Whether it’s toasted marshmallows, pancakes cooked on a griddle, or just a bubbling pot of chili, there’s something about camping that makes food taste better. Certainly advances in technology have made the job of the camp chef easier: camp stoves ranging from backpacking units that weigh a few ounces to multi-burner, utensil sets, grill baskets and collapsible tea kettles.
But you don’t have to invest in an entire outdoor kitchen to enjoy delicious meals by the campfire. With some planning and ingenuity, you’ll be able to prepare gourmet fare using the fire and a few innovative techniques.
Being prepared saves steps, a lot of time, and clean up. Not to mention that there’s nothing worse than finding yourself in a remote area without the ingredients or equipment you need. Here are a few things you should have on hand or can do in advance to make camp cooking easier.
Bring the basics--knife, spatula, tongs, gloves for handling hot items, a long fork and spoon, and basic spices set the stage for a meal.
Use cast iron--a dutch oven made of cast iron can be used for all sorts of cooking, heats evenly, maintains heat to keep food warm, and cleans easily.
Try heavy duty tinfoil--there are a number of foods that can be prepared by wrapping them in tinfoils and burying them in the embers.
Premix ingredients--Bakers can premix dry ingredients and put them in resealable bags or tupperware. Or make life even easier and premix dough or batter. Kept on ice, you can pour pancake batter right out of a bottle onto the hot skillet.
Make meals at home and freeze them--stews, soups, and chilis are excellent choices for this method. Make a batch at home and freeze it in tupperware. When you’re ready to make an amazing campside meal, just pop it from the cooler, pour it into your cast iron pot and watch it heat to bubbling.
Steal a grill grate from your back porch--a grill grate and some bricks gives you a great surface for cooking meats and also makes it easier to control heat levels when cooking in pans.
Know your fires--a good cooking fire should be embers. Build a big fire and let it burn down to hot, glowing coals. Set your bricks up, place your grill grate on top, and your ready to cook.
Amazing Meals, Unusual Techniques
Here are some great camp meals prepared in ways you might not have thought of, but will impress your campers while keeping your life simple.
Barbecued ribs--Rub premix spices onto a rack of ribs tentside. Wrap the meat in heavy duty tinfoil and bury it in the embers until they’re tender. Unwrap them and give them a crisp on the grill, followed by a slathering of your favorite sauce, and you have a great holiday camping meal. Accompany this with dutch oven cornbread, baked beans, and a salad you mixed at home. Wow!
Smoky chorizo and butter bean hot pot tin can style--prepare this mean in advance and freeze in a large tin can (preferably with a lid). The can can be set on a grill or nestled in the coals for a great meal on those chillier nights. Try baking some bread in a box oven (see below) for a nice side to this one-dish meal.
Box oven fruit crisp--A box oven is easy to make, light to pack, and fun to use. All you need for this dessert that will wow friends is a premix of oats, flour, sugar, and spices, some butter, and your choice of fresh fruit. Children will be amazed at how this works.
Cast iron pizza-chill the beer and soda, it’s pizza time. Pre-made dough, sauce in tupperware, cheese, and your favorite toppings added to a heated cast iron pot equals pizza like you never thought you’d have it fireside.
Ramen in a jar--premix your favorite ramen ingredients, spices, and noodles in mason jars and seal. For a warm and wonderful campside lunch, boil some water, pour it in the jars and wait. This tops cold cuts on bread any day.