Cooking with an open fire can produce lots of generous heat, and nothing goes better with direct flames, IMO, than solid, cast iron tools like pans and griddles. Yes, they are heavy and probably not the best options for backpackers or those trying to travel light. But if you don’t mind carrying the extra weight, cast iron is the way to go because of the flavor you can get out of the iron, and the excellent heat distribution.
Our good friend Tracy brought along a tool to one of our group camping trips some time ago, and I couldn’t believe I had never seen one before: a cast iron Panini Press. That particular trip became focused solely around making grilled cheese sandwiches, and finding other creative uses for the press — it was marvelous, and I decided I had to have one of my own. (They are also well paired with a grill pan, if that suits your fancy)
I couldn’t seem to locate one of the Lodge presses that Tracy had in my neighborhood (you can easily buy them online), so I opted for a nice little press from Sur La Table. It is cheaper, has a wooden handle, and a smaller foot-print but certainly lends itself well to carrying a slightly lighter item in your gear.
Simply place the press over an open fire, on a grill-top, and let it heat up for a while. The iron gets very hot, very quickly so don’t forget to bring a potholder or use a thick towel when picking it up.
Once you are ready to grill your item, be it meat, bread, a panini or veggie, place it on the grill, then press the tool right onto the food. It might take a few minutes depending on what you are making, but play around and see what works best for you.
I like to use my press for toast in mornings while at camp. Serve that up with some fresh-made, campfire jam and you have a super tasty breakfast treat.