When we were very young, my sister and I used to canoe camp on our own in the wilderness of the Yukon Territory. From an early age, I learned the ins and outs of campfire cooking and that knowledge is just as applicable today when I’m prepping dinner for my family of five.
Now that I’m older, I still think that the best part of a camping trip is the food, and that cooking over an open fire makes it taste that much better. Camp cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you’ve put some time into the preparation.
Below are a handful of tips for successful campfire cooking, along with an equipment list that brings your home kitchen to the great outdoors. Just remember to add a measure of patience and a good dose of humour, because things don’t always go according to plan when you’re out in the woods!
Campfire Cooking Basics
Always make the area safe by ensuring that there are no branches overhead or dried leaves too close to where you are building the fire. Start your fire with small tinder such as twigs or dried moss and build up to larger logs. If you can, always use dry wood, not green or wet wood.
Keep Heatproof Tools On Hand
Keep a sturdy pair of tongs on hand for cooking, as well as a thick dry kitchen towel or an oven mitt.
Adjust The Temperature
Once the wood has been burning for at least 10 minutes, create the equivalent of high, medium and low heat settings in your fire pit. To do this, use a sturdy stick to maneuver some of the burning wood into a higher level at the back of the fire pit while keeping a bed of coals at the front.
Mise En Place
As much as possible, prep your food in advance of starting the fire, because once your fire hits a sweet spot with both glowing coals and low flames, you’ll want to get cooking right away.
What To Bring: Campfire Cooking Equipment
Packing this one-pot wonder on a camping trip means you have the option to stew, boil, fry or simmer your food. Heap hot coals all around and on top of the Dutch oven to create an oven-like heat. You’re then ready to bake up anything from deep-dish pizza to fruit crisps and cobblers.
Cast Iron Skillet
From bannock to bacon, this handy pan ensures even heat and perfect colouration, every time. Be sure to get the pan smoking-hot before cooking or foods can stick.
Everyone loves a foil-packaged meal because all the delicious juices are sealed in. To avoid keeping those juices intact, use a rubber-tipped cooking tongs to move and maneuver my foil food packages. This way, the delicious juices stay contained and there’s no soot in my dinner!
Whether you’re sharpening your own green stick or packed a metal one, always choose two or three prongs instead of just one. You’re a lot less likely to accidentally drop your dinner into the fire this way.
For quick cooking, it’s hard to beat slapping food on a grate grill over an open flame. Choose foods that are improved by a little char on the exterior such as whole fish, whole sweet potatoes or thick steaks.
Respect The Woods
Finally, be a conscientious camp cook. You can burn some garbage, such as paper plates, used napkins and food scraps, but never toss in used Styrofoam, plastic or tin foil as these produce highly toxic fumes. And always be sure to douse your fire with water when the last s’more has been consumed.
Now that you’ve mastered campfire cooking 101, watch how to cook pretty much anything over the open flames.