Campfire Cooking: Choosing Meals for Camping

If you are going camping, a common problem is figuring out a menu for your trip. Knowing how and where you will be camping can help narrow this down, and then you have plenty of options to choose from.

The first thing you need to know is “How am I getting to my camp site,” to decide what to take. If you are hiking, canoeing, or biking, you should look into lighter things. If you plan to hike for several days, your hand is nearly forced, and you will probably be relying on dehydrated foods like rice, pasta, and freeze dried meals to keep you going. It is okay to bring some fresh food, but eat it early because the weight of fresh food is killer when hiking or biking. Consider variations on pasta with dehydrated sauces, crackers, or rice and beans. You can soak dry beans in a water bottle during a day hike and they will be ready in about 12 hours.

If you are only walking into a place to stay for a night, and the walk is less than 2 miles, you can probably take in a cooler with all that you need in fresh food, and bring a box of dry/non-refrigerated stuff to supplement it. This typically looks like some meat, milk, and eggs in a cooler with ice, and a box with breads, oatmeal, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate in it.

Once you are looking at dry or fresh goods, the next step depends on fire regulations. If you are going someplace that allows fires, check ahead of time to make sure they aren’t in drought conditions. If they are, bring a camp stove and expect to be prohibited from lighting fires. If not, then I recommend cooking on a camp fire. It is quick, has less cleanup, and has a real authentic feel to it. Most meats can be skewered and cooked, but when in doubt, always bring aluminum foil. You can cook anything in aluminum foil by making it into a makeshift pot or by just wrapping your food in the foil and tossing it onto the coals. One warning, un-cracked eggs will explode if just wrapped and tossed in, so poke a hole in them to let out the pressure. One favorite of mine is the tinfoil stew, made by chopping meat, veggies, and a bit of salt into a square of foil. Seal it with another square of foil, and toss it on the coals for an hour. That is one very easy option.

Of course, you can bring a metal grill with you to put over the fire and you can cook on that as well. Cast iron makes good camping cookware due to easy cleanup and durability. Whatever you plan, remember to let the fire burn down to hot coals before you start, or you will have charred meat that is still raw inside.

Camp cooking is a lot of fun. Remember that anything you can grill over propane can be made nearly as simply over a real fire, and you are in business. Dehydrated foods are available at any camping store if that is your only option as well. With good planning, camp food can be as good or better than the stuff you make at home, and more fun to make, too.