Six Campfire Cooking Tips That Will Impress Your Friends

You may con­sid­er your­self a pret­ty good cook at home, but you have to resort to dif­fer­ent tac­tics when you’re camp­ing.  While it’s always easy to throw your food on a grate over a fire or use a roast­ing stick, there are some tricks you can keep in your back pock­et that are bound to make your friends go “oooooh”.

Here are six handy tips for cook­ing over a camp­fire that we’ve pulled out of the hat in the past, and they’re sure to impress your friends.

1. Wrap meat, cheese, or fresh­ly caught fish in wild leaves
This is a pret­ty nifty lit­tle thing that can impart a fresh fla­vor to your food, but that can also sub­tly impart a unique char­ac­ter­is­tic to your food.  I love cook­ing fresh-caught fish wrapped in ramps or wrapped like a spi­ral with long cat­tail leaves, which taste earthy and bright at the same time.  Trout in wal­nut leaves is espe­cial­ly good.  Sim­ply over­lap the leaves around the fish and tie some wet twine around the whole she­bang to hold it togeth­er (alter­na­tive­ly: if the leaves are long or big enough, sim­ply fold them under and place them fold­ed-side down) and put it right above the coals, or right next to the fire.  The leaves will help the meat steam, and pro­tect its skin from burning.

There are tons of edi­ble leaves you can use to wrap your food in.  Of course there are the peren­ni­al favorites like palm leaves, banana leaves, reed leaves, corn husks, and grape leaves but you can use the leaves from wild gar­lic, sor­rel, lin­den trees, hibis­cus, net­tle, lotus, com­mon mal­low, ramps, cat­tails, pota­to beans, Hoja San­tas, wal­nut trees, sycamore trees, chest­nut trees, oak trees, maple trees, cher­ry trees, and many more (any­one else just think of For­rest Gump?).

2. Boil water in a paper cup
Yep, I said it.  Here’s the thing about water–it’s a fan­tas­tic ther­mal con­duc­tor, and as long as it’s under nor­mal atmos­pher­ic pres­sure (15 psi or so), it will not get hot­ter than 212 degrees in its liq­uid form.  Since the paper does­n’t burn until 451 degrees, you can lit­er­al­ly take a cheap paper cup, fill it with water, and put it direct­ly on the coals of a fire. You may have to exper­i­ment with the right brand of cup, but basi­cal­ly, the water will pre­vent the paper from burn­ing. Next time you’re out camp­ing, whip out the old Dix­ie, fill it with water from the local stream, put it right on the coals, and when it’s done, CAREFULLY pick it up, throw in some hot cocoa, and look at your friends like, “Yeah, that’s right, I boil water in paper. Who wants to touch me?”  This tech­nique will work with oth­er mate­ri­als like plas­tic as well (Les Stroud boiled water in his Camel­bak!), but bear in mind any mate­r­i­al that is not direct­ly in con­tact with the water WILL burn, so watch out for extend­ed seams or irreg­u­lar surfaces.

3. Cook an egg in an orange peel
This process uses the same con­cept as the above tip, but uti­lizes it for a sweet break­fast idea. Grab that orange you brought with you, and cut it in half. Carve out the flesh from both sides, being care­ful not to cut through the skin. While you’re enjoy­ing your yum­my fruit, crack an egg or two into each of the two orange peel “cups”, and drop them into a bed of loose coals. When you see the albu­men (that’s fan­cy talk for the whites) set up, grab the cups out of the coal and have your­self a tasty treat. You can do this with whisked eggs, cheese, and veg­gies as well for a lit­tle omelet. Obvi­ous­ly, if you like the yolk hard, leave it in until you get to your desired lev­el of done­ness. It tastes pret­ty damn good, with a hint of smoke and cit­rus. Very cool.

 

5 Campfire Cooking Tips

4. Use a Fris­bee as a chop­ping board
Obvi­ous­ly, you’ll want to clean it when you’re done, but every­one in camp will think you’re clever as hell when you whip out the ‘bee and start cut­ting up wild veg­gies with your swiss army knife!  There’s not a lot of instruc­tion need­ed on this one, just, you know, do it.

5. Learn the art of the ven­er­a­ble hobo meal
Way back in the day you may have learned this tech­nique as a Scout, and may have heard this tech­nique referred to as a “hobo’s din­ner” or “tin-foil din­ner”, but I think the sheer per­for­mance and ver­sa­til­i­ty of this method of cook­ing deserves bet­ter nomen­cla­ture. If you were at home using a sim­i­lar tech­nique in your oven with parch­ment paper, snooty chefs would say you’re cook­ing “en papil­lote” because every­thing sounds bet­ter in French. (Seri­ous­ly, look up the French word for baby seals). I say if we’re gonna be snooty, let’s call this tech­nique “cuis­son dans une feuille d’é­tain” and start ele­vat­ing it to the lev­el it deserves. This is basi­cal­ly a wet-cook­ing method that mod­er­ates the heat of the coals, and all you need is to com­bine some aro­mat­ic veg­eta­bles (cel­ery, onions, gar­lic, mush­rooms, car­rots, leeks, cele­ri­ac, etc.) with your favorite starch (pota­toes, yams, turnips,), some oth­er yum­my veg­gies (brus­sel sprouts, green beans), a pro­tein of your choice, some herbs or spices, some fat or oil, and a small amount of cook­ing liq­uid or some­thing that will release liq­uid (water, broth, wine, fruits, cit­rus slices). Sim­ply fold it all up in a dou­ble-lay­er of alu­minum foil, roll the edges up tight so noth­ing can get out, and drop the whole thing on the coals. How long you leave it in depends on what you’re cooking–my trick is to cut up the pieces so that every­thing comes out at the same done­ness. Meat, for exam­ple, should stay in large pieces, where­as long-cook­ing items like pota­toes should be cut into small­er pieces or thin­ner slices.  This no-clean up method of cook­ing can pro­duce any­thing from steamed salmon with lemon, but­ter and dill, to a bouef bour­guignon, to a chick­en pot pie, or a Moroc­can lamb stew. It’s awesome!

6. Behold the almighty cast iron
Your one-stop shop to the ulti­mate camp­ing uten­sil. Cast iron pans are an amaz­ing and ver­sa­tile tool for camp­fire cook­ing. The best part? You can throw it right on the coals or just as eas­i­ly stack some wood to make a nook for your pan.