The fall is the PERFECT time for family camping trips and an even BETTER time to up your campfire cooking game!
I think we can all agree that a camping trips ISN'T really a camping trip without the camp fire. As the sun sets over the hill, the cool night air slowly creeps in, you're going to need the warmth, glow, and allure of the camp fire. People have been cooking over fires since...people have been roaming the lands.
There is A LOT more to cooking over a campfire than just a sausage on a stick. Follow me on this journey and information of how to become a PRO at campfire cooking.
Get the Right Type of Wood
There is almost NO end to the style of cooking you can manage over a campfire. Whether it's grilling, roasting, or even baking you can experience any kind of fine dining experience in the open woods.
If you want the best kind of food and the best campfire, you have to pick the right kind of wood. Most campsites sell firewood and you can pick up a cord while on your way; and then you're set. HOWEVER, if you are going to collect your own wood, look for dry and dead wood. This will be as close to properly seasoned wood as possible.
Dry wood burns more efficiently and gives off less smoke. A heavier smoke can create soot-caked food, and that is NO GOOD for anyone! Aim for hardwoods such as oak, cherry or apple wood. Soft woods, like pine or cedar, burn too quickly and don't give you a good bed of coals to cook over.
The key here is to stick to burning wood that you know the origin of. If you are not sure of the origin, dig a little deeper into the trees of the area. This will give you a better understanding of the terrain and the good woods to use.
Cook Over the Coals
Once you get the fire going, let it burn. Cooking on flames is a surefire (get it) way to char the outside of the food you are cooking and leave the middle raw. Cooking over a bed of coals gives you a more reliable and consistent heat.
If you want to keep your campfire burning for warmth and light during the night while cooking on the coals, prepare a secondary area to scrape hot coals to and use that as your cooking space. This will keep your fire burning while you can also get on with cooking. Doing this also give you the opportunity to replenish your coals without having to take a break from your cooking.
Safety First...or Third on This List- but ALWAYS First
Make sure you are following safety guidelines when lighting your campfire. Make sure to clear around the area to prevent the fire from spreading and always keep water near by, or sand, to put your fire out if needed.
When it comes to the cooking aspect, one grillionaire pro tip is to keep a spray bottle of water near by. This can be used to douse any flare-ups that can affect your cooking or your safety. Mostly, these flare-ups are caused by the fats or oils that are dripping into the fire. When coking fatty foods, any small flame and flare-up can quickly get out of hand.
Experiment With New Ways to Cook
S'mores and the hot dog skewer are an essential part of cooking over the campfire, but try a few different ways to cook over the open flame.
Grilling- Grilling over a campfire is just like grilling at home, except if you want to regulate the temps, you have to move the grill up and down.
Grillionaire Pro Tip- Bring a heat resistant glove with you to move the grill around carefully.
Rotisserie- We have all seen it in the movies where they make a rotisserie over the grill with a few sticks and the protein that they killed to survive. And to be honest, the movies aren't far off. All you need is two Y-shaped sticks to rest a spit on. Sharpen the bottom of those sticks so they can be dug securely into the ground. Make sure they are are enough away from the fire so that you don't burn them.
If you are going to make your own spit, make sure to strip and clean it free of any bark. It is best to use a green stick, if possible, because it is less likely to burn and drop your food into the fire.
Dutch Ovens- Dutch ovens can be used to make anything from a hearty wilderness stew, to slow cooking a shoulder of meat in spices. These cast iron pots are best suiting for recipes that call for longer cooking. These are favored by many survivalists who spend long days in camps.
You can even make bread or biscuits in the dutch oven! I know that is sparking some memories for many as they read this right now.
Last and MAYBE Top Tip is to Prep at Home
The more you prep at home, the more successful AND easier your campfire cooking will be. This can include pre-chopping some veggies, having your meat already marinating, or even making the entire pot of chili for reheating over the fire so it is that perfect flavor. The more you prep, the more successful you will be.
Now I am NO camping expert. To me, roughing it, is a motel instead of a hotel. However, cooking over an open flame is something I have studied and continue to perfect. It gives you a chance to make some amazing AND flavorful food; while spending time with your loved ones near the camp fire.
Until next time, make sure you eat well, do well, and serve good food!