Campground Cooking 101

Written by Michele Wheat

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Camping can be a great experience - learning to rough it, however, can be difficult for beginners. From packing enough supplies to pitching a tent, camping takes a lot of preparation. Cooking, however, doesn't need to be a burden for campers. Campground cooking can be intimidating and hard to prepare for, but there are a lot of ways to prepare for campground cooking. Luckily, technology is a game-changer when it comes to cooking while camping, and campers have a ton of resources available to learn from.

Equipment Needed

Planning out the equipment needed for your camping trip is really important. This is especially true for cooking supplies. As far as specific supplies needed, these will greatly depend on the meals the camper plans to prepare, but it is always a good idea to include some basics.

  • Dutch ovens are great for a number of recipes, and it never hurts to have one on hand. Dutch ovens work great hanging over the fire or placing directly on a rack over the fire or even as a serving bowl.
  • A cast iron skillet is a go-to for many campers. It's great for vegetables, meats, eggs, and more.
  • Utensils are not something to forget when it comes to campground cooking. Forks, spoons, knives, serving spoons and tongs are great options to bring along.
  • Aluminum foil is great for lining a rack over the campfire or the grill provided at the campground. It also works great as makeshift utensils if needed.

Storing Food When Camping

One of the most challenging parts of campground cooking is making sure all ingredients are packed and stored properly. This can be difficult because there is not typically refrigeration available. This is where planning ahead becomes incredibly important.

  • Don't forget the spices. Spices can be easily forgotten and can make or break a meal.
  • Bring at least one large cooler. Refrigerated items can be stored in heavy duty coolers with ice and/or ice packs. There are also portable car refrigerators to make storing food even easier.
  • Try freezing the food in advance. This will keep the food colder for longer and has two purposes: 1) keeping the food within a safe temperature until it's ready to cook or consume. 2) The frozen food acts as extra "ice" for the surrounding items. Frozen water bottles also work the same way.
  • Bring your own water. Some campgrounds have water and some don't. Do some research beforehand and make sure water is easily accessible one way or another.

Building the Ideal Campfire

Getting the campfire strong and hot is important for making sure meals are cooked thoroughly. A campfire requires several supplies and a great location.

  • Using dry, dead wood will help get the fire hot and ready to go. Green wood cut directly off trees will only make the fire smoky and will take a long time to light and get hot.
  • Buy wood from the campground office or the local store. Bringing in wood from outside the area can introduce disease to the local trees.
  • Flat, rocky and clear of debris is the best place to start the campfire.
  • Bring or build a fire ring. This will help contain the fire and can be easily built with rocks from around the campground.

Techniques for a Great Meal

Once everything is ready to go, it's time to cook. Planning ahead of time will help with what cooking techniques will work best with each meal.

  • Hardwood coals are great for cooking meats, bread and biscuits right on fire.
  • Try wrapping prepared meat in cabbage or lettuce leaves then placing it directly on the fire. This keeps the meat moist.
  • Coffee cans and aluminum foil work great for cooking a variety of foods including meats and vegetables.

Additional Campground Cooking Resources:

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