There’s nothing like a meal prepared in the great outdoors during a camping vacation. The sounds of a crackling fire, the smells wafting through fresh air, it’s all so enticing. Here are a few camping cooking tips to help you make the most of your experience.
- Don’t Plan Gourmet Meals
- Pack as Much Food into Your Cooler as Possible
- Make Sure Your Campfire Site is in a Clear Open Space
- Build a Chimney to Keep Smoke Out of Your Eyes
- Use Dry Branches to Start Your Fire
- Use Paper and Kindling to Start Your Campfire
- Add Bigger Logs Slowly
- Turn Your Campfire into an Oven
- Avoid Cooking Over an Open Flame
- Smother Your Fire with Water and Sand
Simple is better out in the wilderness. Bacon and eggs are easy to prepare and make good choices for breakfast. Cold cut sandwiches at lunch are quick and easy and allow you to enjoy your day on the go. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chops, chicken breasts and canned beans are all dinner staples.
Bring a cast iron skillet and your least-expensive pots and pans, a grate to place everything on and tin foil (more on the tin foil later). Don’t forget your coffee pot. Paper plates and plastic utensils are good ideas, too. They make for easy clean up.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!: Never throw anything on the ground. Always dispose of trash in the proper receptacles.
The more you have inside, the colder the items will stay. You can also place cardboard between layers of food for extra insulation. Freezing everything ahead of time will also help ensure freshness.
For maximum campfire safety, make sure your site is at least 10 feet from any bushes or combustibles. Also, select a site where the flames will not be under low hanging branches.
If your campsite does not have a fire pit, building your own is easy. First, find the largest rocks you can safely carry and arrange them in a circle. Next, place a large flat rock upright at the end of the circle. This will act as a chimney and draw smoke away from your fellow campers.
Gather dry branches and twigs. Never cut or yank branches off living trees. This is not an environmentally accepted practice—plus, green wood will not burn and you’ll just create a lot of smoke. (If you’re looking for company, this is a good way to get a visit from a park ranger.) Some campgrounds provide firewood at each campsite. Check for availability.
Lightly crumple paper and cover with crisscrossed layers of small sticks. Make sure there is enough space between them for the fire to breathe. Use matches or a lighter to ignite the paper.
THIS SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING—BUT IT’S WORTH REPEATING: Always use caution and NEVER, EVER use flammable liquids like gasoline to start a fire!
Once your fire reaches a steady burn, continue to add larger and larger pieces of wood to keep the flames going. Allow the logs to burn down to at least 75% of their original size before adding another. Be sure to follow the campground guidelines to ensure that you are in compliance with local and state ordinances for campfires.
Believe it or not, you can adjust the temperature of your fire to achieve high, medium or low settings. All you need are some grey, white coals. And no, this is not one of those urban legend camping cooking tips.
Here’s how it works. As the wood burns down, it turns into white, grey coals as noted above. This is the most desirable heat for cooking because the heat from the charred wood is evenly and consistently distributed. To intensify the heat, use a shovel to make a mound with the coals. They will produce beautiful yellow-orange embers when moved around. To decrease the heat, spread them flat evenly across your fire pit.
Cooking over an open flame can cause your food to burn. So take advantage of those wonderful coals on the bottom of your fire pit. Place the grate you brought over the embers and put your food on top. This will act just like the BBQ in your backyard. For a dinner you’ll want seconds of, wrap your meats and veggies in some tin foil, seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and bury your meal under the coals. The flavors of everything mixing together will be truly delectable.
After you’ve eaten, told ghost stories, and enjoyed the crackling glow of your campfire, put out the flames. Pour buckets of water over the fire then smother it all with dirt.