I’ve talked coolers, campfires and here we are, to the meat & potatoes: the cooking. While s’mores and hot dogs may be the iconic vision of camp cooking, there’s so much more you can cook over an open fire. With a few tools & ingredients, you can create a much healthier dish for the table. From veggies to pizza, you can make magic… or at least, a multi-course meal, with the help of your campfire. For this post, I’m going to share a few cooking tips and meals we’ve gathered along our way.
As a reminder, I have found that regardless of what you put on the table, there’s something deeply satisfying about a camp meal. Tom Waits takes this factoid to another level when he sings, “When you’re down on your luck and you’ve lost all your dreams, there’s nothing like a campfire and a can of beans.”
See?, the power of a camp cooking! There are a handful of staples which do the heavy lifting for a successful camp meal. With our van, we carry much more than “key” items, but I’m going to share what I believe are the “can’t live without”.
Keys to Camp Cooking
CAST IRON PAN. An 8″ cast iron pan is our go-to. We down-sized from a 10″ pan, and have found it just as satisfactory. Cast iron can tolerate the heat from a fire pit. It’s important to have a lid, not only will a lid keep heat in, but keeps flying ashes out.
ALUMINUM FOIL. Many dishes can be prepared within an aluminum foil pocket. Nothing beats fresh veggies steamed by having a little water sealed inside. Side note: keep the husk on corn and let it soak in water before wrapping in foil to cook. Aluminum foil handles so much more than cooking needs. We’ve used it for scrubbing crud from corroded connections, filling a gap between spring and battery (in your flashlight, for example,) or you can crumple a strip of foil to clean a grill – or your cast iron pan for that matter. Heck, I’ve even fashioned a funnel from aluminum foil. My tip: use “heavy duty” foil. I’ve also found it never hurts to double wrap – you can even wash it and reuse it!
OLIVE OIL. Judging by how fast we go through olive oil, it had to make this list. It tolerates high heat and is one of the healthier fats you can consume. Furthermore, it’s versatile in several cooking applications: salad dressing, marinades, and re-seasoning the cast iron pan. My tip: a couple teaspoons with garlic & salt make a yummy dip for fresh bread and a great mid-day snack.
SALT & PEPPER. I was almost going to say hot sauce, but a reality check made me see clearly. Hot sauce can do a lot to add flavor, but it’s good ole salt that really enhances the flavor of so many dishes. Pepper will be the substitute for “hot sauce”, at least for this post.
Some Side Notes
There are a few other essentials I like to have on hand, like zip lock baggies. Not only for left overs, but I like to chop my heartier veggies all at once and put them in a baggie, this way they fit better for storing and easily ready for the next meal or snack. Not to mention, baggies are great for tucking away dirty or wet dish towels. And, you may have noticed that large pot in many of the images? That’s always filled with water and sits on the fire. The hot water is used for cleaning dishes and washing hands & faces.
Here are some of our camp-side creations:
Full disclosure, not all required a campfire.