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Camp Cooking Tips

When done well, few meals taste better or satisfy more than those cooked at camp. Something about cooking the old fashioned way makes the entire experience – from food preparation to savouring your last bite – special. A real drawback, however, is that cooking at camp requires more time, patience, and ingenuity than kitchen cooking. Use the pointers below to help make cooking in the outdoors less daunting, and more fun.

Cooking Supplies


Regardless of what you specifically plan to cook on your next camping trip, there are a few food preparation staples that you shouldn’t forget. First and foremost is a box of matches. Most prefer to do their campsite cooking over an open fire, so you’d be out of luck without a way to start one. As for dishes, the true necessities are a medium to large lightweight pot, a pan of similar size, aluminium foil, and a portable grate that can be placed over a fire pit. This combination of cooking equipment can be used to prepare just about anything from bacon and eggs to beans and pasta. Lastly, don’t forget your spatula and tongs – pulling food off a fire bare-handed is far from pleasant.


Cooking Methods

Over the centuries, outdoor adventurers have come up with a number of ways to cook meals using a campfire. Of course, some are more complicated than others. Most camping trips, for instance, probably won’t require you to make a spit for roasting (unless you’re feeling a little overzealous).


The most basic form of campfire cooking is to use direct heat. The old boy scouts’ trick, is to wrap food items individually in aluminium foil and place them in hot coals. It requires frequent checking, but is very effective for foods that require high heat. We mostly use this method for cooking things like vegetables, particularly root vegetables.


The coals are very, very hot, so you will need to protect the food a bit more by giving it a double wrap in heavy-duty aluminium foil. Or if it’s something like corn, cook it in the husk and it will be protected from the high heat. With foil dinners, it’s a good idea to layer the food in such a way as to prevent it from burning. I’ve seen campers say they line the bottom of the packet with cabbage leaves or thick slices of onion, then layer root vegetables, protein (meat, chicken, fish, etc.) with aromatics (herbs, leeks, garlic, etc.) on top and a bit of liquid (stock, wine, water) to keep it from drying out. Cut the vegetables in smaller pieces because they will cook more quickly and the meat in larger pieces so they take a bit longer and will be done at the same time as the vegetables.


You can leave potatoes whole or cut them in half. Whole potatoes and other vegetables take a bit longer to cook than those that have been cut in half, sliced, or diced. For whole potatoes, rub them with a little bit of oil and prick a few times with a knife or fork. Then wrap them up!


When you wrap the food in foil, place it in the centre and seal it tightly by bringing the edges together in the centre and rolling or folding tightly. Don’t forget to create some handles on the sides. The food will be very hot and it’s much easier to grab the handles and there’s less of a chance of tearing open the foil packet and getting ash on the food inside.


Place the food directly on the coals and use a long-handled metal spoon or shovel to bring some of the coals up and around the foil packets.


Another method is simply to place a grate over an open fire and grill your food like you would in the backyard. The heat from this source is less direct, so it will likely take a little longer to cook.


For soups, stews, and pastas, you’ll need the aforementioned pots and pans in the supplies list. To cook them, just build the fire, let it die down to hot coals, and place the pot or pan over them. Managing the hot coal amount and concentration is the key to this technique, as heat can become inconsistent pretty quickly. The good news is that once you have that down, camp cooking is just about as easy as using a kitchen stove.


If you add too much salt to a recipe, add a peeled potato to the dish and finish cooking. The potato will absorb the excess salt.

On your last day of camp, use your leftover meats and vegetables to make omelets for breakfast. You can use almost any ingredient in omelets. Then you don’t have to take the leftovers home with you.


Pre-chop ingredients such as onion, peppers etc at home. Pack in zip-lock bags. Pre-cook select meats and freeze for quick meal preparation. Pack food items in separate zip-lock bags. Saves space. Easy to pack. Re-sealable. Can use for rubbish container when empty.

 

Cook on or over coals (either wood or charcoal). Coals provide a more steady, even heat without the smoke. Avoid burning your food and avoid undercooked food in the middle.


To save room when packing your camp kitchen, use your pots as mixing bowls.


When barbecuing chicken, grill the chicken without the sauce until it is halfway cooked, then coat with sauce. The sauce won’t burn onto the chicken and your meal will be more flavourful.


To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet or pan, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan and bring to a boil.