Some people say cooking is all about getting good ingredients and adding heat. Campfire cooking is no exception. As hunters and fishermen we have access to the freshest fish and game available, so what about applying heat? At home and in your kitchen you can sauté, fry, broil, bake, braise, sear, steam, smoke, grill, bbq, rotisserie, etc… but what about when you aren’t home. What about when you are roughing it. Sure, you can bring a camp stove, but don’t forget about the hottest thing in your campsite. The campfire! Cooking over your own campfire can be intimidating but we put together these tips to educate and inspire you to try campfire cooking.
1. Bring the right tools
You don’t have to go crazy buying gear to cook on a campfire, in fact you can get away with just foil. You can place foil packs right on the coals to “bake” potatoes. Similarly you can build up a foil pack with root vegetables, protein, aromatic vegetables, and liquid (like wine). In addition to foil you may want to bring long tongs and long leather gloves to assist in placing and retrieving your foil packs. But a few other tools will open up even more possibilities.
- Foil for foil packs
- Gloves and long tongs to keep your fingers free of scorch marks.
- Bringing a grate will allow you to grill or char foods (think hot dogs, hamburger, steak, chicken, fish, vegetables).
- A dutch oven can go on the coals directly or on the grate and you can use any dutch oven recipe you can think of
- Cast iron skillets and pots are perfect on the grate for pancakes, eggs, bacon, pasta, stew, or anything you can think of.
- Skewers will let the kids get in on the action. They can cook their hot dogs and then later their s’mores!
Obviously what you bring will depend on how much you can cary, so car campers will have the obvious advantage here. But in addition to the gear remember plenty of olive oil (great for high heat cooking), salt, pepper, and other seasonings.
2. Chose the right technique
Sometimes you can cook right on the coals and sometimes you need to use a grate. Dutch ovens and foil pouches will allow you to cook on the extremely hot coals because they are well insulated and protect the food. If you want to grill food and get a nice char mark, use the grate. Their are a few exceptions, for example you can cook corn on the coals directly. Soak it in water for 30 minutes and place it directly on the coals. The husk will protect the corn from burning and it will come out hot and delicious. A steak is another option for cooking on the coals. It will form a crust on the outside while the inside gets up to temp. But this is a somewhat more advanced technique, you might need a bit of trial and error. Besides cooking directly on the coals or on a grate you can also use skewers, as mentioned above it is perfect for hotdogs, marshmallows, even trout, and the kids can participate.
3. Manage the temperature
The best way to manage the temperature is to cook over white hot coals, and ONLY white hot coals. A flaming log will provide inconsistent heat and far too much soot to effectively cook anything. Most people elect to segment one side of the fire pit for the traditional campfire and move the coals to the other side for campfire cooking. You can control the amount of heat by adjusting the amount of coals.
The key to campfire safety is clearance. Campfire cooking is great but only if you don’t burn the forest down! Keep 8 feet of clearance around the pit and don’t forget to look up! Any branches directly above the fire are at risk of catching a spark. Also, keep water, dirt, and a shovel nearby in case you need to tame any errant flames. Lastly, never leave the campfire unattended.
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