In its most basic form, a pie iron is a great way to cook grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit pies over an openfire. This is done by placing the food - usually two pieces of buttered bread with cheese or fruit filling, but it can be anything that you fancy at the time - inside a cooking compartment formed by two metal casting that hook together using a hinge. Long metal rods with wood handles at the ends extend from the castings so the user can easily maneuver the pie iron over a hot campfire, whilst keep the hands from being burned.
After just a few minutes over the heat you will have a perfectly toasted cheese sandwich or fruit pie that can be taken steaming hot from the Pie Iron.
Of course if that's all there was to a Rome - Pie Iron, this article wouldn't be very long and wouldn’t give you very much information about them, you wouldn't be reading this and Rome probably wouldn't have been making them since the early 60's. What the pie iron really does is bring together family and friends around a campfire to enjoy easy to cook snacks in a fun and inclusive environment.
Rome - Pie Irons are made in a whole variety of differing designs and styles – they are made in round, square and double-sized. Additionally, Rome have created specific designs such as the ‘Waffle Iron’ for cooking great tasting waffles, a ‘Wilderness Griller’ for burger and meat, a ‘Dog and Brat’ griller for hotdogs and onions as well as a Panini Press’ for making Italian style sandwiches.
Regardless of shape or size, all of these fantastic Pie Irons are made using top quality components such as chrome plated rods and long hardwood handles and are assembled with care in there Peoria, Illinois workshop. All Rome – Pie Irons carry a five year guarantee against workmanship, but since they are so well made I can’t imagine why anyone would want to keep a receipt of purchase, since these Pie Irons will last many decades if looked after properly.
Due to the thickness and heavy-duty nature of cast iron, cooking on this heavy gauge metal is characteristically a lot more enjoyable than on lesser quality equipment. Heat from a fire is transferred evenly around the whole of the cast iron pan, giving a constant steady cooking surface that is less prone to hotspots and therefore burning. Typically, for example, skillets, and other pans that are made from aluminium, or steel, will tend to be a lot thinner, which causes the cooking surface to heat a lot less evenly creating hotspots on the cooking surface. When overheating occurs in these hotspots, food does not usually cook evenly and can often stick and then burn on the pan, unless a great deal of care is taken to prevent this from happening. The cooking process, overall, becomes a lot more difficult, a lot less fun and potentially a lot more disappointing when food has burned or is not cooked properly, by younger or less experienced budding chefs.
The use of Pie Irons in cooking is part of a unique cultural legacy that spans the globe. In many countries, you can find hinged cooking devices similar to a Rome- Pie Irons being used to create stuffed, grilled, pressed or toasted food. Unlike in North America though, most of these devices are used by street vendors, take-away stands or in cafes, where the demand for easily portable, finger foods and snacks are high. Some of the international Pie Iron relatives include:
“Imagine that you've found the perfect log to sit on or you are snug and well supported in your favourite folding chair. Dinner's over, the sun has set, family and friends sit with you around the warm glowing campfire with blankets wrapped around shoulders. All eyes are mesmerised by the flames as they raise and dance skyward, the silver moon is gracefully gliding through its arc of silence, across a starlit clear night sky. There is a background murmur of quite conversation as stories are being told. "It must be midnight", you think excitedly, but it's probably only 8:30. Then someone has a bright idea and brings up the subject of dessert. What else needs to be said? Mum & Dad pull out the Pie Irons and the ritual begins.”
This memory could be from the mid-60s or last weekend. It's a tradition shared by generations of campers. Shark-Tinderbox stock a full line of these great Pie Iron sandwich cookers, which have been produced by Rome – Pie Irons since 1964.
The designs, pictured here, are specifically made for use on open fires, BBQ grills and over Fire Pits. They feature extra long handles to keep the user at a safe distance from the fire, and are secured to the cast iron pie moulds with metal pins to insure that the rods do not disconnect from the cooker during use.
Here are the three simple steps on how best to use your Pie Iron:
The great thing about pie iron cooking is that it's easy for anyone to get involved which makes it all the more inclusive and fun when cooking in a group or with your family. Although the learning curve is slight for basic sandwiches and pies, the complexity can be taken up a notch or two for those so inspired.
On the back of every pie iron packing card, you'll find a bunch of recipes listed as well instructions on how best to care for your Rome Pie Iron. There is also a Pie Iron Cookbook available, which was written by Richard O'Russa (the President of Rome Pie Irons). In the latest printing he put in some of the winning recipes from their past pie iron recipe contests.
SEASONING YOUR PIE IRONS
Before using any of the Rome – Pie Irons for the first time they must be cleaned and seasoned. This is a simple process that will give the cast iron a non-stick coating finish, help prevent rusting and make your time spent cooking more pleasurable.
New cast iron cookware is coated at the factory with a thin layer of paraffin wax to help prevent the cast iron from rusting. To remove this coating, wash the cooker thoroughly with soap and hot water. Dry the casting completely. Alternatively, you may heat the Pie Iron on a charcoal or gas grill over a low heat to melt off the wax, but we advise that you do not do this indoors as the smoky vaporising wax is quite unpleasant. After heating, allow the cooker to cool down completely and wash the casting if necessary to remove any burned wax or other debris.
Season your Pie Iron by coating the casting, both inside and out, in a good quality cooking oil. See below, 'Which Oil To Use?' for useful tips on, which oils are best to use for this process. Unhinge the two halves of the Pie Irons castings, and unscrew the handles (Please note: If you cannot unscrew the handles do not place the Pie Iron into the hot oven, since this will damage or burn the wooden handles), place in a preheated oven set to 350°. Bake for one hour, then turn off the oven and allow it cool down slowly before removing the cooker from the oven.
Place the cooker on a hot gas stove or charcoal grill and allow to come up to temperature. Using a folded up piece of kitchen towel and a pair of tongs to apply a good quality cooking oil to the casting, both inside and out. See below, 'Which Oil To Use?' You will see that the cast iron goes from a dull grey to a much deeper grey as the oil thins and spreads over the heated casting. Once applied allow the cooker to cool down slowly.
To properly, and fully Season, any cast iron cooking container takes time, in fact, it will take at least a full Season to be done correctly, and develop the cast iron’s full seasoned, non-stick, potential. The more that your Pie Iron is used and seasoned, as described above, the better will become its non-stick properties. A really good well seasoned cooking surface will have a nice black to dark brown layer all around it and up the sides.
It is advised that you use a good quality cooking oil for the seasoning process. Be careful, however, not to use a cooking oil that is a known to be a ‘Drying Oil,’ since this kind of oil will oxidise in the air over a few weeks or months and develop a plastic type skin that will become very thick and sticky. This coating will be quite hard to remove, without burning it off as you would with the factory paraffin wax coating and it will ruin the seasoning of the Pie Iron. Oils such as Walnut and Linseed Oil are two types of such ‘Drying Oils’, that are often used by Artist in their oil paints for exactly this reason. It is advised not use Olive oil or any other low temperature cooking oil, since its burn temperature is just a little too low.
Other oils and fats that can be used are animal fats such as Lard - cast Iron aficionados would only use Pigs Fat to season their cast iron cookware - for example. The use of any high temperature oils like coconut are OK, but you should not use butter, unless it has been clarified.
Whenever you use your Pie Iron cookers, always heat it up first and then oil its cooking surface with some good quality oil and a kitchen towel, as described above. The heating will open up the pores of the cast iron, drive off any water molecules that have accumulated and allow the oil to penetrate the surface. Over time, the Pie Iron will develop a black, non-stick coating, layer on the cooking surface.
Cleaning your Pie Iron could not be simpler, only ever use hot water and a soft brush or sponge to clean the cooking surface of the Pie Iron. The outside can be wiped clean, especially if used on an open fire where it will become sooty.
Once you have built up a good seasoning on your Pie Iron, it is essential that you never use soapy water, detergents or any kind of hard scourers to clean your Pie Iron. The use of these cleaners is not necessary, after the initial cleaning when the Pie Iron is newly bought that is, unless you want the non-stick seasoned coating to be washed off or damaged, ruining the time and effort you have invested in the cooking surface.
When the Pie Iron has been washed and cleaned, it should be thoroughly dried. If it is going to be used again within a day or two, it can be left as it is or given a very light coating of oil applied with a piece of kitchen paper. If, however, it is going to be left for more than a couple of days without use, or for anything length of time for that matter, it is essential to apply a good layer of protective oil, getting the oil into all parts of the Pie Iron, both inner and outer. You may also want to apply a piece of paper between the two sides of the Pie Iron.
We would advise that your precious Pie Irons are stored in a good quality canvas bag, such as the 1998 Rome Pie Iron – Canvas Storage Bag. This will not only keep dirt and dust from sticking to the Pie Iron and contaminating the cooking surfaces, but will allow the bag to breathe, preventing any moisture from being trapped with the Pie Iron, which will cause rusting whilst in storage. Another good reason to store your Pie Irons in a good quality bag is to protect other items from being damaged, dirtied or oiled by the Pie Irons. This is especially so if it is being used over an open fire, where there will be a certain amount of soot building up on the outside of the Pie Iron, which is rather greasy and very messy.
Normally a cast iron skillet would be quite large, typically being about 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inch) in diameter, with a wrist wrenching weight to match. Most people find full sized cast iron skillets just too heavy to handle comfortably.
The "Family Campfire Skillet" on the other hand, being only 6 inches in diameter is a great little outdoor campfire cast iron frying pan that can be used by the whole family. It has an extra long handle with a secure wooden handgrip to keep small hands away from hot fires, and is small and light enough to be easily used by children and adults alike.
The "Family Campfire Skillet" can be used safely by all family members, allowing children and adults to enjoy the pleasure of cooking small items of food for themselves. It is ideally suited for cooking food such as burgers, mushrooms, eggs, omelettes, pancakes, bannock bread and sausages, or in fact any food that is usually fried or can be cooked in a skillet.
We would always strongly recommend that young children be supervised when cooking with any hot cooking equipment.
Cooking Head: 6 Inches Diameter
Overall Length: 39 Inches
Weight: 2.25 lbs
Before electric cooking devices were common, cast iron waffle irons were the standard and used on stoves, open fires and woodstoves.
This design has removable handles make it also perfect for use as a BBQ grill with a 6¾ inches diameter cooking head.
Cooking Head: 6 ½ Inches Diameter
Overall Length: 23 Inches
Weight: 3.95 lbs
Camp breakfast doesn't have to be cornflakes and a banana. Treat the crew to fresh and fluffy waffles cooked in Rome's quality cast iron waffle iron. The Rome – Waffle Iron is designed with long-handles, in the same style as their other Pie Irons, for easy cooking over open fires.
Cooks nice sized 3 ¼ x 6 inch waffles.
Cooking Head: 3 5/8 x 6 ½ Inches
Overall Length: 30 Inches
Weight: 4.25 lbs
A great way to cook burgers chops & chicken over a campfire without the complications and hassles of using large grill grates. All you do is fill the cast iron cavity with meat, close the lid, lock the hinge & hold over a roaring fire. The slotted casting simulates grill grate cooking and allows for excess fat to drip away from the meat.
Cooking Head: 4 ¼ Inches Diameter
Overall Length: 28 Inches
Weight: 2.25 lbs
The big daddy of pie irons. The Rome Double Pie Iron is a double sized cast iron allows you to maximize the cooking versatility. Two grilled sandwiches at a time are a breeze. Also perfect for calzone, fish, pasties, chops and quick breads. Since it's cast iron you can let it cook in the coals like a dutch oven. Each side of the cooker also serves as a small skillet.
Cooking Head: 4 ½ x 8 ½ Inches
Overall Length: 28 Inches
Weight: 5.25 lbs
The classic, best selling Pie Iron loved by campfire cooks throughout America. The generous cooking cavity makes terrific sandwiches and deserts without wasting bread. Solid cast iron design holds up to the rigors of the campfire.
Cooking Head: 4 ¼ x 4 ½ Inches
Overall Length: 28 Inches
Weight: 3.10 lbs
Hotdogs and Onions, Beer Dogs, Brats and Onions, Grilled Sausages? You Betcha! The Dog n' Brat/Cornbread Cooker lets you cook 'em all over the fire while sealing in the juices. The cooking cavity holds 3 at a time. Cornbread and other quick breads are simple to make as well. With the Rome cast iron design, you'll get the meat sizzling without being charred by the exposure of open flame.
Cooking Head: 3 5/8 x 6 ¼ Inches
Overall Length: 30 Inches
Weight: 4.75 lbs
Finally, a convenient way to travel with and store your treasured convenient collection of Rome pie irons. This fully zipped bag measures 30 x 10 inches and made from tough canvas. The Pie Iron Storage Bag will easily hold 3 to 4 pie irons.
Overall Length x Width: 32 x 10 Inches
Weight: 1 lbs (approx)
Please Note: The Pie Iron Storage Bag contents, which include Double Pie Iron and the Square Pie Iron are not included in this sale.
The Rome Panini Press makes cafe style Italian sandwiches easy. To use simply place your sandwich inside the open cavity of the cooker, close the lid and place on a BBQ grill or stovetop burner. After a few minutes flip the Panini Press over and continue cooking until the sandwich is hot and toasted on the otherv side. Made from solid cast iron and features a generous 8" x 4" cooking surface for use with a wide variety of specialty breads.
Italy's greatest cultural export in the last decade has been the seductively simple, yet flavour bursting pressed sandwiches known as a Panini. Traditionally the Panini was found in cafes, bars and trattorias from Firenze to Napoli, Venezia to Turino, the popularity of the Italian panini surged across Europe to the American shores.
Panini is almost always used in reference to sandwiches that are placed in a two-sided cooking press that compresses and grills the sandwich until hot and toasted. Unlike an American style sandwich cooker or pie iron, a Panini Press is not designed to crimp the bread of the sandwich. Rather, the goal is to uniformly compress the sandwich as it toasts without the ingredients or bread being trimmed by the edge of the cooker. The end result of cooking in a Panini Press is a sandwich with a surprising depth of flavour and layered composition.
The use of fresh mouth-watering ingredients is the key to making a traditional Panini sandwich, which starts with quality artisan bread such as Ciabatta rolls, Foccacia or Baguette that is sliced open. Lightly oil the outside of one of the slices of the fresh bread with olive oil and place in the Panini Press, then layer the bread with your choice of vegetables, cheeses or meats. Once the sandwich has been built to your specifications, lay the second slice of fresh bread on top of the Panini fillings, then lightly oil the top surface with a little more of the olive oil. Close the top half of the Panini Press over your sandwich, close the latch and place the whole Panini Press over medium hot stovetop, campfire or barbeque grill. After about 4 minutes, flip the Panini Press over and continue cooking for about another 4 minutes or until the sandwich is hot and toasted. The cooking time will vary depending on the bread and ingredients that you have used, so 4 minutes each side is really just a guideline. After you've made a few Panini you'll develop a feeling for the correct cooking times.
A Panini can vary from the simple prosciutto, mozzarella & tomato, to more complex recipes that involve pre-cooked foods such as chicken breast with roasted red peppers and pesto mayonnaise. Please remember that all uncooked meats such as chicken must be precooked before using in a sandwich.
The diversity of ingredients, experimentation and creativity used in conjunction with such a simple cooking device is what makes using a Panini Press so fulfilling.
The idea of a good Panini is not to overwhelm the sandwich with too many ingredients, but to focus on the balance of flavours and textures that you want to bring out when the Panini is pressed and toasted. So with this in mind here are some delicious, simple, tried and tested Panini ideas to get You Started:
Cooking Head: 8 x 4 Inches
Overall Length: 22 Inches
by Richard O’Russa
64 pgs, 5½” x 8½”
In this book, Richard O'Russa explores the world of Pie Iron cooking with over 150 mouth-watering recipes covering all makes and models from the Round and Square Pie Irons to the Double Pie Iron and the Panini Sandwich Press. From homemade Tuna Burgers to Cuban Sandwiches, if you can fit it between two slices of bread, you can bet that Richard has tried it. Beyond just sandwiches and pies, the author shows the incredibly versatility and imagination of Pie Iron cooking with unique recipes such as Falafel and Pesto Calzone.
compiled by Richard O’Russa
64 pgs, 5½” x 8½”
Over the past 10 years, Rome has sponsored a pie iron recipe contest that has resulted in an amazing collection of original, home-grown recipes. The recipes in this book contain the best of the best and were all personally selected by the founder of Rome, Richard O'Russa. Here are some great recipes: