Gear: Essential Campfire Cooking Equipment

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When you’re out in the outdoors, the most authentic way to cook would be by campfire. Sure, you can bring a camp stove or a portable grill with you for convenience. But if you want to truly experience nature and how things were done way before all the new modern equipment were invented using firewood and fire is the way to go. I remember some of the fondest childhood memories were roasting hotdogs and marshmallows on a stick over the fire.

When cooking by open fire, you have a choice between some campfire cooking equipment that let you cook in a variety of ways. Before starting your campsite cooking by campfire though, do check if it is allowed in your area. In many areas it is illegal because it is dangerous when those using this method of cooking don’t know how to do it. It can result in large fires and damage to property and the environment. When this is the case your best choice would be to bring along a portable stove. Whenever using any type of fire always know the safety rules.

Campfire Cooking Equipment Options

Campfire Cooking Equipment

With an open fire, you have a number of cooking vessels that allow you to enjoy a hot, tasty meal even when your trip goes out into the backcountry. What you are able to bring with your will depend on whether you’re camping out of your car or RV, or need to pack everything in your backpack.

With the following cooking equipment you’ll be either using coal underneath the vessels or placing them right over the fire. A few of the other choices, like the tripod and rotisserie down our list also lets you suspend the cooking vessel above the fire.

1. Dutch Oven

dutch ovenOur favorite type of cooking vessel when out camping is the dutch oven. This is a heavy cast iron pot that comes with a lid. It is built to be durable and holds heat very well. Before deciding to bring one along in your trip you’ll want to consider its weight, since it isn’t the lightest option.

Being heavier and larger than your skillet or pan, this may not be the best option for lightweight backpacking or for those who need to carry all their equipment in one pack. However, it works very well for base camp and those who come with their vehicles since space and weight is less of an issue in these instances.

For hearty dutch oven recipes, here are some great cookbooks:

The versatility of the dutch oven is what makes it great. You can fry with it, saute fish and chicken on it, boil things, make stews and even soups. In terms of cooking it also lets you use it in different ways. You can set it right over the fire, hang it up on your tripod, place it over the grill or even bury in under coals.

2. Campfire Grill / Cooking Grate

campfire grillFor those who like to BBQ at home, this is probably the most intuitive method of cooking. All you have to bring with you is a grill or grate. You can go to your outdoor supply store and get an campfire grill or use one of the grates you already have from your home BBQ grill.

For some delicious camp cooking, try some recipes from these cookbooks:

If you look around, you’ll quickly realize that there are a lot of different styles and they come in varying shapes from the round to rectangular one and square ones. Some are also built with heavier steel. Which one you choose will be based on how many people there are in your group and also how much space you have to carry.

In this type of campfire cooking, the grill or cooking grate stands on four legs so the surface is just above the fire. How far above or close to the fire will be based on your personal preference and the height of the stands.

If you’re used to grilling with propane gas this method of campsite cooking will require a more attentive eye. You’ll need to watch the food and flip or re-position them more often since the fire won’t be as even as those in propane BBQs which let you adjust the flame with knobs.

Cooking by grill is excellent if you enjoy sausages, burgers and steaks. The one extra benefit that grilling gives you is the extra smoky flavor that most of the other camp cooking equipment don’t offer. You can also use the grill to cook with pots and pans but placing them right over the grates. This saves you from having to set up a tripod.

3. Skillet or Pan

campfire skilletWhen space and weight are of primary concern, a skillet or cooking pan make for excellent camp cooking utensils. These are excellent for quick meals as you can fry up chicken and fish quickly or sautee beef or vegetables.

With pans, you have the option of the lightweight stainless steel materials or cast iron. Cast iron is heavy and it takes longer for the entire skillet to heat up. But once heated it retains heat really well. Stainless steel is much thinner, making it lighter to carry on your pack. It heats up faster but isn’t able to retain as much heat so you need to be sure to have it over the direct heat more.

Like cooking with the grill, camp fires don’t burn evenly, so you don’t get the benefit of an even flame like that of a home stove top. This means you should move the pan over the fire constantly to cook food evenly.

4. Cook Pots

When weight and cost are factors to consider with your camping gear, stainless steel cooking pots are a more economical way to go. They let you do a lot of the things dutch ovens do without the extra weight and don’t cost as much. They also don’t require being pre-seasoned as dutch oven do.

These are your regular kitchen pots which make them something just about everyone is familiar with. When you bring these along with your, don’t forget the lid.

5. Tripod

campfire tripodThe tripod is one of the oldest outdoor cooking methods around. One of its main advantages is you don’t have to bring anything with you. In its most basic form all you need are three long pieces of wood or thick sticks, tie them up together on one end and let the other ends stand separately. After that, all you need to do is get something to hang the dutch oven or pot over the open fire.

When cooking with a tripod you’ll need to make sure that the setup is sturdy and the rods or pieces of wood are lashed together tightly. After all, you don’t want it to fall apart in the middle of cooking and mess up your meal.

Those who prefer not to setup their own tripod contraption can go an buy one at your local outdoor store. These are build with metal rods and fold up when not being used. This makes it easier to transport them while on your camping or backpacking trip. These tripods also come with a chain by which the pot will be suspended over the flame. This set up offers a quick way to get your camp cooking equipment up in no time. Plus you don’t have to worry about stability and balancing everything as much as you would if you had to build it yourself.

Tripod cooking is excellent for soups and stews where you can fill the pot with water along with vegetables and aromatics and let it slowly cook over the fire. Warm stews and soups are great for keeping everyone warm during the cooler nights and colder months.


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