6 Tips and Ideas for Easy Campfire Cooking
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There's nothing like easy camping meals when you're hungry and out in the fresh air! These practical campfire cooking tips and ideas will whet your appetite for a trip.
A good campfire meal is one of the best parts of camping! Check out our best camping recipes, then apply these practical tips and ideas for campfire cooking. You’ll be reaching for the tent in no time!
Before you hit the woods, take a look at our 3-day camping meal plan.
1. Get Your Supplies in Order
Before you learn how to cook over a campfire, you have to get your gear and gadgets together. Here is some of our go-to equipment:
- For those who aren’t into cooking over open flames, a camping grill is a great choice. Coleman’s gas camping stove has two adjustable burners and rear and side panels to keep splatters in and wind gusts out. Plus, it’s compact so it won’t take up too much room in your car or RV.
- Ensure the hot grill doesn’t melt or burn your table by picking up this camping table with a built-in grill rack. The wire rack slides in under the table for easy storage when not in use.
- Skip lugging around bulky pots and pans and go with Odoland’s 22 piece cookware mess kit instead. The set comes with a large hanging pot, skillet, kettle, storage bags and plates, cups, spoons and forks for four. Just make sure you stick to one-pot meals, or are planning on preparing other parts of your meal on the coals.
- Speaking of kits, don’t forget grilling tools! Gold Armour has a cooking utensil kit that comes with a pair of scissors, knife, ladle, spatula, tongs, paddle, cutting board and carrying case—everything you need to whip up a fireside meal.
- If you’re looking to cut down on your meal preparation time, canned foods are just the ticket. Whether you go with a complete meal, like canned soup and chili, or just a few ingredients, like canned veggies, beans or fruit, canned foods are helpful when your camping party needs something in their belly quickly. Plus, it’ll free up space in your jam-packed cooler.
New to camping? Here are some more cookware essentials for camping.
2. Cook With Foil Packets
Foil-packet meals are one of the best camping cooking hacks because they taste amazing and cleanup is a snap! Here are some simply delicious suggestions:
- Sausage Dinner for Six. “I coat the inside of a large foil cooking bag with nonstick cooking spray and add 1 pound of fully cooked smoked sausage (sliced), three to four chopped potatoes, a small cabbage cut into six wedges and 1/2 cup water. I seal the bag and cook on coals for 30 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Yum!” —Kelly Reed, Paragon, Indiana
- Banana Splits. “My grandmother took my brothers and me camping when I was little. She’d make these banana splits: Cut a whole unpeeled banana halfway through from end to end. Place marshmallows and pieces of chocolate bar in the slit. Wrap banana in the foil with the cut end up. Place in coals for 10 to 15 minutes until chocolate and marshmallows are melted. Open the foil carefully and scoop from the banana peel.” —Laura Miller, Highland, California
- Girl Scout Grub. “My troop members love making individual foil packs to cook over charcoal. Here’s how they do it: On a sheet of heavy-duty foil, place two cabbage leaves, a marinated chicken breast or hamburger patty, and thinly sliced potatoes, carrots and onions. Sprinkle on seasonings of your choice. Cooking time varies, but we test a packet after 25 minutes.” —Leslie Rhodes Burlington, North Carolina
3. Get Creative Around the Campfire
Improvising can lead to some memorable outdoor meals, as these reader ideas demonstrate:
- Singin’ Apples. “Place an apple on a cooking stick and roast over hot campfire coals until the apple peel splits and ‘sings’ (sizzles). Carefully peel away the skin (adults should help kids with this) and roll the apple in cinnamon-sugar.” —Carol Milligan, St. Clair Shores, Michigan
- Stacked Supper. “Put a pan of hot dogs in water over the fire. Use a second pan of baked beans as a lid. Top it with a metal pie plate. Pour a prepared Jiffy muffin mix into the pie plate. Cover with a 10-inch fry pan lid. It takes about 15 minutes for the muffin batter to bake, and by then, the hot dogs and beans are ready.” —Marge Austin, North Pole, Alaska (Find more campfire casseroles here.)
- Biscuits on a Stick. “Swirl a refrigerated biscuit on a 1-inch by 3-foot dowel. Cover the end of the stick with dough and, as you turn the stick, gently stretch dough 3 to 4 inches, overlapping the biscuit onto itself to seal edges. Turn as you cook until biscuit is golden brown and will easily slide off the stick. Fill the center with butter, jam, peanut butter or chocolate…or slide a cooked sausage link inside.” —Sandra Smith, Battle Creek, Michigan
4. Prepare for Rain
Despite weather reports of clear skies, rain is always a possibility while camping. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to cooking in the rain:
- Never bring your camping grill inside your tent. Not only does this risk starting your tent and other camping supplies on fire, but it can also give you carbon monoxide poisoning from the burning fuel.
- The best way to cook in the rain is to either wear a rain parka, or other weather-proof clothing, or to set up a portable canopy over your grill. If using a portable canopy, make sure that all the sides are open, and that smoke isn’t gathering inside the canopy.
- For the days it’s really pouring out, it’s time to turn to dehydrated food. For most packs, all you need to do is add some boiling water (which is much easier to prepare in the rain than a full meal) and wait a few minutes for a warm, flavorful and easy meal that’ll keep you out of the rain. Stock up on our favorite dehydrated camping foods.
- Always store fire-starting items like matches and lighters in an airtight bag or container.
5. Revamp a Classic Recipe
Try out these twists on an old favorite…
- Cookie S’mores. “Instead of packing graham crackers and chocolate bars for s’mores, we use fudge-striped cookies. Just slide a roasted marshmallow onto the bottom of one cookie and top it with another cookie.” —Shelly Leingang, Mandan, North Dakota
- Lots of Chocolate. “Substitute chocolate-covered grahams in place of the plain graham crackers and chocolate bar. It’s easier and less messy.” —Martha Collins, Nelson, New Hampshire
- Peanut Butter Twist. “For a different twist on flavor, use peanut butter cups instead of chocolate bars when you’re making s’mores.” —Amy Lester, Dimondale, Michigan
6. Try a Pie Iron
Pie irons are versatile and fun to use. These hinged, double-sided cast-iron cookers with long handles are set on coals to produce handheld treats known as “hobo pies” or “pudgy pies.” Kids need adult supervision when using pie irons—and everyone should be careful to let the hot fillings cool a bit before eating the “pie.” These reader versions are sure to please:
- Pudgy Pie Meal. “My family used to camp well into the fall. When chilly weather set in, we’d make hot sandwich pudgy pies. Between two slices of buttered bread (buttered side against the pie iron), we’d layer ham, turkey or corned beef strips, cheese and sliced veggies such as onions, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes.” —Mikaela Vogelzang, Fitchburg, Wisconsin (This Reuben Pudgy Pie is also a tasty option.)
- Let’s Toast. “For great-tasting French toast, we dip bread in egg batter and cinnamon and then cook it in a sprayed pie iron. Coating the inside of the iron with nonstick cooking spray makes the food release easily.” —Heather Barnette, Lapeer, Michigan
- Wake-Up Call. “We make breakfast sandwiches in our hobo pan by placing precooked sausage and scrambled eggs between two pieces of bread. The iron is also great for cooking a side of hash browns.” —Jeanne Williams, Mays Landing, New Jersey
- Tasty Tacos. “Round pie irons cook up perfect taco pudgy pies. Fill small tortillas with 2 tablespoons each of prepared taco meat, refried beans and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. Add jalapeno peppers if desired. Trim off any excess tortilla with a knife after closing the iron.” —Lisa Heffington, Greenville, Wisconsin