As much as we love camping, one of the struggles with this activity is the cooking. It is a struggle to make food without the comfort of your stove, oven, and counter space at home. Yes, there are camping stoves but we all know those just aren’t the same as a full-sized stove at home.
Part of camping means accepting that your meals may not be quite as warm and tasty as a freshly-made meal back home. However, don’t lose hope in camp cooking, or think that you’re stuck eating MREs while adventuring in the outdoors.
With some of the below camping hacks, you will get a handle on camp cooking in no time and will be whipping up meals that you may find yourself trying to recreate at home.
Here are the camp cooking hacks that will change your life.
1. Pancakes in a Bottle
Even if you aren’t a breakfast person at home, few things feel as nice as cooking breakfast over the campfire when camping. And of course, as part of that tasty breakfast, you must have pancakes. We know what you’re thinking — pancakes are messy. And you’re right. Pancakes can cause all sorts of messes while trying to cook up these fluffy delights. Make your life easier and much cleaner and get rid of the bowl-pouring method. Instead, empty out a condiment bottle like ketchup or mustard and put your pancake batter in there.
This is a trick you’ll likely find yourself using at home, too. Because why mess with a mess when you don’t have to?
2. Bacon in a Bag
We would never expect you to camp without the breakfast classic bacon. Bacon has the power to unite people from all over the world. But there is no denying that it is a messy endeavor and the cleanup from the grease afterward poses a real challenge when camping. Save yourself the struggles and use the paper bag method instead. Here’s how you do it. First, you take a paper bag and line bacon in the bottom of it. Then you crack a few eggs on top — trust us on this one. Next, fold the bag over and attach a stick to it. Next, you’ll take it over to some hot coals and roast for no more than 10 minutes.
If you really want to save yourself any dish mess, go ahead and eat the bacon straight from the bag.
3. Simplify S’mores
If you don’t go camping with s’mores on the menu, there is something wrong. S’mores are part of the definition of camping, but we would be lying if we said that they weren’t a struggle to make sometimes. Keeping the three different layers lined up and in place is a serious challenge. We have a hack that will take some of the struggles out of this situation. Rather than getting the typical three parts of s’mores: graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows get yourself some cookies that are topped with a layer of chocolate. Then, you’re only dealing with the two pieces: chocolate cookie and marshmallow.
4. Omelets in a Bag
As mentioned above, breakfast while camping may be one of the best meals ever. But a lot of breakfast foods are messy. Eggs are one of those foods. An omelet is a great way to start your day in the outdoors, especially if you’ve got a day of hiking and adventure ahead of you. But that can get messy. Not with our hack, it won’t! And all you need is a Ziploc bag and some boiling water. Add all of your ingredients to the bag, zip them up, put them in the bowl of boiling hot water, and let them poach until the egg sets.
5. Popcorn in a Can
Yes, you read that correctly. Popcorn is a favorite snack whether you’re camping or at home on the couch watching a movie. But what do you do when you don’t have a microwave or a stovetop to make the popcorn? Grab for a beer or soda can instead.
You will need to cut a small rectangle near the top of the can, leaving the flap of the can open (be careful — the edges will be sharp!). Then pour in some vegetable oil, some kernels, and get ready for it to pop. You’ll next get a fire started or a grill over coals to produce the heat. When it’s hot, set the can on a flat rock or the grill, and a pan next to it to catch the popcorn as it comes out of the rectangle you cut.
6. Use Water Instead of Ice
Rather than bringing ice packs or buying ice that will melt and make a mess, instead take a few small water bottles or a couple of big ones and freeze them ahead of time. The water bottles will keep the food in your cooler cold, even for a while after the ice melts. Then, you have water to drink instead of wasting precious space in your cooler on something that you can’t consume.
7. Tic Tac Spice
Just because you’re camping does not mean your food has to be bland. In fact, this is a chance to really mix it up and try some new foods. Some of those foods may require spices, and you may not want to bring all your spice containers from home. So, instead, save up some Tic Tac boxes and put your spice in there instead. They are flat and easy to pack and have the perfect spout opening to pour on your food.
8. Dishes in a Bag
One of the similarities between cooking at home and cooking while camping is the dread of doing dishes. While we can’t make washing the dishes any easier, we can make the drying of them easy, and out of your way. Once you’ve washed the dishes, put them in a mesh laundry bag, hang them from a tree, and let them air dry. This is a quick and easy way to get your dishes finished. Just make sure the mesh holes aren’t big enough to let cutlery get through.
9. Get a Thermometer
You know that feeling when you’re camping and you open up your cooler and wonder if the food in there is cold enough and safe to eat? That seems to happen all the time for us. Instead of guessing whether you’re going to get sick, get a small thermometer that you can stick inside of the cooler. Knowing what the temperature reads will give you peace of mind that the food you’re eating is safe to eat.
10. Tools in a Shoe Organizer
Even though cooking while camping isn’t quite as extravagant of an experience as it may be at home, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to need some utensils, spices, and more. And keeping these things clean and clear of dirt is a struggle while camping. That’s why we love the idea of getting a shoe organizer and keeping the clean utensils and spices in there. The best ones are those with transparent pockets so you can see exactly what is inside.
11. Coffee Tea Bags
The best way to start a day of camping is with a cup of coffee. But sometimes dealing with a coffee maker while camping is less than ideal. And some of the other methods of making coffee while camping may have you ending up with a bunch of grounds in your mouth (cowboy coffee, anyone?). However, we’ve got a hack that will help you wake up without a mess: coffee in a filter. It doesn’t sound revolutionary, but here’s the trick. You put the ground coffee in the filter, tie it up with some dental floss, and let it sit in your cup of hot water. You essentially have a coffee teabag that will steep and make you tasty coffee to drink, with no mess. When the coffee is done “steeping,” simply take the filter out and throw it away.
12. Cook In Orange Peels
Oranges are a great snack to enjoy while camping, but try to enjoy them while keeping the peel intact, in halves, to be specific. You can use these peel halves to bake some muffins or cinnamon rolls in. Simply put the pre-made dough in one of the halves or the muffin batter, and then put another half on top as a lid. Put them on some tin foil on a cast-iron skillet over the fire, and wait while they bake.
13. Aluminum Foil For Everything
Want to make french fries while camping? Fajitas? Fish? But don’t want to create a big mess? Simply put the food in aluminum foil, wrap it up and cook it over the fire or hot coals. Once done, all you have to do is open up the foil and use it as a plate to enjoy. We love a meal that requires no dishes for cooking and no dishes for eating. We use the aluminum foil trick as much as possible. And if you’re worried about wasting foil, you can wash and reuse it.
14. Apple Pie in a Can
If you really want to take dessert to the next level (and who doesn’t?), we are going to suggest that you try baking an apple pie in a can. This is going to require making the insides of the pie ahead of time, but once you’ve got that, all you have to do is line a tin can with pie dough, put the apple mixture in, and bake over a fire or coals. Warm apple pie while camping? This may just be our new favorite thing.
15. Pizza in a Dutch Oven
If you’re a pizza fanatic who can’t go without eating pizza (no judgment — we understand), then don’t worry. You don’t have to give up pizza while camping, you just have to adjust. The key to camping pizza is cooking it in a Dutch oven. Simply oil the pan, put the dough down, and add any toppings you like. Stick the lid on and wait for the pizza to cook. Just imagine the smell when you take off that lid. Mmmmm.
To see what other hacks you can bring to life while camping, head over to the KOA Camping Recipes page to find some things you want to try and cook up for your next trip.
Leslie, a.k.a. Copy Girl, is a copywriter who gets butterflies from telling stories through words.
Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.
With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie love the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.
Everywhere she goes, she takes this advice with her:
“Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown.” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing world, visit her website here.