Campfire cooking is easy yet for most of us the thought of being away from our kitchen, take out and fast food makes us anxious and it shouldn’t. Here are 5 handy tips to follow when roughing it.
Build the right fire
First things first: Never start a fire until you are sure you are building it in a safe place. If you don’t have a fire pit, look for a spot that’s free of loose dirt, grass, and debris within a 10-foot perimeter of your site.
If you’re looking to cook over a fire that will later be used for entertainment purposes (i.e., singing campfire songs, telling ghost stories), the traditional teepee method is recommended. Place the tinder in the middle of your designated fire zone and build a teepee of larger sticks around it. As the fire burns, continue to add bigger logs; carefully position them so that they angle toward the flames to avoid smothering the fire. Add one log at a time, allowing it to burn a bit before adding another; this way, you’ll avoid creating a fire that suddenly becomes unmanageable.
Have the right gear
Obviously plastic can melt, so using metal utensils is crucial. We recommend skipping pots and pans with rubber handles, instead go with an aluminum pot lifter. Your best bet is to go with utensils that are specifically made for the outdoors.
Pick your cooking method
There are many ways to cook over a campfire, depending on your food choice. There is the good old fashioned skewer cooking, if you are planning to cook hotdogs or roast some marshmallows. Want to bbq? Swing a campfire friendly metal grill grate over the flames. Or use a Dutch oven. They are usually made of seasoned cast iron, however some Dutch ovens are instead made of cast aluminium, or are ceramic. Dutch ovens have been used as cooking vessels for hundreds of years, they give you about as much flexibility as cooking in the kitchen at home.
Know what not to cook
Foods that can create hot, drippy fat as they cook—duck breast, steak, bacon—may cause flare-ups and should be avoided, even if you’re cooking them in a pan. If possible, forgo foods that need to be fried or call for any type of oil. If you must fry around the campfire, try using a Dutch oven, which offers more reliable heat than a frying pan with added protection from splatters.
Know the “danger zone”
Pulling raw meat or poultry out of your fridge for your outing? Make sure you keep the food well packed in ice leading up to grill time: Bacteria can grow dangerously on food that warms to between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions that create a breeding ground for food-borne pathogens. Be sure to pack up leftovers promptly, too: Food should never sit out for more than two hours—or one hour, if the outdoor temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.