5 Useful Campfire Cooking Tips for Beginners

You and your family are heading out on a camping trip but you don’t want to spend a whole week eating nothing but hot dogs and marshmallows, do you? There are lots of things you can make on a camping trip with a little planning and preparation.

Camping can be a lot of fun. Your options are nearly limitless in terms of where you can go and what you can do.

It can be a major canoeing trip that extends over a few lakes with you camping at various locales along the way or something as simple as going to the local lake for a few days. You can rough it under the stars or pack your air mattress.

There are lots of choices and decisions to make when planning your trip. One of the most important things to consider is what you are going to eat.

1. Planning

Consider how long you are going to be away, access to stores, and how much you can comfortably carry. Try to pick a few all purpose pots and pans – maybe one pot with a lid and one frying pan if you can get away with it.

If at all possible, bring a flat grill rack that can be used to put pots, etc on to give them balance. A clean one can also double as a barbecue over the fire grill at which point your meal options more than double. You’ll be able to grill meat and vegetables on it.

Plan your meals in advance. Frozen meat will thaw and should be eaten within a day or two at most depending on how much ice you’ve got in your cooler. For later in the trip, try to plan on using up dried or canned goods, salted meats, and other things that can stay safe outside of a refrigerator.

There are a number of fancy camping meals on the market now that can be reconstituted with water to make chili, sauces, rice, and other meals. They vary in quality and taste so you may want to give them a try before your trip just to be on the safe side.

If someone on the trip fishes, fresh fish can be a fantastic meal and is easy to prepare. I personally feel that the fisherman should have to gut and clean it, after which I am glad to cook it but you can make your own rules about cleaning the fish.

Bring along lemons, peppers and other vegetables that are easy to adapt to a number of uses including topping fish.

2. Packing


Try to pack only as much as you need. For things like pancake batter, measure it out and put it in a sealable bag. Nest bowls and bags as much as possible.

Space is at a premium on most camping trips unless you can drive right up to the camp site. Use sealable plastic vials and containers for things like cooking oil, salad dressing and other sauces. Then put the vials in a sealable bag.

You want to avoid a mess if anything leaks. Ideally, test your containers in advance for leaks.

Avoid glass as much as possible. If it breaks, it can not only make a mess but also be a safety hazard if it’s in your backpack at the time of breakage. I agree, a bottle of wine is lovely for later by the fire, however be careful and accept that you’ll be drinking it out of a plastic cup.

Make a list of exactly what you need for each meal including food, preparation equipment, pots, pans, and cutlery. Try to minimize it as much as possible but make sure you have what you need. There’s no point in bringing something if you have no way to cook it.

Make sure you pack items that allow you to wash your dishes in an environmentally friendly way (you can find special soaps in the camping aisle of most stores) and bags for your waste materials. You want to leave as little behind as possible.

3. Animals

Wild animals are a fact of life when camping.

Almost everywhere has raccoons at a minimum. Some places have more serious concerns like bears. You need to plan how you will be storing your food in advance to avoid encounters with wildlife.

Raccoons are extremely dexterous and quite capable of opening things that aren’t carefully latched and locked. In areas with bears, food should be hung from trees, away from where you intend to sleep.

Obey all rules in an area regarding wildlife and do not feed any animals. It encourages them to bother other campers that may hurt them if they make a nuisance of themselves. It can also be very dangerous as they may become territorial and feel the food is theirs to eat and defend from you.

4. Treats & Snacks


There are lots of snacks that can be brought along without taking up to much space including bags of candy, beef jerky, and fruit. For special treats around the campfire there are the perennial favourite s’mores and roasted marshmallows. There are other fun things you can make too though.

Consider bringing along one of the Pillsbury canned doughs for making biscuits or cinnamon buns. Twine it around a marshmallow stick or skewer and roast it over the fire for a hot, tasty treat.

If you have a grilling rack, consider grilling fruit (both peaches and apples work well) and rubbing it with a bit brown sugar and butter.

You can also take slices of apples. Layer them with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter and wrap them in tin foil. Bake them over hot coals for a few minutes and you will have a delicious dessert.

If you have children along and they love sweet things, you can put a banana in foil, slice it a little more than halfway through and throw some chocolate chips and miniature marshmallows into it for a hot banana boat. You can also melt chocolate in a tin or pot and dip fruit into it for a more grown up treat.

5. Drinks

If you can cope with instant coffee and tea, it’s the easiest to pack and bring. If you must have brewed coffee then invest in a French press. Bring along some powdered hot chocolate for late at night or after a cold swim too.

When it comes to cold drinks, try to bring as few containers that will need to be disposed of as possible. Bring powdered juice and a water filterer and you can make jugs of juice to drink. Tetra pack juices are also handy and don’t take up much space.

Cans can be bothersome to bring back out with you unless you are camping somewhere with a lot of garbage cans and recycling boxes.

Regardless of where you are camping, there’s no reason you cannot eat healthy meals. It just takes some planning and organization.

Cover photo: pinterest.com

About the author

Heather B

Heather is an avid traveller, lover of dogs, and baker supreme. She lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada where she raises German Shorthaired Pointers with her family. An explorer at heart, she travels whenever she can, wherever she can.

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