Few meals are more rewarding than those that you cook while camping (if you’re willing to venture outside of the astronaut diet of packaged food, that is). There is something about planning, creating, and watching your meal cook over a campfire that brings levels of fulfillment and happiness that no other meal can bring.
However, it’s no secret that you’re going to need some serious patience and creativity to make this style of cooking successful.
And that’s why we are here — to share with you how you can take the stress and difficulty out of camp cooking, and make it an easy, worthwhile, and rewarding experience.
So step away from the box of instant potatoes, and dig into our camp cooking hacks.
Shortcuts to Make Camp Cooking Easy
1. Gather the right supplies
Cooking without the necessary tools would be a challenge for even the most skilled of chefs. And that doesn’t just mean when you’re in your home kitchen.
Tools are arguably even more important when you’re camp cooking, as chances are good you’re too far away to just run to the store and grab something you forgot.
(Even if you are near a store — who wants to kill the camping vibe and run into town? Certainly not us!)
Here are some of the staple supplies you’re going to need:
- Box of matches. Fire is essential to camp cooking. You may even want to go so far as to bring lighter fluid along too, in case you struggle with lighting your campfire.
- Cooking pots. You’re going to need some sort of vessel in which to cook your meal, and there are some great cooking pots and pans on the market.
- Dishes and cutlery. Unless everyone plans to dig into the cooking pot and eat family-style, you’re going to need some dishes and cutlery to use in eating your tasty meal.
- Cooler. You likely have an ingredient in one of the meals you’ll enjoy while camping that requires refrigeration. In the winter months, you simply need a cooler that you can stick outside. If you’re camping in the warmer months, pack along a lot of ice.
- Liquid dish soap. You don’t want last night’s spaghetti on this morning’s pancakes. Bring along some soap and a sponge or rag to clean your dishes between use.
- A towel or tongs. You will immediately regret grabbing at that hot pot over the fire with your bare hands. Don’t forget a towel or tongs to use instead.
- Trash bags. Be sure to toss all food scraps and any unwanted food into a trash bag, and store it in a place where animals (especially bears) cannot get to it.
While there are certainly other items you’ll want to bring with you, these are the bare bones, basic camp cooking supplies you need to get started.
2. Plan your meals ahead of time
Throwing together a meal last-minute at home may be one thing, but it’s an entirely different beast once you’re out in the wild.
Not only are you more limited with options and supplies while camping, you’re also more limited with time and patience.
Cooking over a campfire already takes long enough — don’t push your luck by trying to put together a meal on-the-fly.
Instead, plan ahead of time.
Planning your camping meals is not only easy, it’s also fun!
You may find yourself pulling an all-nighter or two, clicking through all the great camping recipes on the KOA blog. We guarantee you’ll feel inspired to step outside of your comfort zone to try something new, and, in the process, maybe even create your family’s new favorite meal.
The added bonus to meal prepping is that you’ll have full control over keeping your meals healthy.
It is easy to get out of hand when camping — you feel like you’re on vacation and digging deep into that bag of chips, or snacking on that giant Hershey’s bar comes with less guilt than it would at home.
However, camp cooking is a great opportunity for you to stay on track with your health, and is a great way to show you how simple it is to eat well.
That way, you won’t feel any guilt having a second s’more.
3. Pick a versatile method of cooking
Now that you’ve got your meals planned out, how are you going to cook them?
If you’re new to camp cooking, you have probably envisioned yourself sitting over a campfire for hours, patiently waiting for your steak to cook, only to have it fall right into the fire when you take it off.
However, camp cooking doesn’t have to look like that.
It can be easy, enjoyable, and full of flavor when you know what your options are.
Check out our favorite ways to camp cook, and the simple tools you need to make it happen:
Skewers: If pots and pans aren’t your thing, don’t worry — skewers are a great option. Small, easy to pack, and reusable, skewers make for some darn good meals.
Using the skewers from last night’s steak and veggies for today’s bacon and sausage will have you feeling pretty thrifty. Not to mention thankful that you don’t have to wash any pans on vacation.
Dutch Oven: Possibly the most versatile piece of camping “equipment” you will ever own, this dutch oven opens up a whole new world of cooking possibilities.
From soups, to chicken; from lasagna to cake, the dutch oven is a great tool to have in your camping arsenal.
And you don’t need a bunch of equipment to make this dutch oven do its job, either. The construction of the dutch oven allows you to put coals on top of it as well as under it. This way, you’re able to ensure your meal is cooking all the way through, without spending a bunch of extra time.
Skillet: While we recommend a cast iron, really any type of skillet will work. This skillet can be used to cook almost anything you can imagine — just think about what you use your skillet to cook at home. Most of the same can be cooked on a skillet over the fire.
The reason we love cast iron skillets specifically so much is that you can stick them right on top of the fire, or on top of a pile of coals and cook from there.
The heat this baby is able to withstand, and hold in, makes it a great way to cook steaks, eggs, bread, and much more.
Camp stove: This is certainly not necessary — as you can see from the above, your campfire works great to cook while camping.
However, for those of you who want a bit more control, and more options when it comes to your camping meals, you may want to look at investing in a camp stove.
The wind protection and heat control make this a great way to make your meals quicker, and with less hassle, while camping.
Aluminum Foil: Prepare to be amazed at the power of aluminum foil. There’s a reason your parents always saved used aluminum foil — this stuff seems as if it was made for camp cooking.
When cooking using aluminum foil, all you’ve got to do is:
- Get your fire going
- Spread coals on top of it
- Wrap your food (meats, veggies, whatever else you have) in aluminum foil
- Lay the wrapped food over the coals
- Cook, unwrap and eat!
It truly is as simple as that.
Feeling like camp cooking is something you can master? We think so too.
But, before you embark on your cooking adventures, we’ve got a few little tips for you to keep in mind:
- Pack your meal ingredients in ziplock baggies, and label them. This should be done at home while you’re prepping for your trip.
- Bring a lid for your pots/pans. This will help keep the heat in, and will speed up the cooking time.
- Prepare soups ahead of time. Make the soup on the stove at home, then let it cool and pop into a giant ziplock baggie to quickly reheat over the fire.
- Use only fire-proof cooking supplies. Don’t bring your plastic spatula to cook with while camping — you’ll end up with a melted spatula and possibly some plastic in your food.
- Soak skewers before cooking. By allowing your skewers about 20 minutes to soak in water prior to cooking, you’ll save them from burning over the fire.
- Post-cooking, fill pot or pan with water and keep over the fire. This will make clean-up so much easier — once everyone has dished up and the pot or pan is empty, fill it with water and keep it hot so that all you have to do is rinse post-meal.
- Buy block ice instead of cubed. Block ice lasts longer, thus keeping your food cool longer.
You’ve got all the info you need to start your work towards mastering camp cooking, so find your first recipe to try, and get cooking!
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.