the burner, just in case it doesn’t light immediately and instead goes ‘poof’ in a ball of blue flame.