Pie Iron Cooking

Camp cooking is a necessity, but it can also be an entertaining activity on your trip. One of the most fun cooking tools is the pie iron. Its a traditional tool that’s no longer super common, but it’s worth adding to your camp cooking kit.

What is a pie iron?

A pie iron is made of cast iron, and it is basically a sandwich press on a stick, made to cook directly over coals. Pie irons come in multiple shapes and sizes, and you can use them to cook a variety of things. Most recipes are some version of a stuffed sandwich, but we’ve thought up a few other ways to use it as well.

Why do I want one?

Most pie irons cook individual servings. This can be beneficial if everyone is out doing their own thing and expecting dinner at a different time. They can also help if you’ve got dietary restrictions to accommodate, or if you just want dinner to be more fun! Pie irons turn cooking into a group activity. Everyone can try their own recipe variations, and our favorite pie iron dinners always end in a cook off.

How do I use it?

Build a good cooking fire. This just means letting your fire burn long enough to build up a bed of hot coals. Preheat your pie iron. Hold it over the coals for about two minutes, flipping once halfway through. Then remove it from the heat, open it up (carefully- remember it’s hot!). Spray both sides inside with cooking spray, and fill it with ingredients.

Close the pie iron and put it back in the coals. It usually takes less than 5 minutes to cook, so it’s best just to hang out rather than walk away. Check the status of your recipe often.

There are a lot of factors that determine how long it will take for your recipe to cook. It takes some trial and error, but the errors can be corrected quickly and easily- just make another one!

How ‘bout some recipes!

Here are two favorite pie iron recipes. If you’ve got some great ideas, we want to hear about them.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 4 slices bread
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl, smash blueberries into the softened cream cheese. Spread two slices of bread with the cream cheese mixture. Top each slice with another bread slice. In another bowl, beat the egg with the milk and vanilla. Dip each side of the sandwiches into the egg mixture. Coat pie iron with cooking spray and place the french toast sandwich inside. Close the iron and cook each side for a few minutes until bread is golden brown.

Stuffed Hash Browns

pie-iron-hash-browns-2

  • 2 cups hash brown potatoes
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • ½ avocado, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • pinch cayenne (optional)

Coat pie iron with cooking spray and fill each half with about ¼ cup hash browns, packing them in. Top each side with cheese. Arrange tomato and avocado on one side and sprinkle with seasonings. Close the iron and cook on each side for a few minutes until hash browns are golden brown.

Post in partnership with REI and Emily is an employee. All opinions shared here are our own.

19 thoughts on “Pie Iron Cooking

  1. Thanks for another great reminder. You are right that you don’t see them being used as much. I remember how much fun it was using these as a kid. I will get one for my little girl as well, she will love it.
    Awesome recipes as well. You can’t go wrong with those mixtures.

  2. I grew up calling these things tonk-a-toasters ( no idea where the name came from) and people look at me funny when I say it that way. My husband grew up calling these hobo pies. We would make pizza, hot toasted peanut butter and jelly, but we used butter. You can also make these in your fire place at home. That is what our family did many times! Great recipes and ideas thank you!

    1. Haha, “tonk-a-toasters” is a great name! My mother’s favorite thing to make is a hot pbj. Its so fun to dig up these old things from our childhood. Thanks!

    2. I like tonkatoasters. I’m sticking with that!

      Also, try taking either crescent roll dough or a fresh baguette on one side, scooping some brie or goat cheese on, add some strawberry slices and honey, and top with the other side of the baguette or crescent roll dough, and cook! Campfire baked brie/goat cheese!

    3. I picked up a pair of round pie irons for a couple bucks at a Good Will in Two Harbors, MN. The brand name embossed on the metal edge reads MINNESOTA APOLLO TONKA TOASTER.

  3. Emily,
    Just found your site, and love you cooking ideas. We are in our 60’s and now enjoying “beds on wheels” with a small a-Frame pop-up. But we are only inside to sleep, and love pie Iron cooking. One of our favs is apple turnovers: whole wheat bread, buttered on both sides, top with thinly sliced granny smith apple, sprinkled with a little pre-mixed sugar and apple pie spice. Brown to perfection. Wonderful.

    Looking forward to following your website.

  4. I can’t wait to try both of these pudgie pie recipes this camping season, yummy! These are our favorites: hot ham and cheese (we always have sandwich meat and cheese packed), PIZZA (peppers, onions, ham, black Olives, mushrooms are always packed and used for breakfasts too!), spaghetti and garlic bread (hubby’s absolute favorite! Canned spaghetti and after you spread the margarine/butter, sprinkle with garlic!) and apple pies (I can my own apple pie filling and us and our adult kids [19 & 21] all fight over it when they join us 🙂 <3 )

  5. I like to spread my bread with peanut butter and top with pieces of chocolate and some marshmallows! Way better than a marshmallow on a stick!

  6. The name Tonka toaster came from a company in Minnesota back in the 70’s. They were made of cast aluminum. They are no longer in business. Today most campers call them Pie Irons and they are made of cast iron.

  7. I am doing a search on how to “season” my Tonka Toaster! Yes, Tonka was the manufacturer as I understand and these are now “vintage” class items so says other sites:) I wanted to continue to use this pie iron as it belonged to my wife as part of her and her brother’s Eagle and Gold Star achievement (Note: bragging and pride alert…) from their Cub Scout/Brownie, Girl/Boy Scout days that was handed down to us from her parents!

    But I guess I cannot season aluminum and may have to spring for the cast iron pie irons and season accordingly to get a non-stick pie iron, UNLESS some one has any ideas.

    We were at our son’s Woodsmoke WEBELO camping trip and the boys quit using this iron because it would stick no matter how much butter or PAM was used. I noted one site said to pre-heat briefly and wonder if that makes a difference??? Thanks for any input

    1. Hi Brian! Thanks for the comment. We definitely prefer the cast iron versions of these machines, and not just for seasoning purposes. They heat much more evenly and don’t burn things as fast. We do usually preheat ours, so that suggestion makes sense. If you do stick with your aluminum toaster, try just lining it with foil for easy cleanup. We even do that with the cast iron ones occasionally. Have fun out there, and let us know if you come up with any great recipes we need to try out!

    2. Just keep them sprayed well with a cooking spray. I’ve never had a problem, cast iron or aluminum. I have also never pre-heated.

  8. I personally have never used bread in a pudgy pie, seems so mundane. We use biscuit dough, crescent roll dough, cinnamon roll dough, sugar cookie dough, mashed potatoes, hash browns… there is no end of possibilities.

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