Whether it’s the whiff of woodsmoke or the comforting ritual of a hot meal on a cold night, there’s something special about campfire cooking. It’s a chance to slow down and enjoy the company of good friends around a warm fire while creating tasty food with simple ingredients. With a little practice, you can make your next camping trip a culinary adventure to remember.
Campfire cooking involves direct contact with the flames and a higher heat level, so you must take safety precautions to protect yourself and your food. Make sure the area is cleared of ash and coals before starting any cooking, use a thermometer to test for proper temperature and provide a barrier between your food and the flames, like foil or a cast iron skillet. Using a lid on a dutch oven also keeps the temperature lower and allows you to cook foods more slowly.
Foil cooking is a great way to learn campfire skills and cook meals safely. Aluminum foil takes up very little space, is inexpensive and can be used to cook a variety of things over the campfire, from vegetables to fish. A layer of foil provides protection from the high heat while allowing the food to be cooked evenly. Toss in a little balsamic vinegar or butter for an added touch of flavor.
Another common way to cook over a campfire is by making bread on sticks. You can buy yeast bread dough made specifically for camping or try a simple recipe that requires no more than water and flour. You can use a whole stick or just a small piece of wood, depending on your cooking needs. It’s important to select a sturdy stick that can stand up to the heat and embers. Willow and hazel are great choices for this purpose, but if you can’t find those, any large stick will do.
Many people start cooking over a campfire before the coals are completely extinguished, leading to burnt food on the outside and undercooked food on the inside. The key is to wait until the flames are low and most of them have turned to embers, which will create an even heat for cooking.
Having the right gear makes campfire cooking more fun and safe. Be sure to bring sturdy close-toed shoes and long sleeves and pants, as well as a good pair of gloves for handling hot items. Choose cookware that’s designed for campfires, like a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, as they retain and distribute heat more evenly than other types of pans. Avoid plastic containers and utensils, which will melt over the high heat. Metal utensils with no rubber on the handles are ideal. A pot lifter is a must for getting hot food out of the pan without burning yourself. These tools are available at most outdoor or sporting goods stores.