Campfire Cooking

One of the greatest joys of camping is cooking your food over a fire, just like people have done for ages. With a few tips and some quick preparation, you’ll find that you can cook almost anything over a fire. Even gourmet meals can be fun and easy!

Start by planning your menu carefully. To keep cleanup quick, it’s best to plan one or two-pot meals, or a mix of things you heat in a pot and things you cook by another method (on a stick or in tin foil). The easiest meals are hot dogs on a stick or tin foil dinners. To create a foil dinner – or side dish – make a pouch of tin foil and place pieces of raw potatoes, carrots, onions, salt, and pepper inside, then nestle the pouch in the coals of the fire. Check your meal when you smell the cooking carrots and potatoes, and enjoy it when everything’s cooked through.

For more complex meals like pasta, stir fry, eggs, or fried foods, you’ll need a pot or skillet and a flat surface to rest the pan on. Many campgrounds provide cooking grates that make campfire cooking simple. Just build your fire underneath the grate and rest your pans on top of the metal grid. If your campsite doesn’t have a grate, never fear. You can achieve the same effect by using three large rocks, positioned in a triangle (build the fire in the center, feeding logs in between the stones). Or forego the rocks and build an A-frame fire. To do this, start with two large logs placed like the two long legs of the letter “A.” Lay a smaller stick across the logs, like the middle bar in the A. Place smaller twigs and sticks against this bar, propping them at an angle with one end on the ground. Light your fire by holding your match under these small, slanted twigs; once they catch, you can build up your fire gradually by adding larger sticks. The two legs of the A-frame make a resting spot for your pots and pans.

If you’ve cooked over a fire before, you know what a nightmare cleaning the bottom of the pot can be. Flames can singe a pot bottom so severely it will never shine again. To keep this from happening, soap the bottoms of your pans. Using a bar of soap and a little water, get your hands very soapy and smear them on the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot bottom completely, then set the pot on the fire and do your cooking. The bottom will char black, but the burnt soap will wash off in seconds under water and your pot will be as shiny as ever.

Bring everything you’re going to need with you, from cooking utensils, pots, and lids to cutting knives, cutting surfaces, dishes, and spices. The whole family can get in on the act, helping to cut vegetables and wash ingredients. Remember to keep your cooking time down by putting a lid on all pots and by keeping your pans over the hottest part of the fire. Watch your food carefully—things may heat up more quickly than you expect! And because the fire isn’t regulated to high, medium and low like your stove at home, you’ll need to use all your senses when cooking over a fire. Pay attention to the smell and look of your food to know when its ready or when it needs stirring or flipping. Once your meal is successfully done, serve it up and enjoy it near the fire. You might even spend your mealtime brainstorming other fun creations you can cook on a campfire.