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Toast! One of the simplest breakfast meals. Yet, while camping, it’s a lot harder to get right, and you’ll find dozens of ways to make toast to choose from. Which toast-making method is best? How do you get that beautiful golden brown and not the dreaded char-toast?
Methods for making toast while camping can be broken up into three categories, over a fire, over a camp stove, or with heat from the sun. There are many tools you can use to cook your toast ranging from simple to specialized. From skillets and grills to customized camp toaster.
We’ll go over the various ways to make toast and cover a few of the cool tools that are available out there. But, there’s one very important thing to understand before you can become a master toaster.
Making the Best Toast While Camping
The first thing to realize when making toast while you’re camping is that you are going to have to work a lot harder to create the kind of toast that you love to eat at home.
Toast Forgiveness is the ability to forgive toast for not being perfect. Making toast while camping requires a new degree of toast forgiveness that you may not have needed before.
Your toaster at home has a convenient timer that will automatically shut off the toaster, popping up your delectable browned bread, ready to be buttered and jammed and finally devoured. In a way, the timer is the real hero, here. Toaster timers are the saviors of toast. Without them, we’d have a lot more charred toast.
Making toast while camping means that you are now fulfilling the job of the timer. Cooking while camping means inconsistent heat. It’s your job now to make sure your toast is perfectly cooked. You are the master toaster.
Changing your expectations of toast while camping will help you enjoy your toast. If your standards are low, then you have to exercise less Toast Forgiveness. That’s not to say you can’t have amazing toast, but it may take some practice to get there.
Making Toast Over a Fire
Making toast over the fire requires the most Toast Forgiveness than any other method. Fires have unpredictable heat, so you may have to experiment and adapt to your circumstances.
The best master toasters (you) exercise patience. If your friends consider you a pro at cooking marshmallows over a campfire to that iconic and coveted golden brown, you are well equipped at being a master camping toaster. Too bad there isn’t a certification for these highly prized skills. (At least they are highly prized to me)
Using a Pie Iron for Making Toast While Camping Over a Fire
A master toaster might choose to use a pie iron, which is essentially a (usually cast-iron) metal box attached to metal rods that you can hold over a fire without getting yourself burnt.
How to Use:
- Build a Fire (a camp stove would definitely do in a pinch)
- Open the pie iron and coat the pie iron with some cooking oil (don’t use olive oil or any other oil with a low smoking point), such as vegetable oil
- Put your pre-toast in the pie iron
- Close the pie iron (or just use one side of the pie-iron if you choose)
- Suspend your pre-toast over the fire OR put the pie iron around hot coals
- Rotate your toast as needed to get the perfect browning\
- Being able to control the distance to the heating source is huge! Those long metal rods suspending the pie iron make it so you can safely move your pie iron without getting singed.
- Versatility: These pie irons are incredible for cheese sandwiches, toasty BLTs, pies (meat pies or sweet pies), miniature pizzas, and more!
- Can be cooked open or closed by using one paddle or two. If you’re only wanting to brown one side of the bread, this is ideal! Also, your toast may fare better if the moisture can escape.
- Toasting is a delicate art, and if you want to make the perfect toast, you might have to hold and rotate cast-iron pie iron, which could get tiring. Try to use a rock or log to hold your pie iron and then rotate and pivot the pie iron to the appropriate cooking distance as needed. Failing that, you can just set it in the fire for a couple minutes and then come back to it.
- Moisture can build up in a closed pie-iron which may disrupt the perfect crunch. You may have to experiment here to get the right texture–using just one side of the pie iron will help this process.
To see an example of what cooking with a pie iron looks like, check out this video:
One brand of pie iron that has been in the business of making them for around 60 years is “Rome’s.” They make a ton of different types of pie irons, some that are round or square, some heart-shaped, and some are even waffle irons made for the fire!
Their “classic” pie iron (see on Amazon)
Their double pie iron (see on Amazon)
Cooking Toast With a Dutch Oven
A toaster oven is a device that can be used for many things, toast being one of them. A dutch oven can function as an oven because it traps the heat inside with its lid. Good toast is made more possible when evenly heated.
Dutch ovens are their own beast and require some care and attention. There are tons of dutch ovens out there, and many of the dutch ovens available aren’t really made for camping. If you’d like to learn more about what to look for in choosing a dutch oven for camping, we made an article giving you all the information you need to find the perfect dutch oven for your situation.
If you’re specifically looking for how to cook with a dutch oven, it turns out that you can be very specific and use charcoal briquettes to cook with your dutch oven to reach the exact temperatures you want. If you want to know a simple and easy formula with some guidelines, we wrote an article summarizing just what you need to know here about cooking with cast iron.
How to Use:
- Heat up the dutch oven with the right amount of coals for your size of dutch oven. Using wood coals is more tricky to get your temperatures right, but if you’re just trying to cook toast, this will likely work fine. Shoot for 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the toast in, lightly buttered, and cook for at max 10 minutes, flipping the bread halfway.
- If you want to keep the bread from touching the bottom of the dutch oven, you can use a cookie cutter as a standoff for your toast
- If you already have a dutch oven, you don’t need specialized toasting equipment
- Dutch ovens are incredibly versatile, allowing for baking bread, making cobblers, stews, and a thousand other things. An investment in a good dutch oven will bring a lot more than toast to your options
- If you’re only planning on using the dutch oven for toast, then a dutch oven is slightly overkill. Dutch ovens are heavy, and learning how to heat them to the ideal temperatures requires placing the right number of charcoal briquettes for your size of dutch oven. If you just want toast, consider a simpler option.
Making Toast with a Cast-Iron Skillet
Master toasters know that you don’t need a specific device made for toasting. Making toast can be achieved with your regular pan, or ideally your cast iron skillet.
On a side note, I actually went through all the different pots and pans you can use for camping and I went through each of their advantages and disadvantages. You can definitely use other pots and pans other than cast iron! Check out my article for more details.
Even though you can use other cookware, we really love our Lodge cast iron skillet, which you can find more information about here on our website. Side note over!
We used our cast iron skillet to make hamburgers the previous evening this photo was taken, and we used the skillet to toast the hamburger buns. We learned valuable lessons with this experience.
Oil is important, but too much oil can soak into the bread making it taste funky. Without the oil, the bread will easily go straight to burning.
Cooking on a fire means cooking uneven, this means you have to shuffle the toast around so that all the toast gets a turn on the hot spots of the pan. Furthermore, if you are pouring oil in your skillet, then this means that your oil will slide to the low point, creating oil puddles.
You may have to shuffle the skillet on and off the fire to control the heat. It’s not really an option to hold your cast iron skillet over your fire since they are so heavy and the handle so short, so you may have to add it to the heat and remove it and cook your toast on the still-hot pan. We had to do this to get our hamburger buns toasted.
It was totally worth the effort, though. A toasty bun makes a huge difference in happiness and life satisfaction.
How to Use:
- Build a fire and make a surface you can put your cast iron skillet on. (see our post here about cooking over a fire for ideas on how to make an ideal cooking surface over a fire)
- Put your cast iron skillet on the cooking surface and apply a thin layer of oil using a paper towel. OR, you can use an aerosol oil spray. (make sure to spray the cast iron skillet OFF the fire if you choose to use a spray) Avoid using enough oil to puddle unless you are trying to make fried bread!
- Place your toast on the skillet, using a spatula, check frequently to make sure you do not burn your bread.
- Move the skillet on and off the fire to cook as needed to get the right cooking temperature. If the heat is too high some of the bread will adhere to the pan and burn.
- No specialized tools, necessary! Often you’re cooking with a cast-iron skillet or another pan anyway. If you have some oil and some heat, you can make some toast.
- A pan-fried piece of toast can be delicious.
- Uneven surfaces leads to pooling oil if you’re not careful, which is then sopped up by the bread. This leads to the antithesis of toast: soggy bread.
- The temperature of a skillet is hard to control since you have to move the entire skillet. Shuttling the skillet on and off the fire can be tricky.
Cooking Toast Directly on the Grill
Perhaps the most dangerous and quick methods of cooking your toast is to …
bum bum bum!!!!
Cook your toast directly on the grill!
If your campground is developed, you may have a campfire that has a (often rusty) grill that you can use. Lots of people just put their cookware on top of this grill, but you can use this to cook on as well.
If you lit your campfire to sit around and enjoy, then your campfire probably has some decent heat. Your grill may or may not be adjustable, and so anything you cook on that grill is likely to be hot. This means you have to pull out the all stops on your toast-cooking skills.
Remember also that bread has moisture, and so if you try and put the bread directly on a very hot grill, then it’s likely that portions of the bread will adhere directly to the grill and burn. Cleaning and lightly oiling the surface is key to ensuring your bread does not adhere.
How To Use:
- If your grill is rusty, try to brush off as much as possible, and use a little cooking oil (the key word being little, this oil will definitely burn off) to help you clean the grill off before you use it.
- If possible, build your fire in such a way to leave a space where there is an empty space below the grill that can be surrounded by coals creating a cold spot. This cold spot is better for cooking very temperature-sensitive foods like toast.
- Use a spatula to cook your toast, flipping often to make sure you’re not burning the bread.
- Even less materials needed! (If your campsite has a grill).
- You have to be vigilant cooking your toast if cooking on a grill directly. If you turn away for a minute, such as if there’s a sudden solar eclipse, or if an armadillo charges your half-eaten bag of chips, or if some migratory chimpanzees traipse through your campsite, then your toast is done. Well done.
- A little rust could get picked up by your bread. This isn’t likely at all to harm you, but generally, people don’t go for eating rust on the regular.
- Not every campsite provides a grill, which you can offset if you use your own camp grill. To be frank, I’m tempted to get one just because some camp grills are awkwardly designed and not easy to cook with. This is a smaller one that would work for toast (see on Amazon)
- Toast can fall through the grate.
Making Toast Over a Camp Stove
So, those are the options for cooking toast over an open fire, and there are several of them!
When talking about using a camp stove rather than an open fire for making toast, things are a little bit simpler. You can now control the heat much more easily than with a campfire. Camp stoves can be set up on (at least somewhat) level surface like a table which allows for many more tools that you wouldn’t be able to do, before.
One note, many of these tools you can use on a campfire grill as well. You may find that a camp stove will be easier and you’ll find more consistent results.
Using a Camp Toaster
Camp toasters come in many different styles. Choosing the right one for you is tricky! I’ll cover a couple of the basic types with a couple of examples:
The GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Steel Toaster (see on Amazon) — this is one of the more well-rated and durable options out there. This small box made out of wires has a mesh on the bottom which is made for distributing heat. The toast sits on top of the box while the toaster is placed directly on a camping stove burner. This one stands out in quality and durability.
The Coleman Camp Stove Toaster (see on Amazon) — this is a disc with wire prongs made for suspending up to 4 pieces of bread at once. The disc is meant to be rotated to cook the toast as evenly as possible. As I was doing research, I noticed that some claimed that wind could affect the toasting process.
These camp stoves all operate under the assumption that you put the camp toaster over a heat source (usually a camp stove).
How to Use:
- Turn on your camp stove burner
- Unfold your camp toaster as necessary and place it on top of your burner
- Place your toast on the camp toaster, some lie flat, some lie vertically
- Rotate or flip your toast depending on your camp toaster style
- These camp toasters are generally very lightweight! You don’t have to lug around a heavy pan or other cookware to toast your bread.
- Many of the camp toasters can toast multiple pieces of bread at once. Since these camp toasters often have a small profile, that means you can more toast more quickly.
- A specialized camp toaster can only be used for toast. Several of these camp toasters are not very big, but it is another thing to remember to bring, and that you won’t be able to use to cook anything else
- Reading through the reviews of several of these toasters, many complain that they are flimsy or corrode easily. If you only camp occasionally, this should be fine and shouldn’t make a difference to you. The GSI camp toaster seems to be more durable than the others.
Using a Camp Oven
This option seemed super cool to me. Using a camp oven.
Coleman makes a camp oven that’s designed to fit directly over a Coleman stove burner (although I’m sure any would work if it will fit). They don’t recommend using it over a grill.
This oven now becomes a toaster oven with your bread inside. Because it is heating your bread from all sides, your bread will get evenly toasted.
Furthermore, you now have a tool that can be used for baking in your arsenal! Garlic bread, muffins, brownies, you name it–all possible with an oven.
If you’d like to see the camp oven for more details, check it out here on Amazon.
How to Use:
- Unfold your camp oven (yeah, they fold up! How cool is that!
- Turn on the gas flow and ignite your camp stove
- Put the camp oven on top of the camp stove burner
- When the temperature is up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, put your toast on the middle rack so it gets heated evenly
- Cook your toast for 10 minutes or so. Flipping halfway is always a good idea to make sure it toasts evenly and that your toast is doing alright.
- This Coleman camp oven is remarkably versatile. Anything you want to bake, from cookies, muffins, nachos with real cheese, toast, etc. Anyway, you get lots of great food options with a camp oven.
- The camp oven has a grill in the middle of the oven so you can suspend your toast so it’s not touching the bottom of the oven (which should be the hottest part). This will help your toast cook evenly.
- Similar to the dutch oven cons, the camp oven is slightly overkill if all you want is toast. But, if you are doing more baking, cooking, cheese melting, or anything else that would do well in an oven, then this is a sweet rig.
- You can’t see your toast as it’s cooking, and every time you open the oven the hot air will escape. Getting the perfect toast might take some practice to meet your toast needs.
Improvise with an Oil Strainer or Tongs
If you’re going camping tomorrow, and you don’t have time to get a camp toaster or another tool, you can always use what’s in your kitchen. If you have a good pair of tongs that can handle being over high heat or an oil strainer, then you’re in toasting business!
How to Use:
- Use anything with a long handle that is made of metal that can sustain extremely high temperatures. (metal tongs, oil strainer, etc.)
- Find the right temperature and distance from the flames for your tool of choice (definitely the trickiest step)
- You don’t have to buy anything extra
- You might not get the best toast. Using a tool outside of its normal purpose almost always leads to sub-par toasting results.
- You have to watch the toast carefully to ensure you don’t burn or drop it, especially if you are using tongs.
Making Toast With the Sun
So, if you’ve made it to this point in the article, you’ll know by now that there are tons of very easy and practical ways to make toast. But what if you are still dissatisfied? What if you want to make toast in a way that will turn heads?
If you use a solar oven, you certainly will do that.
As I was researching, it seems that in order for food to brown, you need to get to at least 250 degrees Fahrenheit. I admit I don’t own a solar oven, so I can’t say if it’s possible at lower temperatures.
The less expensive solar ovens (such as this one on Amazon) are little more than highly reflective material with a plastic cover to retain the heat from the sun. Several consumers say that they can get temperatures of around 215 on a sunny day. While this is warm enough to cook some foods, you probably won’t get a golden brown piece of toast, or at least in enough time to still want it by the time it’s done toasting. By then you’ll have eaten all your trail mix.
While more expensive solar ovens, such as the All-American Sun Oven (see on Amazon), can get to over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. These solar ovens would be more than enough to toast your bread.
How to Use:
- Set up your solar oven facing the sun
- Put your toast on your cookware of choice (sometimes they include a silicone pot or other holder)
- Rotate the solar oven to ensure you’re getting direct sunlight
- Toast! (or at least dry! if you’re using a less expensive solar oven)
- Undeniably, you’ll be the talk of the campground. It’s harder to get more eco-friendly and safe than cooking in a solar oven.
- You don’t have to worry about fuel
- Some interaction while you’re cooking is required to keep the solar oven pointed at the sun
- If it’s cloudy… there’s not really much you can do. You will get some warmth in your solar oven, but you really can’t cook your food without direct sunlight.
- You may not get your solar oven to the temperature you need to toast your food because of the design of the solar oven or how clear the sky is.
My brain is toast from researching about all the ways to toast!