There’s nothing better than the magic of a campfire on a cool night — the crackling of the wood, the familiar woodsy smell, and the opportunity for some campfire cooking! Whether it’s perfecting your method or bringing the right gear, planning and thinking ahead matters when it comes to depending on your own fire building and skills to cook over an open fire with unrelenting high temperatures…
Here are 5 tips for a successful campfire cookout!
1. Use Good Leather Gloves When Handling your Hot Pot/Pan
Cooking over a campfire should always be done carefully and safely! Not only is the campfire hot, but this heat transfers to your pan and its handle. To avoid the potential for burns or a piece of fabric accidentally dipping into the flame, we recommend bringing a pair of good leather gloves to use as potholders. Not only do they insulate you from the heat of the pot, they don’t slip off like a traditional pot holder.
2. Use a Heat Diffuser or Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil Under Your Pan
Whether you’re cooking camping meals over small flames or smoldering coals, there’s a lot of heat coming from your fire and it’s important to protect your precious food from getting scorched. This is especially important when it comes to preparing pan-cooked dishes such as scrambled eggs (our Diner Deluxe Egg Scramble and Tex-Mex Breakfast Tacos) and Skillet Biscuits & Sausage Gravy.
We highly recommend adding a layer of protection between the fire and your pan by using a heat diffuser. The perforations on the diffuser work to distribute the intensity of the heat directly hitting the bottom of the pan, allowing you to cook or bake evenly and safely! The extendable handle also provides extra protection for you when moving your cookpot on and off the fire.
Seeking a more compact option? Use aluminum foil! Fold heavy-duty aluminum foil into a square that’s about the size of the base of your pot and poke small holes throughout it. Make sure any lumps or bumps are flattened in order to keep your pot or pan sitting as level as possible.
3. Use a Grill Grate
Some campsites will have a grill with a detachable grate on-site. Whether we relocate this grill to the campfire or bring our own portable grill (we love the Grilliput!), they work wonderfully to (a) get some distance between the coals and your pot/pan, (b) provide a steady, safe surface to cook on, and (c) provide a grilling surface for cooking fresh foods. If using the grill to cook fresh foods, we recommend scrubbing the grill prior to use as best as you can, and slathering it with oil to ensure your food doesn’t stick and burn. (You can find our individually packaged oils here!)
4. Build a Rock Oven
This may not be your method of choice if your campsite is a quick stopover, but if you’re spending a few nights in one location, we recommend using the rocks in the campsite area to build an “oven” over your firepit. (Please follow ‘leave no trace’ rules and do not remove rocks from beyond the camping area.)
Build or rearrange an existing fire pit so that it will support a “rock bridge” over your campfire, allowing the heat from the coals to warm the rocks over it. Then, create another bridge on top of that one, leaving enough room to slide in what you’re cooking. Lastly, close in the back of this top opening to close off one end of your oven and help retain the heat.
Ovens are a fantastic way to bake our Skillet Biscuits, Skillet Bread, or cook a campfire Margherita Pizza! Additionally, the very top surface of the rock will warm as well creating a fantastic warming tray.
5. Bring Kitchen Shears Instead of a Knife
Rather than packing a knife and chopping block, go for a quality pair of kitchen shears! They’re great for cutting that oven-cooked Pizza Margherita into manageable pieces, or cutting pieces of dried sausages to toss into your Big Easy Gumbo! Once you get the hang of using scissors on food, you’ll never go back!
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST … it’s important to follow the below rules in order to have a campfire safely with minimal impact on the environment:
- Ensure there is no burn ban in place for your location and there is sufficient wood available, so it’s removal will not be noticeable.
- When gathering wood, use dead, down and/or driftwood. Avoid cutting or breaking branches from standing trees.
- Keep the fire small and burning only for the time you are using it. Do not leave a fire unattended.
- Allow wood to burn completely to ash and put out your fire with water, not dirt. Dirt may not completely extinguish the fire.
- Pack out any campfire litter. Plastic items and foil-lined wrappers should never be burned in a camp fire.
For more tips on how to Leave No Trace while campfire cooking, read their article on minimizing your impact here!