Camping has long been a couple and family favorite. Pitching a tent, starting a campfire, roasting marshmallows to make s’mores…what’s not to love! However, there is that one bit that might just be the downer of the trip if not managed well. Cooking. Cooking outdoors without a proper stove and kitchen equipment is definitely not something everyone can grasp at first try. More often than not you’ll end up with burnt food when you mismanage that aluminum wrapped corn or cast-iron pan filled with baked beans over an open fire. Not anymore, this guide will teach you all you need to know to whip up a sumptuous meal.
Types of Outdoor Cooking
When it comes to cooking outdoors, there are three options for doing so: backpacking cooking, campfire cooking, and camp stove cooking. Backpacking cooking as described in the name is essentially carrying around your entire kitchen in your backpack from a single burner portable stove to a water filtration system. You’ll be able to cook wherever and whenever with just that backpack of yours. Campfire cooking involves cooking over an open campfire which you’ll have to start with logs and firewood. Camp stove cooking, similar to backpacking cooking, is cooking over a multi-burner portable stove that is slightly chunkier and heavier as compared to the ones for backpacking cooking.
- Car Camping
Car camping is the preferred choice of camping for many. You simply set up your camping site near your parked car. This form of camping is the most luxurious and comfortable of all given that most of the time it is done at a proper campsite in a campground. With car camping, most people opt for camp stove cooking or campfire cooking. A mental note, not to pack your entire kitchen into the back of your car just because you have the luxury of a car and convenience. Keep things simple and only bring the essentials.
- Large Group Camping
Camping with larger groups means more fun, more laughter but also more cooking. You’ll need to prepare larger meal portions at any one time which means it’ll only leave you with two options: multi-burner camp stove or campfire. These options are not mutually exclusive in fact, you might find yourself using a combination of the two options.
Backpacking camping means that you’ll pack your entire “camping ground” into your backpack. Weight and size are critical when it boils down to your choice of outdoor cooking equipment. Small portable stoves that function on small bottles of butane or propane are sufficient to cook a meal. Simplicity is key when it comes to backpacking. Easy-to-cook meals and one-pot recipes are the go-tos for backpackers.
Best Practices for Safely Storing Your Food Outdoors
Being out in the wild means you are exposed to wildlife and lack the proper equipment to keep food chilled when necessary. Some tips and tricks listed below will help you navigate your way through this problem.
A high-quality cooler is imperative and possibly the only option available to keep your raw food chilled for a sustained period. To lengthen the shelf life of these foods, freezing them prior to the camping trip will help keep it cold for a longer period of time.
- Avoid Attracting Wildlife
Firstly, avoid storing any food in easily accessible backpacks or tents. Secondly, ensure that any form of food is stored in a vacuum storage bag or container. Lastly, do not leave garbage lying around because these are like a pot of gold for the wildlife to rummage through for bits and pieces of food.
Choosing the Right Outdoor Cooking Gear
This is largely dependent on the type of camping you are opting for. Family car camping? Solo backpacking trip?
- Over The Campfire
The essentials: mobile grill, set of cookware (preferably cast iron) and metal cooking utensils, aluminum foil and oven mitts. Be prepared with rolls and rolls of aluminum foil as they are the ones you’ll be making food pouches with or laying the grill with. Oven mitts are for protection against the strong flame produced by the campfire.
- Camping Stove
Largely similar to prepping to cook over a campfire except you’ll need to prepare a multi-burner camp stove. Though you’ll not be able to achieve the authentic smoky taste of campfire food, it is definitely more convenient and requires less effort. Need some advice as to which camping cooker will suit you best? Check out this guide to camping cookers.
The essentials: close-packed single burner camp stove, small pots, and a foldable spork. No need for big fancy cooking utensils, a spork is all you need to lighten your load while backpacking.
How To Cook Outdoors Over a Campfire
It is a common misconception that strong and blazing flames produce the best-tasting food. This will often result in inconsistent heat which makes cooking difficult. Instead, all you need is a small, steady flame for a consistent cook on the food and avoidance of charring them. Before you start cooking, wait 20-30 minutes for the fire to reach equilibrium. After that, sweep out some coals to lessen the intensity of the flame, resulting in a consistent and ideal heat to cook over.
- Have an Even and Sturdy Surface to Cook On
To prevent the spillage of food, use either a mobile camp stove or create a sturdy platform by placing a grill on some rocks.
- Slow Cook is the Way to Go When Campfire Cooking
For the best tasting and thoroughly cooked food, slow cooking is the way to go. Trust me, your patience will pay off.
Tips for Cleaning Up After Cooking Outdoors
The most dreadful part of every cooking episode, the clean-up. To make your life easier, always remember to use non-stick cookware or cooking oil to prevent stubborn removals. While eating, start boiling a pot of water such that immediately after you are done eating, you’ll have access to hot water to do the dishes.
Outdoor cooking can be seemingly dreadful when you think about all that goes into food preparation. If done right, it can actually be a lot of fun. After you’re done cooking, remember the rule of thumb – leave no trace. That means, respect the environment and wildlife around you and clean up.