There is just something special about cooking while camping in nature. However, the quality of experience heavily depends on the equipment and food available along with your level of expertise. In this beginner-friendly article, we will be sharing the cooking preparations, essential ingredients and cooking methods for camp cooking. After you’re done, you can also check out theexpertcamper.co.uk/cooking-and-eating/cookers/highlander-cabar-wood-burning-stove for cooking accessories!
The preparation stage
- Ask yourself if cooking is really necessary. Camping in itself can be challenging to some and nothing ruins your mood more than to add on more tasks to do. Instead, be efficient and opt for food such as hard cheeses and cured meats that last long outside the fridge. This way, you can have a full meal without the effort.
- Cook simple meals. Remind yourself that you are in the middle of the wilderness instead of your kitchen so you don’t have to impress anyone with your cooking.
- Preparedness is the key. It is a good practice to store all your chopped vegetables and whole meals in a container prior to the expedition. Once at the campground, the ingredients are ready to be cooked and the meals are ready to be consumed. One good skillet is sufficient to prepare all sorts of meals on site.
- Use the cooler space efficiently. Packing in frozen meal cuts will keep the cooler’s temperature down while it naturally defrosts by dinner time. Remember to include a thermometer in the cooler to monitor its temperature during the trip.
The campfire is where most of the cooking magic happens. You can decide if you want to cook over an open flame (though flame control may be challenging) or over the coals. One should check for the local authorities on wood gathering prior to the trip and bring your own firewood to the site. For damp weather or wet climate, we encourage bringing a small stove. Look for stoves that are compact and foldable.
It is also crucial that you equip yourself with fire starting techniques in case the matches or lighters go missing.
By now you might be wondering, just how much food should you bring to camping? The amount varies according to the type of camping – campers with a car can definitely carry more than campers backpacking. The possibility of the food you can cook at your campsite is endless (making a pizza is possible too) but do ensure that you have a cooler to keep the perishable ingredients fresh.
Meanwhile, a cooler may not be a convenient option for backpackers. Instead, consider bringing dehydrated food and water. Pasta and freeze-dried meals are great alternatives that can be easily cooked on the go. Beef jerky trail mix is another option if you are looking for a quick energy boost while hiking around as they are high in calories and nutrients.
Similar to food, the type of recommended cookware is dependent on the type of camper you are. For those with a car, you can choose to bring the heavy, cast-iron cookware that will meet your cooking needs and plans on-site. Here are the 2 staple pieces that I suggest:
- Pan – the classic when it comes to outdoor cooking. Eggs, veggies, meat and more can be cooked with the pan.
- Dutch oven – the perfect pot to cook up soups and stews.
While backpackers are encouraged to bring a pot or pan made of titanium or aluminium. One cookware is enough as you are already carrying lighter food that requires minimal preparation. A pan can also work as a plate, saving you some weight off your back.
Simply use a thick and large foil to wrap the food then place it over glowing coal to whip up a meal. Almost everything ingredient can be cooked with this method and trying out different seasonings can lead to interesting culinary surprises!
Cook best with charcoal, keep the lid closed while cooking. As the dutch oven requires a good coat of oil before cooking, wrap the oven’s outer surface with foil for a quicker cleaning process after the meal.
Layer the ingredient in the can starting from the meat and gradually add seasoning and vegetables at the top. Cover the can with foil and cook.
Most popular stoves tend to operate on propane but back paper can try using a light butane burner stove if they are backpacking. Please be mindful that the stove cannot be used within a closed area and it should be used away from an additional heat source.
Charcoal is an excellent source of heat as each piece can provide around 40 degrees of heat. When the charcoal is ready to be used, it has a red glow in the dark and can appear whitish in the light. Put it in a fire ring or a grill and it will supply you with enough heat for cooking.
If you are in a rush and need the charcoal immediately, you can try creating a makeshift chimney that requires only a metal can with both lids removed and paper. Place the charcoal inside the can then insert a paper under the can then ignite it. When the charcoal is heated up, you can remove it from the makeshift chimney with a pot-holder then spread it over a large surface.
Charcoal can be used to heat up different cookwares but cooking directly over the coal is usually the preferred method. All you have to look out for is that the heat from the source is consistent and there is no smoke produced.
After you are done with your meal, cookware and food preparation surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and sterilised (if possible). This is to keep out the bacterias as well as the wild animals that may be attracted to the food smell.
Create a dishwashing station to make sure all your dishes and utensils are squeaky clean. All you need to do is to prepare three separate bins. Fill the bins with warm water and add some bleach for the third bin. The first bin is to wash the dishes while the second is to rinse them off, then dip your utensils into the third bin to sterilise them. Once done, let them dry before storing them.
Check your eating area for any signs of trash, food remnants or wrappers. Let’s keep the space clean so that the next visitors can still enjoy the camping area as you did.
This article covered the basics of camp cooking – the preparation, the essentials to bring, the cooking method, and the cleanup method. Refer to this article as a rough guide but we still encourage you to experiment a little because that is the fun part! Whether you are a novice backpacker or a seasoned hiker, any meal in the wilderness will surely be an unforgettable one.