How To Use a Pie Iron (For Cooking Outside or Camping)

Our family has owned both a round and double square pie iron for years, and we cook with them on the fire in the garden and on holiday at the beach and in the mountains.

You use a pie iron by spraying both inside plates with cooking oil, then adding in your bread, pastry and fillings. You then heat the pie iron on the flat coals of the fire, giving each side 2-5 minutes depending on the recipe. You then open the irons to reveal piping hot tasty toasties and pies. 

Cooking with a pie iron is so much fun at home or whilst camping, so let’s look at how to use one in more detail – and what delicious treats you can conjure up with yours in no time.

Pie irons

What is a Pie Iron?

Pie irons come in both round and square versions – the latter available with double compartments. They are made of durable iron which can withstand the heat of the fire, and are simply hinged at the top.

Each plate or side of the iron comes on its own metal pole with a wooden handle, so you can push the irons into the fire whilst not burning your hands (although we still recommend BBQ gloves). 

Each hinged section is also standalone, and the hinge can be easily connected and disconnected, so you can lay one side flat when open and put your choice of toastie or pie inside.

A pie iron is a very tough and simple piece of kit, but is surprisingly versatile in terms of what you can cook with it.

How To Cook With a Pie Iron

We use our pie iron for two basic styles of food – grilled sandwiches or toasties, and less often for pies themselves.

The steps to cooking with a pie iron are really quite straightforward:

1. Open one side of the pie iron and place it on a flat surface. Then spray the plate with cooking oil that can withstand high temperature without burning (not olive oil).

2. After adding your bread, pastry and choice of fillings – spray the inside of the other side of the pie iron with cooking oil, and connect them together with the hinge at the top.

3. Next up, making sure the fire consists of a flat bed of hot glowing coals (just like a BBQ but not flaming), simply place the pie iron on these coals for 2 to 5 minutes each side, turning once so both sides cook.

4. Finally, simply unhinge the two sides of the pie iron and tap out the toastie or pie onto a plate or rock, and wait for your food to cool. 

You’ll be rewarded with delicious cheese and bean toasties, grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, apple pies – and lots more if you get creative.

grilled cheese sandwich

Pie Iron Recipes

These are the ones I’ve personally tried with my wife and kids:

Cheese & Bean Toastie (My Fave)

This is so easy and delicious. Just put two slices of bread in your pie iron, with some slices of cheddar cheese and a few spoons of baked beans. Give them 2-3 minutes on each side and you’ll have some lovely gooey toasties to feast on. Be careful though, the bean and molten cheese is hotter than volcanic lava!

Pie Iron Pizza

My stomach is rumbling for this one too. Get your two slices of bread, and inside put some tomato sauce (the kind you use for pasta), then add in some cheese like cheddar and mozzarella, and top off with some pepperoni slices or cured meat. Give this one a good 3 minutes on each side. Wow! 

Apple Pie

Again this is very simple. Between two layers of pre-rolled short crust pastry, spoon in some apple chunks mixed with a little sugar, and cook on both side for 5 minutes each. You’ll be enjoying delicious homemade apple pies around the fire in no time!

Cheese & Ham Sandwich

Another popular classic and always very easy to make. Between your white or brown bread (nothing fancy though), just add the meltable cheese of your choice plus a slice of good quality ham. I like some strong mustard in there too. Give these 2-3 minutes on each side and you’ll be in home-cooked heaven!

Banana & Chocolate Toastie

These are a firm favorite with my kids. I’m sure if given the chance they would live off these. Between your bread slices simply butter in some chocolate spread quite thickly, then add some thin slices of banana. Two minutes each side and the’ll be absolutely scrumptious!

round pie iron

Recipes I’d Love To Try & Will Do in Future

I’ll freely admit that I’km not much of a cook, and I’ve got by on the pie iron staples mentioned above for years. But that doesn’t mean I can’t dream.

Here are some other recipes from some far cleverer people than me that I’d just love to try in future:

Pie Iron Quesadillas

These are really a version of the classic toastie, but you use tortillas with your chosen fillings instead. For quesadillas you’ll need to add in some cheese, refried beans, sliced peppers and tomatoes – and some chicken pieces if you want. If you like ’em hot then you can also put some sliced green chilies in there too. Give these 2-3 minutes each side, and just remember the salsa and guacamole dip to go with them! 

Pie Iron Tacos

This one sounds delicious. Inside your pie iron corn tortillas, simply add a couple of spoons full of pre-cooked seasoned ground beef, then sprinkle some chopped onion and grated cheese on top. Again this can be served with salad and dipping sauces like sour cream and salsa.

Stuffed Hash Browns

Oh my goodness I’m on sensory overload! For this recipe just add a layer of hash browns to your pie iron, then spoon on top a mixture of sour cream, bacon and green onion. Next up, sprinkle this with grated cheese, then add another layer of hash browns. Give these 2-3 minutes on each side and they’ll be so good you’ll never want to cook indoors again!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

As well as spraying the pie iron with cooking oil for this one, you’re also going to cover the outside of your bread slices with a mix of egg, milk and vanilla essence. Then simply smother the inside with cream cheese and sprinkle on some blueberries. After a couple of minutes on each side you’ll have a truly delicious dessert. Yummy!

There are loads more of these that I want to try with my family at home in the garden, so if you want to know more go here, here and here for extra recipes.

Double pie iron

How To Wash Your Pie Iron

After all this cooking you’ll no doubt need to clean your pie iron so it can be stored away until next time. 

For this we like to keep it simple too, and being a little on the hippie side of things we don’t like to use too much or any detergent during the cleaning process, as I’m not sure this is good for the pie iron in the long term.

To wash our pie iron, we therefore rinse it thoroughly in warm water – and brush it off gently with a brush that’s not too coarse. This usually gets off the worst of it without too much hassle.

If there are any smaller particles left on, we always burn these off in the fire for a few minutes the next time we use it – meaning it’s clean, hygienic and ready to cook with again.

Conclusion

Cooking with a pie iron either in your backyard or on a camping trip is just so much fun. If you look beyond just the basics such as simple pies and toasties, the sort of recipes you can rustle up are only really limited by your imagination.

Using a pie iron is simple too, you just spray either hot plate with oil and add your bread, tortillas or pastry – then get creative with your fillings. Cleaning and maintaining your pie iron is simple too.

We’ve had so much enjoyment from such a simple little piece of kit over the years, that I wholeheartedly recommend you get one (or two), as they’re not expensive.

You can start with the simple stuff then work your way up to some more fancy recipes – experimenting along the way. Just don’t try cheese and banana-like I once did, I’m sticking to my story that it was an accident so don’t tell anyone!