There’s something primal about cooking your meals over an open fire, especially when you’re spending time out in the wilderness. It’s a lot different from preparing food in your kitchen.
You don’t have access to easily regulated heat or a spice cabinet full of flavorful additions when you’re out in the wild. If camping is on your agenda this summer, here are eight ways to improve your campfire meals.
1. Bring a Cast Iron Skillet
It might seem incredibly heavy if you’re hiking, but hear us out. A cast-iron skillet is your best campfire cooking tool.
It holds heat incredibly well and can easily withstand even direct flame. Lightweight camp cookware, on the contrary, can be ruined if it gets too hot.
Cast iron is also easy to care for, and you don’t have to worry about packing a bottle of dish soap.
2. Pack Your Essential Spices
Even if you’re planning to hunt, fish or forage for your meals, no one wants to eat a plain and unseasoned dish. When you’re packing for your campfire meal, make sure you bring along some of your favorite spices.
The exact ones you choose will depend on your tastes, but we’d recommend some of the classics like garlic, rosemary, thyme and anything else that tickles your tastebuds.
3. Opt for Olive Oil
When it comes to cooking oil, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from — and that’s assuming you don’t just want to haul a few soon-to-be melted sticks of butter in your pack. Our favorite choice for improving your campfire cooking is olive oil.
It’s got a relatively high smoke point, making it good for everything from pan-frying to deep-frying. Plus, it adds all sorts of flavor your food, and it’s healthier than many of the other options you might choose to bring along.
4. Build a Better Campfire
Your campfire meals are only as good as the fire you cook them on. It’s vital to know how to build the perfect blaze.
The basics are simple — choose a safe location, start with tinder and kindling, and then add firewood once your flame starts growing. Ideally, you’ll want to bring kiln-dried firewood with you.
It has a moisture content of less than 15%. The sticks and logs you find in the woods can have a moisture content of up to 100%, which doesn’t make for good fires.
5. Bring a Couple of Lemons
Lemons and other citrus fruit are a great way to add flavor to your food when you’re out camping. They don’t require refrigeration and can stand up to being stuffed in your pack for a while.
In fact, letting them get squished a little makes it easier to get the juice out. If you’re planning on fishing for your dinner, lemon is a must!
6. Don’t Forget Your Silverware
While it might be totally acceptable to eat your dinner with your fingers out in the wilderness, it doesn’t mean you need to enjoy your campfire meal like a barbarian. Don’t forget your silverware.
It doesn’t take up much room and will make eating much easier. All you need is one fork, one spoon and one knife — and yes, your filet knife or hunting knife can double as the one you’ll use to eat your favorite campfire meal.
7. When In Doubt, Foil It Up
If you don’t want to bring a cast-iron skillet or other pans on your camping trip, make sure you pack some aluminum foil.
You can wrap an entire meal — protein, starch and vegetables — in a foil packet and toss it right on the coals. Give it 15 or 20 minutes, and you’ll have a super-tasty meal ready to eat.
8. Don’t Forget the Salt
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important tip: Don’t forget the salt!
You can add all sorts of spices to your meal, but if you don’t have enough salt to bring out the flavor, it will taste bland. It might seem like some extra weight you don’t need to carry, but if you want delicious campfire meals, it’s worth bringing some salt to add to your cooking.
Enjoy Your Campfire Meals
When you’re heading out into the wilderness, you need plenty of nutrient-packed food to keep you moving. There’s nothing in the rules stating that your campfire meals need to be bland and boring.
Mix it up, bring the right cooking equipment and above all, build yourself a good campfire. You need constant heat to cook a good meal — and you won’t get that from a blaze that’s fading away or going out every few minutes.
All that’s left to do now is enjoy that delicious, wood-fired food. Just don’t forget your silverware — but even if you do, we won’t judge.