In this age of technology and convenience one of my favorite activities camping, isn’t something that you hear much about. Maybe I’m just not talking to the right people! 😉 In any case, many of my most prized childhood memories are of camping trips with my parents and brothers and sisters. And, no surprise here, many of those memories center around food. What is it about cooking and eating out of doors that makes food taste so much better than at home? Is it the fresh air? The smell of a wood fire? I don’t know the answers; I just know it’s true! That’s why anytime I get the opportunity to cook over a campfire, whether on a camping vacation or in the backyard over a fire pit, I jump at the opportunity. Cooking over a campfire is not only fun and nostalgic, but with a little planning and the right tools, campfire cooking is also as easy as hobo pie.
For the optimal campfire-cooking experience, 3 elements are necessities: a good fire, proper cookware and tools, and delicious foods that cook well over the fire.
The Campfire -- To build a campfire that burns for hours and makes great coals, you need three types of fuel: tinder, kindling, and firewood.
Tinder is any dry material that ignites easily with only a spark. I am a big fan of store-bought or homemade fire starters, but dry grass and leaves can work too.
Kindling consists of small sticks or twigs, usually less than 1 inch in diameter, that keep the flames going after the tinder burns out.
Firewood is any larger piece of wood that feeds the fire.
There are several ways to build a fire. The Teepee Method and the Log Cabin Method are 2 tried and true ways to start a good campfire for cooking. Instructions and “how-to” videos are easily found online.
- The Cookware & Tools -- Cast iron is my absolute favorite at home and camping.
An iron skillet (or 2), and a cast iron dutch oven make cooking over the fire easy. Among other attributes, seasoned cast iron cookware is basically non-stick and super easy to clean.
Heavy duty aluminum foil is probably my second favorite “cookware” for campfire cooking. Foil packets on a grill grate or sometimes directly in the coals are a great way to cook many foods.
Long-handled spoon and spatula help avoid burns.
Fire gloves or mitts also help avoid burns.
- The Food -- If you think campfire cooking is limited to hot dogs and s’mores, you are wrong! I have even baked bread over a fire. While some foods may be easier than others, really any food can be made on the fire. Plan and choose what to cook wisely, and you will be happy with the results.
Prepare as many things at home as possible. For example, if you intend to make individual pizzas in pie irons (a fun way to cook on the campfire), chop the veggies and other toppings ahead of time. Buttered white bread or canned biscuit dough, Bellisari’s Calabrian Pepper & Sweet Tomato Fennel Spread, shredded mozzarella, and your favorite pizza toppings is all you need to make individual “hobo pie” pizzas that everyone can make to their taste. You don’t have to have pie irons. You could cook this in a skillet too.
As long as it’s easily transported in a cooler, anything you would cook on your grill at home can be cooked on a campfire grill grate. Steak, chicken, fish -- these proteins all work great.
Don’t forget dessert! S’mores are a camping favorite, but there are tons of other options. Buttered bread or canned biscuit dough and canned pie filling make an amazing fruit pie over the fire.
Bring gourmet flavors along to infuse big flavor into your campfire dishes with Bellisari’s spreads and sauces. Many of our recipes could be easily adapted to cook over the fire.
Don’t let me discourage you from roasting hot dogs too. Sharpen some green branches, and let everyone cook their own. Set up a toppings bar on the picnic table, and let everyone build their own too. Sometimes nothing tastes better than a roasted wiener on the campsite!