One of the best parts of a camping trip is gathering around a fire with family and friends to enjoy a campfire-cooked meal. What could be better than the sound of crackling wood and the aroma of dinner in the works?
Many people have fond memories of gooey toasted marshmallows melting in their mouth after a day of hiking, or their mom and dad serving up steaming fresh fish they caught earlier that day. Campfire cooking makes every camping trip special. Best of all, it is as easy as hobo pie.
Humans have been cooking with fire for more than a million years. It feels natural to cook and eat around the fire, and anyone can do it. If you’ve never cooked over a fire before or are looking for some hints, keep reading. Here is everything you need to know to get cooking over a campfire the right way. From campfire cookware to cooking tips, you will be ready to put on your apron or cowboy hat and whip up a tasty meal on your next camping trip.
Although s’mores and hot dogs probably come to mind when you think of campfire food, you can cook just about anything over a campfire with the right tools. Keep the following points in mind:
As you will soon see, some cooking tools make campfire cooking a cinch, while others are a little more involved. It all comes down to the time and effort you want to put into meal creation, and how long you plan to camp. Preparation is key.
When you picture cowboy campfire cooking equipment, you probably do not envision a cowboy stirring stew in a plastic bucket.
Cast-iron cooking equipment is a must-have for a camping trip. Wrought iron uses a different manufacturing method than cast iron, and it is unlikely you will see wrought-iron campfire cooking equipment at the campground. Titanium, steel and aluminum are also common materials in camping cookware.
The first piece of open-fire cookware you will need is the right cooking surface.
Here are a few potential cooking surfaces to get you started:
Next, you will need your pots and pans. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you do not pack too much or too little and can figure out exactly what you need.
Here are a few options:
Once you have your basic cookware, you will need campfire utensils to keep your food on the path to success and your hands safe. Here are recommended utensils for flipping, turning, stirring and serving your campfire delicacies:
Lastly, you will want to bring a few campfire cooking accessories.
As you can see, campfire food is not just about roasting hot dogs on a stick, although that is undoubtedly part of the fun. Do not be afraid to get creative, try new ideas and enjoy delicious flame-cooked meals you and your camping companions will love.
Ready to get cooking? Once you have your culinary tools, it is time to build the perfect fire, which involves burning wood until it turns into coals for even cooking. Here are factors to consider before you get started.
Once you have gathered your wood and found a location, here is what you need to do to build the fire.
Always keep a bucket of water or sand nearby to extinguish the fire. Once the flames die down, stir the ashes and pour more water or sand to cover the ashes completely.
If you are new to campfire cooking and do not feel comfortable with the above method, you can buy charcoal instead of using wood. Just choose charcoal that does not contain lighter fluid or any chemicals.
Campfire cooking is like nothing else in the world. Imagine spending a day hiking or swimming, building a fire and cooking a meal surrounded by nature. Campfire cooking with friends and family is a wonderful experience? To make the experience even better, here are some tips to keep in mind.
You probably do not need to haul a heavy Dutch oven if you only plan to cook hot dogs and toast marshmallows for an afternoon picnic. In such a case, you will only need to pack skewers and fire-starting supplies. However, if you are camping for a few days and have a list of Dutch oven recipes you cannot wait to try, it is worth bringing a cast-iron pot.
Keep your camping trip free of illness and pay careful attention to how you store your food. Keep raw meat packed in ice right up until the moment you are ready to grill, because bacteria proliferate when food is between 40 and 140 degrees. Make sure to put leftovers away within two hours — and, in hot weather, do not leave food out longer than an hour.
Store food in airtight bags or containers and keep them in coolers. Bring one cooler for drinks and another for perishable food items, and pack the coolers full. You can use frozen gel packs, ice cubes or frozen bottles of water in the cooler. Lastly, keep hands clean with disposable wipes or eco-friendly soap.
It is much easier to slice and dice peppers and onions in your kitchen than it is at the campsite. Keep things simple and prepare as many ingredients as you can at home. For example, if you are excited to make campfire scrambled eggs, crack and scramble the eggs at home and store them in bottles for the trip.
When you are ready to cook, make sure all your utensils are clean and within reach. You do not want to leave your food unattended while you search for your spatula or spoon. When you plan your meals and come prepared, campfire cooking will be a stress-free experience.
You might be tempted to create a fire with huge, roaring flames, but this will not do much for your baked bean recipe. Large fires burn down fast, and you do not want to use all your firewood at once. Spend your wood wisely, and you will have plenty left over for a post-dinner snack and campfire stories.
Get your fire going at least an hour before cooking to allow plenty of time for flames to die down and coals to get hot. Also, keep in mind cooking on a campfire takes longer than it does in your kitchen at home. You will need to turn food every so often for even cooking, and use a thermometer to make sure you have cooked everything to safe levels.
Aluminum foil is a must-have for any camping trip. Aluminum foil hardly takes up any room, is inexpensive and you can toss vegetables or fish in foil packets and place them on hot coals for cooking. Best of all, aluminum foil is easy to clean up.
If campfire cooking is not for you, do not let it bring your spirit down. You can still enjoy a smokey meal or gooey sweet treat without the need for firewood. Here are some other campsite cooking options you can enjoy comfortably while still dining like a pioneer under the stars.
A portable propane grill is an excellent alternative to building a fire. A portable propane grill is compact, easy to transport and simple to use. All you need to do is push the ignition button — no matches or lighters required. You also get to use adjustable burners to control the heat.
A portable propane stove might be the go-to choice if you want to break out your Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet. Just like a propane grill, all you need to do is press a button to get it started. Some portable propane stoves even fold up for super-easy transporting.
Lastly, you could choose a Deluxe Cabin that features a kitchenette and is ready for your culinary talents. This option might be the best solution for campers who want to ensure proper food safety. Many Deluxe Cabins offer the comfort and convenience of your home kitchen. When you finish up in the kitchen, the great outdoors will still be waiting for you.
You might also use a kitchen for cooking meals and a fire pit for roasting marshmallows or other snacks. That way, you can leave the Dutch oven at home, but still get a taste of campfire cooking. When it comes to camping, the choice is always yours.
Be sure to check specific KOA campgrounds to see if this option is available, as not all campgrounds offer Deluxe Cabins with this feature.
Whether you are an experienced chef or just starting out, there is one thing you can know for sure — everything tastes better when you are camping.
KOA recognizes each chef has a unique cooking style. For those who love cooking over the campfire, a KOA Campground makes it simple. Set up your grill grate over the fire pit, and you will be ready to go. Want to cook on your propane grill? A KOA patio is a perfect spot for grilling your specialties.
If you want a little less rustic cooking option, we can help with that too! Make your reservation today!