When done well, few meals taste better or satisfy more than those cooked at camp. Something about cooking the old fashioned way makes the entire experience – from food preparation to savoring your last bite – special. A real drawback, however, is that cooking at camp requires more time, patience, and ingenuity than kitchen cooking. Use the pointers below to help make cooking in the outdoors less daunting, and more fun.
Regardless of what you specifically plan to cook on your next camping trip, there are a few food preparation staples that you shouldn’t forget. First and foremost is a box of matches and some lighter fluid. Most prefer to do their campsite cooking over an open fire, so you’d be out of luck without a way to start one. As for dishes, the true necessities are a medium to large lightweight pot, a pan of similar size, aluminum foil, and a portable grate that can be placed over a fire pit. This combination of cooking equipment can be used to prepare just about anything from bacon and eggs to beans and pasta. Lastly, don’t forget your spatula and tongs – pulling food off a fire bare-handed is far from pleasant.
Over the centuries, outdoor adventurers have come up with a number of ways to cook meals using a campfire. Of course, some are more complicated than others. Most camping trips, for instance, probably won’t require you to make a spit for roasting (unless you’re feeling a little overzealous). Read on as we detail a few of the simplest, most effective camp cooking techniques.
The most basic form of campfire cooking is to use direct heat. There are essentially two ways to accomplish this. The first, an old boy scouts’ trick, is to wrap food items individually in aluminum foil and place them in hot coals. It requires frequent checking, but is very effective for foods that require high heat. The second, method is simply to place a grate over an open fire and grill your food like you would in the backyard. The heat from this source is less direct, so it will likely take a little longer to cook.
For soups, stews, and pastas, you’ll need the aforementioned pots and pans in the supplies list. To cook them, just build the fire, let it die down to hot coals, and place the pot or pan over them. Managing the hot coal amount and concentration is the key to this technique, as heat can become inconsistent pretty quickly. The good news is that once you have that down, camp cooking is just about as easy as using a kitchen stove.
Some More Tips
- Measure ingredients for each meal ahead of time and pack in ziplock bags. Label each bag accordingly.
- Prepare soups, stews or chili etc ahead of time. Freeze and keep in cooler. Reheat for a quick meal.
- Don’t forget the heavy duty aluminum foil. There are many uses for it at camp.
- Be very careful with gas canisters. Keep upright at all times. Keep outside in well ventilated area. Check for leakage by putting soap liquid on all connections. Turn off when not in use.
- Freeze meat before putting in cooler. Keeps other foods cold and will keep longer.
- Cover pots whenever cooking outdoor. Food will get done quicker and you will save on fuel. Also helps keep dirt and insects out of your food.
- For ease of clean up and to protect from smoke and fire damage, put liquid soap on outside of your pots and pans before putting over the fire.
- Block ice will last longer than cubed ice.
- All items in your cooler should be packed in watertight bags or containers.
- To avoid unwanted visits from animals, keep food stored away or hang above ground level.
- Apply oil on camp grill to keep foods from sticking.
- Cans of frozen juice keep other foods cold.
- Use convenience or instant foods for quick meals.
- Use fireproof cooking equipment. Keep handles away from extreme heat and flames.
- To keep matches dry – dip stick matches in wax and when needed, scrape off the tip of the match and light. Also keep matches in a waterproof container.
- Use ziplock bags to store foods like soup, sauces, chili etc. Freeze the bag and put in cooler. It helps keep other foods cold.
- To fix a cooler leak, apply melted paraffin wax inside and outside the leaky area.
- Put a pan of hot water on the fire while you eat so that it’ll be ready for cleanup when you are done.
- To keep soap clean at your campsite, put it in a sock and hang from a tree.
- Pita bread packs better and stays in better shape while camping than regular type breads.
- Bring energy boosting snacks such as GORP trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit, beef jerky etc. for in between meals.
- To cook hamburgers more evenly throughout, put a hole in the middle of your hamburger about the size of your finger, during grilling the hole will disappear but the center will be cooked the same as the edges.
- Fill gallon milk jugs or 2 liter soda bottles with water or juice and freeze. They keep the cooler cold and provide a cold beverage.
- To remove odors from your cooler, wipe with a water and baking soda solution.
- Use a separate cooler for drinks so not to open the food cooler too often.
- Replenish your ice often. Keep your food cold at all times to avoid food spoilage and food poisoning.
- To keep marshmallows from sticking together, add a little powdered sugar to the bag. Brand name marshmallows are less likely to stick together.
- When making egg sandwiches using english muffins or bagels, cook your eggs in a canning ring.
- Consider using a crockpot. Prepare and start your dinner in the morning before your activities. It’ll be ready to eat when you get back.
- If you add too much salt to a recipe, add a peeled potato to the dish and finish cooking. The potato will absorb the excess salt.
- On your last day of camp, use your leftover meats and vegetables to make omelets for breakfast. You can use almost any ingredient in omelets. Then you don’t have to take the leftovers home with you.
- Pre-chop ingredients such as onion, peppers etc at home. Pack in ziplock bags. Pre-cook select meats and freeze for quick meal preparation.
- Pack food items in separate ziplock bags. Saves space. Easy to pack. Resealable. Can use for trash container when empty.
- Instead of “stick” or “tub” butter or margarine, try “squeeze” margarine. This squeeze bottle is much easier and cleaner to use when in the woods. It is also great for cooler temperature. If it gets too hard, simply place the bottle in a pot of warm water for a few minutes.
- Cook on or over coals (either wood or charcoal). Coals provide a more steady, even heat without the smoke. Avoid burning your food and avoid undercooked food in the middle.
- To save room when packing your camp kitchen, use your pots as mixing bowls.
- Heavy duty aluminum foil bags take up little room and are great for mixing vegetables and meats together for easy cooking and easy clean-up.
- When barbecuing chicken, grill the chicken without the sauce until it is halfway cooked, then coat with sauce. The sauce won’t burn onto the chicken and your meal will be more flavorful.
- To get your charcoal pieces ready quicker, use a charcoal chimney.
- Disposable water bottles make great dispensers for salad dressings, oils and sauces.
- Add a few ice cubes to aluminum foil dinners or vegetables packets to prevent them from burning and to keep them moist.
- To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet or pan, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan and bring to a boil.
- Use an old large coffee pot to heat up water for cooking, doing the dishes or for hot beverages.
- Use a leather/suede work glove as an oven mitt.
- Check out our summary of various types of home-made Fire Starters.
- f you are truly into outdoor camping, invest in one of those airtight bag/sealing systems. Without air, bacteria doesn’t grow (as fast) and cold foods seem to keep better. Prepare individual servings in airtight bags so you only open what you need. For frozen items, individual servings defrost faster than large portions. Since the bags are reuseable, use them for your litter. They are also lighter than cans. Finally, the bags are thicker than other storage bags and will help cut down, if not eliminate, food odors. – Submitted by C. Berman
- Use two or four large coffee cans filled with water and covered with heavy duty aluminum foil as grill holders. As your meals cook, water heats up for dishes or cleanup. Store in their own plastic bags to keep soot from other items. Fold plastic bags inside for storage along with roll of T.P. and other small camping items such as dishcloth, soap etc. – Submitted by Penny Drozd
- Put a rope through the paper towel tube. Tie ends together. Loop over slat in picnic table or from a low limb – Submitted by Jo Ann Hlavac
50 Replies to “Camp Cooking Tips”
I always try to find cooking tips for my next camping adventure..
Imagine cooking tips. I am really surprised to read those basic tips. Those tips really make easy my daily task. Thank you again. Waiting for your next post.
I believe using a charcoal chimney is really a great idea. It helps to reduce smoke.
Very useful. Thank you
Nice and amazing tips . Thanks For Sharing
Really good list of useful tips. Ill be trying some of these on my next camping trip!
wow. This is really helpful for me. Thank you so much for sharing such great camp food tips.
I like this little trick: “Cans of frozen juice keep other foods cold ”
Thank you for sharing such useful information, keep on good work!
Thanks for sharing. I used some tips during my last camping trip
Great tips on camp cooking . I also write some posts about that on my blog. But your post is awesome and very well researched. Appreciate it
Thanks for sharing
This is a long list but it does help me some cooking tips when we are camping.
Great tips on camping cooking. Thank you so much for sharing.
I bought mine for $5 and now I use it at home when I have to prepare a meal last minute.
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Take a pressure cooker when camping. It cooks meals in 10-12 mins, uses a minimal amount of gas (only one element on the lowest level once boiling has been achieved), the pot doubles as mixing bowl. No need for lots of pots with this. Meals are sensational & quick which is particularly good after a big day out. Scout around some second-hand shops for one… I bought mine for $5 and now I use it at home when I have to prepare a meal last minute.
Hey! Good information there. I will definitely refer to this article when I take my daughters camping next year. A great meal outdoors can make one forget the homely comforts they are missing.
Hello my wife love your camping , really its a great fun or useful tips for cooking. Plz share more stuff with us. thanks
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Nice Cooking Tips
Excellent tips, I will go to camping next week and this post is a good resource for me. Thanks
OUR Scout troop is looking for ways to dispose of Cooking Oil and Used Grease while we are camping. Any suggestions on how to go about it. We could pour the oil in a container and bring it home what type of container would you suggest..or do you hae any better way.? Thanks
Besides the picnic table…what other surfaces can I put my camp stove on?
I am going to for a family camping next week & before that, I was looking for a camping cooking tips like this one. It will help me to enjoy my family camping & will save time. Thanks admin for this nice & informative writings.
Great idea about the pressure cooker. never thought of that.
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Really you save my lot of times. I read the whole article and it clear my some confusion. Each time when I go for a camping i am very much tensed about camp cooking. But reading your article hope my next camping will rocks.
Any tips on pre-making a casserole (like lasagna or king ranch) in a foil pan, freezing it and heating it up on a grill? I am thinking of doing this for a large group. Thanks.
this is the first time camping. I have invited my whole family. Son and fiance, daughter and boyfriend and me and my husband. I want to appear as though I have experience at camping/ cooking Help me.
Kymmie, I know your post was a year ago, but re. a lactose free hot breakfast, my favorites are instant oatmeal and grits. Both are easy. I’ll put the instant oatmeal in a baggie, add my own spices; cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar and also dried fruits like raisins, craisins, blueberries, etc. Then it’s easy to put into a bowl & just add hot water. As for the grits, I also pre-measure the grits & add the salt and put into a baggie, Then, just boil water, add, stir & voila – breakfast. Add toast & you’re good to go.
Also, got my first Dutch oven last year and it’s awesome! Don’t be intimidated – you won’t regret it. My first time I cooked a roast with vegetables and it turned out great. Used a liner, so as soon as we were done eating, I then made a peach cobbler in the same pot and oh man is that good! Add canned or frozen peaches (or any fruit) to the bottom, add a yellow cake mix that you’ve added the moisture to, bake and enjoy. Again, the Dutch oven liners make clean up extra easy.
Happy camping all!
I love this site, thanks for all of the great tips for camping!
I really loved these tips! I will definatley be using these 🙂
Reguarding camping and eatting meat; game included….duck, goose, squirrel, rabbit, etc. Cut meat into kabob size, soak in Teriyaki marinade, wrap in bacon and grill!!!! OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!
Hey all, Im going hiking and need some ideas. Im lactose intolerant and allergic to eggs so finding yummy hot breakfasts is a bit hard. I can have a tiny bit of milk or egg in like pancakes but not much! Help? Will be taking a jetboil with the main saucepan and a frypan. No cold food.?
Best stove is the Camp Chef stove, propane. I sold my old Colman stoves because they can’t get hot enough to cook a steak on cast iron ribbed skillet!
My friends and I are 11 (the outdoors boys)are going camping as soon as the blackberries bloom and are ready and I’m incharge of the cooking and food supplies and these are really good tips but could but foods on there like rice oatmeal beans the stuff u can add like rabbit or squeriels to caught on snare or any kind of meat would be very helpful.thank you
Instead of taking eggs in the carton, crack them at home and put into a hard sided re-usable water bottle (like a nalgene). Prevents eggs breaking and ending up all over your cooler. Shake the bottle to break up the yolks and pour straight into a hot pan for scrambled eggs. If you don’t shake it up, you can pour them out yolk by yolk for sunnyside up (takes a little practice).
Great for backpacking and car camping alike.
Camping can be fun, and it can be a chore. Trying to keep meats cold if all you have is an ice chest and nowhere around to replenish the ice. Plus dealing with a bunch of soggy bread and meats got to be too much.
I gave up and did some research and found some long term food storage companies that don’t add chemicals and the food is good for 25 years.
I liked it so much we started buying and selling it on a regular basis, for disaster preparedness and easier camping.
bravo..Its so nice and thanks for the information,it really helped me make up my mind to better side..thanks..it’s cool..
Another thing I forgot to mention is that we use a 10 quart stainless steel pressure cooker. It’s like having a micro wave along for speed cooking. We use it to cook dried beans, legumes, and other hard to cook items. We have used it for the past 7 years would never go camping without it.
I used to use a fire but now I really on my trusty 2 burner dual fuel Coleman stove. It never fails me. We use a cast iron griddle for omelettes, pancakes and grilling meats. The meals are incredible.
I love the creative side of camp cooking because you have limited resources and can still make incredible gourmet meals.
I have never tried the dutch oven, but it’s on our list of “must try”!
Take a pressure cooker when camping. It cooks meals in 10-12 mins, uses minimal amount of gas (only one element on lowest level once boiling has been achieved), the pot doubles as mixing bowl. No need for lots of pots with this. Meals are sensational & quick which is particularly good after a big day out. Scout around some second hand shops for one… I bought mine for $5 and now I use it at home when I have to prepare a meal last minute.
I’m looking for a tent that will accommodate 11 or 12 people for the lowest price available.
Repellent may be very useful. This indeed a useful information when going camping on certain places with unusual environment.
thanks for the post 🙂 nice tips
If you are camping during insect season, hang those personal ‘clip on’ mosquito repellent in your tent (ours fits 8 people), and it works wonders by keeping the mosquitos away!! The refills last 12 hours and it uses AAA batteries!!
Use an empty plastic jumbo liquid laundry soap jug to dispense “washwater” from the table, log, or rock. Fill with creek water and label “not for drinking”. The push button dispenser is great and the handle holds a towel.
Eat like a king with a dutch oven. Make pizza, lasagna, enchiladas–anything you’d bake in an oven. You’ll need tongs to handle the hot coals and a hammer or lid lifter. Five coals under and a lid full on top makes a 350 degree oven.
Freeze your own block ice in heavy duty ziplock freezer bags. Fill almost full, and freeze for a day or so in a chest freezer.
Always have a big heavy duty tarp and lashing cord handy. It doesn’t hurt to have a pole collection too. No need to wad and toss if it rains. Just rig up your roof and wait it out.
Fire danger high? No problem. Take a camp stove and a smokey joe bbq. Always have a bucket of water and shovel. The smokey joe will keep you warm after dinner and will not create sparks or ignite roots.
Bury your poo and toilet paper. Nobody wants to know what you did or where you did it! And don’t do it close to the creek.
Better yet take a porta potti.
Any good camping sites for Rio Grande Valley? please comment!!!