Every year millions of people head out to campgrounds across the United States. The sharp crackle of flames snapping at the night sky replenishes what we lost during the grind of the workweek. Evoking the deep-rooted frontier spirit in all of us, cooking over a campfire is an inextricable part of the experience.
Whether you're roasting marshmallows, grilling steaks, or preparing cowboy chili in a cast iron Dutch oven, campfire cooking makes it all come together. Read on for tips and gear to make your campfire cooking experience an exceptional one.
Campfire Cooking Methods
First, decide what meals you will make on your trip. We've got tons of camping recipes on Wide Open Spaces, and there's no shortage of options elsewhere online.
Then decide on the cooking methods you will use and take the time to prep most of your food at home accordingly.
It will take some forethought on the front-end. However, doing most of the seasoning, cutting, and chopping of meat and veggies at home will simplify your workload at camp.
Roasting with Skewers or Roasting Sticks
Roasting over the fire with skewers is one of the quintessential campfire cooking methods. Nothing screams childhood nostalgia like partially charred hotdogs on a stick.
Skewers are great for cooking dogs or sausages, marshmallows for s'mores, and other quick items that were meant to be dangled precariously over a flickering flame.
Cooking and Frying With Cast Iron
Cast iron skillets, pans, pots, and Dutch ovens are all great ways to cook an outdoor meal over the campfire. One of the heavier ways of campfire cooking, you probably won't be hiking these to a backpacking spike camp.
However, if you are driving into your campsite cast iron is a cool, traditional way to go.
Season them and cook directly on the fire if you wish. Even heat distribution and easy clean-up make cast iron a good choice.
Baking in Aluminum Foil
Baking in foil packets is a simple no-frills method of campfire cooking. It is easy to do fish, scrambled eggs, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and various other meal items.
Some call this idea "Hobo Packets" because it's a cheap and easy way to cook a warm, hearty meal. Definitely don't discount the Reynold's wrap and keep a roll on-hand every camping trip!
Once you have your food wrapped in tin foil you can cook it a few different ways. Put it directly on the hot coals, or use an existing campfire grill or grill grate. It's your choice. Clean-up is a cinch!
Cooking Gear for Campfire Recipes
To pull off the above methods, you must have the tools of the trade. Here are the items that will assist you in making mouthwatering meals in the great outdoors.
Telescoping Roasting Sticks and Forks
One of the great things about camping in the 21st century is the available cooking equipment. Strong metal roasting sticks and forks are more stout options than fashioning a pointy-ended stick from a fallen branch.
Yes, we grew up roasting this way. While we did, we constantly hoped it wouldn't burn through and send our hot dog into the ashy depths of the campfire.
The telescoping forks collapse to a good packable size and are perfect for all your roasting needs.
Dutch Oven and Stand
Dating back to the 1700s, the Dutch oven has undergone numerous changes since its debut in the old country. The version we know today was used by Mormon pioneers, mountain men of the American frontier, and cowboys on cattle drives.
The Dutch oven is highly versatile and can be used to make everything from stews to pizza to bread. Not only is it versatile, but it retains and distributes heat more evenly than other methods.
Use the Dutch oven with a stand to keep the vessel perfectly positioned over the heat source.
Cast Iron Pot, Pan, and Skillet
Cast iron cookware is perfect for campfire cooking. It is extremely tough, allowing you to cook directly on the coals or over an open fire if you want to. Make bacon, pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, omelets, home fries, or anything else you can dream up. The sky is the limit!
Portable campfire grills that you can place over your fire pit are a highly useful item. With a portable campfire grill, it doesn't matter if your site has a pre-existing fire pit with a grill grate.
Many of the portable grills have fold-up legs for the space-saving conscious camper. Or, like the Breeo model in the photo above, they're anchored with one sturdy stake that's inserted into the ground. Either cook food directly on it or use your favorite cast iron skillet or cookware.
Extra Utensils and Accessories
You will need utensils to work your outdoor culinary magic! Tongs, a grill utensil set, and serving spoons are handy for cooking and serving. Also, add a meat thermometer, wire brush for cleaning grates, grill gloves/potholder, and silverware.
And of course, the Campfire
For some cooking methods, cooking over an open flame is perfectly fine. For example, roasting brats over a ripping fire is appropriate and expected.
However, if cooking a more complex dish, you'll need to let your fire break down to a consistent heat source. Give your fire about an hour to reduce to white glowing coals. Doing so will help with cooking your food thoroughly.
When your fire gets to this stage you are ready to cook.
Hopefully these campfire cooking tips help you wrap your head around your outdoor meals, and make the most of these delicious recipes that are as fun to make as they are good to eat. What will you make on your next camping trip?