Campfire Cooking: A Complete Guide

An in-depth look at how to make the most of your campfire cooking. Campfire Cooking: A Complete Guide thegearhunt.com

You can’t camp without food, right? You at least have to make s’mores. Isn’t there a law about that somewhere? All kidding aside, camping food can be some of the best food there is… and, you can cook anything while you are camping.

Yes, there is more to camping food than just beans, hot dogs, and granola bars. Not that there is anything wrong with those things, but why be limited to only those? With a little bit of planning, and some preparation, you can enjoy just about any kind of food while you are camping.

Anything You Can Cook at Home, You Will be Able to Eat While Camping

Some people may be of the opinion that food, while you are camping, needs to be things like Ramen or hot dogs. That just isn’t the case. By making a few minor adjustments, you will be able to eat the same things while you are camping that you eat while you are at home. Some people might even like the camp version better due to the natural smoky flavor that comes with cooking over an open fire.

The key to this is to do all of the prep work for it while you are still at home. Things like mixing, chopping, and even cooking the food before you leave the house can make meals while camping infinitely easier. Try to deal with foods that can be toasted, baked, or heated while you are out in the woods.

For example, you can make salsa verde pork in the crockpot with just a couple of ingredients. This is great for camping. Cook and shred the pork at home and then take it camping with you. Also, take some corn tortillas. Roast the tortillas over your fire and voila! Salsa verde pork tacos! You can even do the tacos for breakfast with a few scrambled eggs if you like. Doesn’t that sound better than a can of soup?

Consider Your Equipment

If you will just be backpacking, you probably only carry one of those single burner stoves with you. This means that you won’t have 12 different items to cook a single meal. However, if you have a regular camp stove, you will have most of the abilities of the stove you use at home. Therefore, you will be able to heat more than one thing at a time.

It is also fun to cook right on top of your campfire. This is especially fun when there are kids in your group. Just place a grate over the fire to use as a cooktop and you will be good to go.

Try not to forget to bring all of the cooking utensils you will need. The chances are good that if you use a utensil at home, you will find it just as useful in a camp setting. If you want to save on these things or take care of your good ones, it is always easy to find inexpensive ones at the dollar store. You might even pick some up at a thrift store.

Supplies

It doesn’t matter what you are planning to cook the next time you go camping, there are a couple of food prep staples that you need to remember. The first, and arguably the most important thing is a bit of lighter fluid and a box of matches. Most people tend to enjoy doing their camp cooking over an open flame, so you need to have a way to get a fire going. As far as dishes go, you will need a medium or large pot that is lightweight, a pan that has a size similar to the pot, a roll of aluminum foil, and maybe a grate that you will be able to put over the fire pit. With these cooking implements, you will be able to prepare nearly anything – from breakfast foods to pasta or even the old standby, beans. Finally, don’t forget to pack a set of tongs and a spatula.

Methods

Throughout the years, adventurers who love the outdoors have invented quite a few ways to cook their meals with only a campfire. Some of them might be a bit complicated while others are as easy as pie. Unless you are truly into outdoor cooking, you probably won’t need a spit to roast any animals you trap for example.

The simplest form of cooking by the campfire is just to use the heat. There are basically 2 different ways for you to do this. The first way is to wrap your food individually in a bit of aluminum foil and then just place the foil packages directly in the hot coals. This method requires that you check on the food frequently, but it can be extremely good for cooking things that require a lot of heat. The second way is to just put a grate over the fire and then use it as you would a backyard grill. The amount of heat you get by cooking this way is not as much as the other way, but this just means that it might take a bit more time to cook.

When it comes to things like pasta and stews, you will need to use the pots and pans mentioned earlier. You will need to build a fire and let it die down a bit until you are left with hot coals. Then, place your cooking pot over those coals. When you cook this way, the heat can be a bit inconsistent, so you will need to keep an eye on the coals and move them around a bit as needed.

Once you have mastered these methods, cooking while you are camping can be just as easy for you as using the stove in your kitchen.

Packing Tips

There are plenty of food packing hacks that can help save you a ton of time (and money) before your next camping trip.

If you want bread while you are camping, pita bread stays in better shape and packs better compared to regular bread.

S’mores and campfire marshmallows are the quintessential camp out treat. If you want to keep your marshmallows from sticking to each other, just put a bit of powdered sugar into the bag. Also, pro tip – marshmallows that are brand name tend to stick less than those that aren’t.

Be sure to pack snacks like GORP, beef jerky, dried fruit, granola bars, etc. as a quick way to boost your energy between meals.

When it comes to packing your cooler, we have a few helpful hints. Freeze any meat before putting it inside. This will serve to keep the other foods chilled while making the meat stay fresh longer. If you like to fill your cooler with ice to keep your foods cold, a block of ice will last for a longer period of time than cubed ice will. Remember that anything that you pack in the cooler should be sealed in containers or bags that are watertight. Frozen juice concentrate cans will keep other foods in the cooler cold. When it comes to foods like chili, sauces, soup, etc., use Ziploc bags. Freeze the food in the bags before putting them into the cooler. This will help to keep anything else in the cooler cold. Fill soda bottles or milk jugs with juice or water and then freeze them. Put them into the cooler and they will keep the rest of the food cold while also providing you with a cold, healthy drink.

If your cooler gets to be a bit stinky, wipe it out with a solution of baking soda and water. Also, be sure that you replenish your cache of ice frequently. This will keep all of your food cold so that you won’t need to worry about it spoiling and you getting food poisoning.

You might consider using one cooler for drinks and another one for food so that you aren’t opening the one with food so often.

Instead of using tub or stick butter, try using the squeeze kind. The bottle is much cleaner and easier to use when you are camping. It also works great being stored in a cooler. If it gets a bit frozen, all you have to do is put it into a warm pot of water for a couple of minutes to thaw it out.

Cooking Tips

No one wants to spend all of their precious time camping whipping up elaborate meals. There are many things that you can do before your trip to make cooking easier out in the wild. You might measure out your ingredients for each meal while you are still at home and pack them in Ziploc bags. Make sure that you label each bag as you fill it. You can also prepare things like chili, stews, and soups before you leave. Freeze them and when you are packing for your trip, put them in a cooler. When you are ready for them, simply heat them over the fire.

Cover all pots when you are cooking outdoors. The food will cook more quickly, and you will save a bit on any fuel you use. Additionally, this will keep insects and dirt from getting into the food. For easy clean up put a bit of the liquid soap on the outside of any pans or pots that you use before you put them over the fire. This will also keep them from being damaged by the fire and smoke.

Never forget to pack the aluminum foil. Be sure you get the heavy-duty kind. There are many things you can use this for in a camping situation.

While you eat, be warming a pot of water on the fire so that you can use it for cleaning up after the meal.

If you want to cook hamburgers over a fire and have them cook evenly, just poke a hole in the center of them with your finger. While cooking, this hole will disappear, leaving the center of the hamburger cooked to the same degree as the edges of it.

If you will be cooking using things like peppers, onions, etc., chop them at home and pack them in Ziploc bags.  This will save space while making them easy to pack, plus you’ll save time on chopping the fresh veggies when you’re camping. The Ziploc bags themselves can be used as trash receptacles once the food is gone.

On the last day you will be camping, use any leftover veggies and meats to make omelets for your breakfast. Omelets will be good with nearly any ingredients. This means that you have a healthy breakfast while also not needing to take any leftovers home.

Safety First

We’ve also compiled some safety tips to help keep you, your family and beautiful Mother Nature safe.  One of them is to be extremely careful with any gas canisters if you will be using gas to cook. Make sure that they are upright all the time. Also, they need to be stored outside in an area that is well ventilated. Check for any leaks by putting a bit of liquid soap on the connectors. Remember to turn them off when you aren’t using them.

If you want to avoid any visits from animals that are unwanted, keep all food stored when not cooking or eating, or hang the food above the ground. You can put a coat of oil on the camping grill if you want to make sure that food doesn’t stick to it. Use instant or convenience foods when you want a quick meal.

All cooking equipment should be fireproof. Even then, keep all of the handles away from flames and extreme heat.

 

We believe that if you follow our helpful guide, you’ll be able to spend more of your precious outdoors time enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer, instead of being stuck in front of a campfire waiting for your food to be ready (unless being stuck in front of a campfire is your jam)!

Sources

  1. Bon Appetit, Want to Cook up a Storm While Camping? Here are the Tools You’ll Need
  2. Camp Trip,  Camp Cooking
  3. East Bay Express, What to Cook While Camping
  4. Good Food, Top 10 Foods to Cook While Camping