It is getting close to the camping season! Only 17 days left until Spring, but we currently have over three feet of snow, so I think Spring will be late. I love sleeping outside in a tent or hammock and the smell of campfires. Some of our best family memories involve camping. Being outdoors and camping makes life simple because there are no distractions from technology. That also means no oven or stove, so campfire cooking can be a bit of a challenge. People have been cooking over campfires for thousands of years. There’s something almost primal about it.
When camping, cooking usually involves a fire or a cookstove. We do most of our lunches and dinner over a campfire when we car camp versus a stove. Camp stoves are nice, but I really prefer cooking over a fire. It’s a fun experience. It’s not just about cooking burnt hot dogs and roasting gooey marshmallows either. There are a variety of ways to cook outdoors. It is actually fairly easy if you know your options and can be loads of fun. And there are lots of cool tools out there to give you options. So here are five different ways to cook over a campfire, and some of them might be surprising. The 7 ways to cook over a campfire are:
- Cast-iron Skillet
- Roasting Stick
- Tinfoil Packet
- Grill Basket
- Fire Grate or Grill
- Dutch Oven
If you are considering cooking over a campfire instead of a stove, the following techniques can be very useful. If you are looking for recipes that use many of these techniques, I would consider checking out this list of amazing camping cookbooks that between all of them, have recipes that would suit any camping trip, cooking technique, or diet.
Cast Iron Skillet – I love cooking over a fire with my cast iron skillet. It is one of the easiest ways to make family meals. In fact, I have been using the same skillet since my husband and I got married 11 years ago. If you are looking for great tips and recipes, check out my new “Castiron Camping Cookbook”. You can find more about my “Castiron Camping Cookbook” here. In the cookbook, it tells you exactly how to cook over a fire with a skillet and rips on castiron care. I usually cook with mine over a campfire grate and no directly on the fire.
Roasting Stick – One of the easiest ways to cook over a campfire is by using a stick. I remember as a kid that not only was it fun to cook your marshmallows and hot dogs this way, but it was also really neat to find your own stick and whittle it down to a point. We actually have a set of roasting sticks so that we don’t have to cut any branches. A neat little gadget is Light My Fire Grandpas Fire Fork, which can transform any stick into a roasting stick. Have you tried woofems, wolf ‘ums or woofums? These are pastry shells cooked over a fire and filled with all sorts of yumminess. This is one way you can make camping eclairs.
Tinfoil Packets– Can you say hobo dinners? This is just one thing that can be cooked in a tinfoil packet. There are so many different recipes you can create and just wrap it in tin foil and cook it over the coals. Not only can you cook a tin foil meal over a fire, but you can also cook them on a grill. I make little pouches and just throw everything in. It does take some prep time though.
Pie Iron-It’s basically a panini press with a long handle. Make anything from a grilled cheese sandwich to a pocket pizza or pie. You can use bread dough or two slices of bread and get creative with what you put in the middle. I like bread and pie filling or pepperoni and cheese. It’s more creative than using a stick, but it is not as time-consuming as a tinfoil meal or Dutch oven. I prefer a cast iron pie iron, because they hold up better and are better to cook with.
Grill Basket– These are fantastic for grilling over a fire. It is not as bulky as a grill screen and the long handle makes it easy to pull out. They are light and compact and easy to use. Make sure you get one with a handle. We grill everything from steak and burgers to veggies and it’s great for toasting bread or buns. A grill basket is a must-have for car camping.
Campfire Grate or Grill
Campfire Grate or Grill – If you do not want to mess with balancing a grill basket, try a campfire grate or grill instead. If this is the route you choose, get one with legs that fold up for easy storage. If you get one without legs, it’s hard to balance it just right over the fire. Campfire grates can be used to cook food directly on them or to balance a skillet or percolator.
Dutch Oven– I think Dutch oven cooking is a bit harder to master, but when it’s done right, it is amazing. Think of it as the slow cooker of campfire cooking. You basically put everything in a pot, cover it in coals and wait. I’ll usually use a Dutch oven if we are going to be in camp for the majority of the day because it does take more time and preparation than some of the other ways to cook over a fire. I love ribs or a good stew if I am using a Dutch oven. If you purchase one, make sure it is cast iron and pre-seasoned.
These are all great ways to cook when you are car camping or in a camper. I have invested in some good leather gloves too, so I can easily pull things from the fire. You can also purchase special tripods or racks, but I find them heavy and cumbersome. I am not the type of person that would haul a grill or a Dutch oven backpacking or hiking and I have seen people who have…
Two other tools that you should have if you intend to cook over the campfire, are a bucket and a shovel. For easy storage, get ones that are collapsible and lightweight.
And just a quick reminder, you should always build a fire responsibly. Check the fire restrictions in your area before you head out. Use an approved fire pit and be sure to have a shovel and water on hand if needed. Dead out means dead out, and when putting out a fire, make sure you can put your hand over it. Living in the woods, I’m a stickler for putting out my fires. As Smoky the Bear says, “Only you can prevent a forest fire”.
In what ways do you like to cook over a fire? Share with us your thoughts below. And as always, be outside with no limits. Love, Pauline