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Frying Pans

Glenn MacGrady

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Oct 24, 2012
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I've never tripped with a fry pan, and I rarely use one at home, because I don't like to cook. But . . . I've recently revived my youthful love of fried eggs and bacon and pancakes.

So, tell me what kind of fry pan I should get for a canoe trip. I know there are cultists here about cold handled fry pans, there are kitchen devotees of cast iron, and lovers of stainless steel on open fires. But what about aluminum and copper? I'll never be a chef, and I like to travel light. But I don't want something so light that I burn a hole in it.

I also read that nonstick surface treatments like Teflon can abrade off and get in your food, slowly but inevitably and unhealthfully. On the other hand, I read that that is BS.

And then there's size—6", 8", 10", 12", bigger. I'm likely to be solo just about always, but maybe with one other very occasionally. Not looking to buy anything really expensive, but also don't want cheapo junk.

So tell me definitively what size, material and weight frying pan I should get. Defend your recommendation with war stories, horror stories, culinary stories, personal stories, or even true stories. Thanks in advance.
I like to cook but not so much when I'm solo paddling. That said I do like bacon and eggs for layover days so I do usually bring a fry pan like this one. On rare occasions when I fish AND actually catch something you need a pan.

My criteria:

not too heavy
folding handle
some sort of non-stick coating
able to fit in the opening of a 30L barrel
(it goes in the top of the barrel with my allotment of tortillas on top of that so that they don't get too mangled).
Take a look at the Banks Fry-Bake Pan.
Three sizes: Alpine regular, Alpine deep and Expedition.
Hard anodized aluminum.
They are useable as fry pans, ovens and the deep Alpine pan is a good cooking pot for one or two.
Couple it with a gripper handle such as Olicamp, MSR, Trangia, Vargo, etc.
The pans are expensive but very well made in the USA.
Im in that camp who dont care for anything non ferrous or coated for the health reasons. Titanium maybe but no Aluminum and certianly no teflon.
cold handle fry pans or cast iron will be high on my list BUT there’s one pan out there you don’t hear much about. Now days they call them campfire woks!
45 years ago, long before “store bought” was available we’d take a used disc, From a disc harrow; and weld a plug into the square center hole. Then 3 legs of a proper length. Now the particulars.
1. These things are bowl shaped so you can cook the bacon first and when you have a good “pool going” down in the center; then cook the eggs or what ever else. This same process works well for fish or red meat. You can drag things up the side out of the grease or to a cooler side if you like. It was suitable for anything you’d cook in camp.
2. When the cooking’s done kick it over in the fire and burn off all you can then roll it down to the stream and grab a hand-full or sand and scrub it clean (clean enough😏), rinse it and move on with your day.
3. The legs, this is the important part. How long they are has no effect on it’s cook-ability cause you simple jam it into the dirt to level it but when you load up to travel you want it to just slide under your seat. With a little thought during construction you can get it just tight enough and have it stick out from under your seat enough to contain your coffee mug! It was never in the way and and i’ve floated many miles while enjoying that last bit of coffee rather than dump it in the river when we took off.
i gave mine to my son in law several years ago but may have to round up the parts and make a new one that’ll fit the dip ship?

* on edit; after i penned this i went to ebay and found a new/old stock 10“ disc and have it headed this way. Turning it into a piece of canoe cookware will be another fun project i can complete before spring.
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I think the my small cold handle is about 6" diameter and I find it big enough for my needs. It'll hold two or three eggs with room to spare and is big enough to fit a slice of bread, so I can make grilled cheese or heat up a sandwich. I have recently started cooking oatmeal in it, and then I eat it out of the pan. This is the first I have used it as a dish, it is a good size for it and I plan to make it a habit.
Friends of mine in Scandinavia use a 48cm pan much like the the one Alasgun describes. Made of light weight carbon steel, has three legs that screw into the bottom. These pans need to be seasoned like cast iron before use. This is fairly big for group cooking. The company that makes it, also has a 23cm (socket make your own handle at your camp fire) frying pan. This is the one I use the most, for my solo use. Perfect size for frying up a small char, grayling or bacon & egg breakfast. I have one of each and are ideal for my camp fire cooking needs.
This is a company in Finland, the web page is:
They sell a bunch of products, so click on the camping & picnic link in the menu.
I second the carbonized steel. They season like cast iron, but weigh considerably less. They come in all sizes. I personally would not burn them out as that would take off any seasoning. They should wipe out with a paper towel that can be burnt. I use a lint free towel at home. Lodge makes them and I believe that is what a “cold handle” brand pan is. I suggest finding one at an antique store- it would match your new wood canoe and Duluth packs nicely!

I have fancy cast iron, GSI coated, and Exponent stainless pans, but my go to pans are usually a selection of kitchen cast offs, I generally remove the handle and either weld on a nut or a stud and make a new handle out of steel conduit because it won't burn in an open flame. I hate throwing out perfectly good cookware and use them until they're trashed. If the coating starts to flake I either sandblast it all off or just replace it .
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I second the carbonized steel. They season like cast iron, but weigh considerably less. They come in all sizes. I personally would not burn them out as that would take off any seasoning. They should wipe out with a paper towel that can be burnt. I use a lint free towel at home. Lodge makes them and I believe that is what a “cold handle” brand pan is. I suggest finding one at an antique store- it would match your new wood canoe and Duluth packs nicely!


The “cold handle” pans have a two-piece handle where the bottom part is part of the stamping of the pan itself and the top is a formed piece of tin or the like, such that there’s an air pocket between the pieces. Lodge does have carbon steel pans but not of the “cold handle” variety. As far as I know the cold handles are all out of production.

Simon “a bloke in the woods” on the YouTube uses a cast iron fajita pan which is a pretty slick idea. Compact for packing but still has a long axis for fish/bacon etc.

A small paella pan would be an idea.

@Alasgun I’ve heard what you’re describing called a “discada”. Seems like a fantastic tool for the camp kitchen but they don’t seem like something I want to tote on a solo trip.

I too avoid aluminum and coatings unless enamel over cast iron. I love cooking on cast iron at home.
Trangia, makes frying pans that are aluminum with a stainless steel liner, lightweight and durable.
So tell me definitively what size, material and weight frying pan I should get. Defend your recommendation
I've tried all types and sizes. But this year I used an MSR Quick Skillet aluminum non-stick and find it's just right for solo use, perhaps light duty for two people. It behaves very well on a canister stove and liquid fuel stove. Good heat distribution. Very light and compact for travel. I also have an MSR Deepdish plate (small, red) which fits exactly inside the pan – flipped over like a clamshell, together they hold all sorts of kitchen stuff inside. It's 7-1/4" wide, with nice tall sides. Weighs 5.6 oz. (on my scale). And the handle folds and can detach. One medium tortilla fits perfectly inside for quesadillas!

MSR Quick Skillet
MSR Deepdish Plate
Reading the varied responses regarding fry pans; it dawned on me, most of you are concerned with the weight and if portaging is a part of your adventures id totally agree.
Up here i float, no portaging and limited paddling! On the river’s i‘ve paddled your ability to read the water And steer we’re the only real requirements.
Sheep hunting was the only time i cared about weight and no canoes were involved.
I use a 9-1/2" coleman steel frying pan with a folding handle. I think it's perfect for 2 people but a little overkill for 1. It does or I should say, did have some kind of non stick coating. It's cheap, 10 or $12, lightweight and has a small footprint in the pack with the folding handle. I generally never wash it and use it directly on the fire almost exclusively. It is apparently seasoned well and nothing seems to stick. I do like my pancakes, and cook fish when I can and it is good at both. The plastic/silicon coated handle has withstood the test of time. I would buy it again if necessary.

Fry pans were invented by the eccentric Sir Winston Frye, in 1798 or thereabouts. An English lord, titled and entitled, and absolutely batshit crazy. But he knew a good thing when he saw it, having witnessed the accidental flattening of an otherwise respectable saucepan in the pantry by the butler and the maid "going at it" it's been said. (Not surprisingly, the invention of the folding handle also sprang from this incident.) The result was a startling kitchen invention (and "a bun in the oven" so to speak. But that is another story). Sir Winston being the humble inventor tried to have his discovery patented without success, although it has borne his name ever since. Coincidentally, his half-brother Seymour, the Earl of Lactose, subsequently came up with the ingenious grilled cheese sandwich. That other Earl tried to lay claim to it as another one of his dandy sandwiches, but Seymour persevered, and in 1801 proudly presented his culinary masterpiece at court to King George 111. The Mad King looked down his regal nose and with disdain pronounced it a "cheese toastie", and so it has remained "cheese toastie" in the UK to this day. None noticed the singular metal handled dish under the weird cheese monstrosity, however. The frypan may have passed into obscurity if not for the arrival at these shores the swarms of freedom seeking serfs, looking to escape their potty class restraints and old-fashioned kitchen cluttery. And so, it was in Montreal in the year 1847 that the frypan was given a new "inventor". A tinker having survived the dreadful famine in Eire and the subsequent devastating typhus epidemic, hammered out a poor living in what was later to become Griffintown of that city. When asked by a passerby of an enterprising nature what this "new flat pan" was, the affable Irishman answered he was simply cooking. The Irish gaelic friochtan was hastily assumed by the English gentleman to mean "frypan", and so this name has stuck ever since (so to speak).
If I don't mind the weight or not camping around salt water I take 8" cast iron skillet. Otherwise, msr alpine. Been using one over 10 yrs now. Closest thing to cooking with cast iron with out the weight and easier to stow and pack.


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