Fire is one of the oldest cooking tools known to man. So, it’s no surprise that chefs around the globe have started embracing live-fire cooking for the smoky flavours it achieves. Why, then, is every day campfire cooking so often limited to hot dogs and hamburgers?
Eating well in the great outdoors doesn’t have to be difficult (or under-seasoned!). Follow these tips and you’ll be dining al fresco fireside in no time.
Any good camper knows that an enjoyable trip in the great outdoors requires some prep work to succeed: packing layers, knowing how to set-up the tent, reviewing your directions. The same approach should be taken with food, especially if you’re looking to elevate your food game while you’re off the grid.
Get any messy home cooking prep work completed beforehand. Marinate your meat, precook any grains like rice or quinoa, premix pancake batter and salad dressings, chop vegetables; make sure everything is portioned and sealed in airtight containers.
Your cooler is an essential weekend tool, and you’ll want to make sure you’re using it effectively and efficiently. Since coolers are in storage much of the year, it needs to be properly washed well in advance. Make sure you put your ice in sealed bags, to prevent overflow and leakage. Save space by packing food items in soft-sided Ziploc bags instead of containers. Go over what does and doesn’t need to be in the cooler. Consider having one cooler for food and one for drinks, for organizational purposes.
Keep your tools close
One of the joys of home cooking is that you have access to a whole plethora of cooking tools. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to bring your kitchen outdoors, so you’ll have to be selective: make a list based on the recipes you’ll be preparing and try to only bring what you absolutely need. Cut down on extras by streamlining some of your processes. Absolutely need that caffeine kick? Try using a pour over coffee method instead of a bulky French press.
Some other suggested tools: a long lighter, tongs, spatula, a headlamp, a chef’s knife (safely packed), and scissors.
Play with fire
Your campfire is your greatest tool of all. Since you’ll likely be using it for warmth and food prep, you’ll need to go big—like entire fire pit size big. Bring some newspaper with you to the site, to help balance alongside the logs, sticks, and twigs. Add some charcoal for a smoky flavour. Whether you’re grilling, roasting, or baking—make sure the fire is nice and hot before you start cooking.
Most importantly—make sure you have a plan B. You don’t want to be left in the cold (literally) should you not find dry firewood in the wild.
Elevate your ingredients
Now for the important part: the food. When you’re camping, snacks are just as important as the full meal. Consider packing easy to set up and eat items such as hard cheeses and cured meats, nuts, and fruit. Chips are a classic, but consider stocking up on different varieties, or add interesting dips for extra flavour.
When it comes to the meals themselves, choose easily grill-able proteins, seasonal vegetables, grain salads (no soggy lettuce here), and desserts that can be made in a big batch or pan.
Here are a few camping meal ideas to get you started:
- Simple herby, grain salad.
- Hangar steak and dill potato salad.
- Fish and vegetables wrapped in foil.
- Campfire shakshuka.
- Mushroom leek frittata.
- Buckwheat pancakes and bacon.
- Skillet peach blueberry cobbler.
- Grilled corn salad or campfire cornbread.
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