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Campfire Cooking – How-to’s, Cookware And Recipes

ll blast temperature, like; skillet meals, vegetables, stews, and especially Dutch oven recipes.

  • Foil cooking; tin-foil meals, ba Mention camping and campfire cooking, and most people think of a roaring fire and sizzling steaks. Or maybe a favorite Dutch oven recipe. But for those new to open-flame cooking – their first thoughts might be more like; how do I do that, or, what kind of cooking equipment do I need?

From the first steps of how to build a good “cooking” fire, to understanding the basic cookware needed, these resources will help get you started. Including easy campfire recipes, and maybe even a new tip or recipe for the experienced campfire cooks too.

How to layout and build a campfire for cooking

Most established camping areas now have fire rings, (like the one above), in each campsite. Fire rings like this work well for campfire cooking because they include both the necessary cooking grate, and an area for hot coals. This provides both types of cooking heat for your favorite recipes – direct open flame, and more controllable hot coals, (which are essential for Dutch oven, and other slo-cook camping recipes).

If you have the luxury of choice, (and materials)

… a key-hole or U-shaped campfire layout is better for campfire cooking. Both provide larger, more flexible cooking areas and options. But both also require you to have more of your own cooking equipment, like; cooking grates/grills, or even a campfire tripod.

Since the majority of campfire cooking is done over hot coals, instead of direct flames, these layouts provide a more flexible hot-coals area than a typical fire ring. This is where cast iron cookware excels, because it can transfer that hot-coals heat more evenly than thinner home-use type cookware.

Once the main fire is blazing happily, and creating a lot of glowing coals – rake them into a layer leading off of the main fire – with the most coals, (hottest cooking area), next to the fire itself, and the least coals, (lower-temp. cooking area), farthest from the fire. Coals can be replenished, as needed, from the main fire.

Note: It is important to check firewood availability at your campsite. Because of wood insect infestations, some states and campgrounds no longer allow you to bring your own, and, (for most public campgrounds and camping areas), you can no longer take it for granted that there will be a supply of “fallen” wood for you to use.

Tip: You will need a lot of hot coals – so build a good roaring fire to start. As it settles into a steady-burning cooking fire it will quickly produce the hot coals you need.

How to cook on an open campfire:

Books could be written about just how to cook on a campfire, and of course they have been; hundreds, (maybe thousands). But the basics of campfire cooking are pretty straight-forward: You will be cooking with three types of heat; direct flame, hot coals, (radiant heat), or reflected radiant heat, (baking).

1. Direct heat from the flames of the campfire – This is the fastest heat, but dancing flames are also the least controllable, and not suited to foods that need a steady controlled temperature.

Typical examples:

  • Roasting hot dogs or marshmallows on a stick or roasting fork, etc.

  • Grilling on a cooking grate/grill; steaks, chicken breasts, chops, burgers, etc.

  • Frying & Searing – skillet or griddle frying; bacon, the grilling items above, etc.

  • Some types of rotisserie cooking

  • Heating thin liquids; soups, broths, boiling water, making coffee, etc.

2. Hot coals heat – This is the most steady and controllable heat, and the type recommended for most campfire recipe items. By banking or spreading the hot coals under your cookware you can increase or decrease the level of heat you are cooking with – almost like turning the stove flame up or down.

  • Used for any recipe item that needs to be cooked at a steady non-full blast temperature, like; skillet meals, vegetables, stews, and especially Dutch oven recipes.

  • Foil cooking; tin-foil meals, baked potatoes, and other foods that are wrapped and placed directly in the coals

3. Reflected radiant heat, (baking) – This is usually reflected/redirected heat from hot coals used with commercial or home-made camping ovens, but some camp ovens use reflected flames heat to bake.

Most campfire recipes will tell you which cooking method to use. Just remember that camp safety is an important issue when you are using a campfire to cook.

Campfire Cookware and Equipment:

Outdoor camping is a lot more fun when you have the right gear, and that is especially true of campfire cooking. Starting with the bare essentials below for simple camping recipes, you can add more as your cooking experience, and range of meals grow.

Minimum essentials:

1 Lg. heavy-duty skillet (cast iron is best)

1 Medium-size pot (min. 2-qt.) *with a non-plastic handle

1 cooking spatula, 1 lg. serving spoon or ladle, 1 lg. kitchen knife

As noted, that’s the bare minimum for most simple camping recipes and meals. But realistically, there are a few more pieces you should have.

  • a second sm. to med skillet, and a lid for the lg. skilleta

  • a second pot, and pot lidsa

  • a pair of tongs, and a kitchen utility or paring knife, and another lg. serving spoon or ladle (whichever one you didn’t have in the essentials)

  • a campfire cooking grate/grilla

  • a good pair of campfire cooking gloves

And a cast Iron Dutch oven, and a griddle, and a rotisserie, and more skillets, and more pots, and on and on, and… When you discover how good the food can be and how easy it is to do, you will find that the campfire cooking is one of the most anticipated parts of the trip. And you just have to have that next piece of campfire cookware to make that special recipe you found for the next camping trip.


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