Some of the best camping memories are around the campfire. Use these campfire cooking tips to help you plan the setup, igniting, and cooking of this traditional outdoor pastime.
Before you give the skewers to the kids or open that bag of marshmallows, there are a few safety considerations to think about as you set up the campfire. Try to choose a location that’s a safe distance from the tent and vehicles. You should be at least 25 feet from these locations and farther if it’s windy. Try to put the campfire in such a location where the smoke and small embers are not floating toward the tent for obvious reasons. Once you have a spot, gather some large rocks for a fire ring. These can vary in size, but they’ll serve nicely as a fire brush guard and boundary for curious young campers.
If you’re camping with kids (and they’re like my boys)…there is a childhood fascination with fire. They like to throw things into the fire, cook over the flames, and just stare at its glow. This can be fine, as long as you lay down some safety rules. I allow my boys to put logs on the fire…not that 10-foot long branch they just found, but the logs out of the pile. I don’t let them throw things into the fire, but I do let them have the pleasure of giving it the evening douse of dirt to put out the flames. I also make sure they know the safe distance for cooking their S’mores and other campfire treats. So, my best campfire cooking tip would be one of safety: Let the kids know what they can and can’t do around the campfire!
Campfire Cooking Tip #1:
Build a Campfire Cone
Once you have a nice spot for the fire, start gathering dry grass, leaves, small kindling, and some logs. The cone format works nicely for starting a campfire (see picture). And while it may take a few minutes to ignite the sticks in the cone, the fire will quickly consume the wood, so have some larger logs ready to stoke the fire. It’s always more fun to use the daylight hours to gather wood, so you don’t have to trip around through the woods at night!
Campfire Cooking Tip #2:
Set-up a spit or tripod
If you have a Dutch oven with a tripod, it’s best to set this up before you light the fire and start putting larger logs on. This will ensure that you have level and obstacle-free space for the tripod. If you have food to be cooked over a spit, look for some Y-shaped branches and place them on either side of the rock ring. You may have to whittle the ends of these into a point and twist them into the ground. Make sure that your spit can span the distance of your supports, before you put them in place. A tripod has a multitude of uses from your coffee pot to your evening meal. It’s a versatile campfire cooking tool and can be a lot more forgiving than the traditional spit.
Campfire Cooking Tip #3:
Bring Hot Pads & Long Sticks!
As much fun as campfire cooking is…burns are no fun at all. If you’re not allowed to bring the good kitchen oven mitts, try to get some old towels or other means to grab hot pots off of the coals. The other safety item is long skewers or sticks for the roasting of marshmallows. Kids have shorter arms than adults. Add a small roasting stick and they might be uncomfortably close to the campfire. Our skewers are approximately 3 feet long and seem to be just the right length for the kids.
Campfire Cooking Tip #4:
Coals Cook – Flames Burn
Some of the best campfire cooking can occur in deep within the coals of an established campfire, rather than in the leaping orange flames. It’s fun cooking food on a stick in the flames and I wouldn’t recommend changing that fun habit. But for foods like fish, potatoes, stew and other slow-to-cook foods, try placing the pots or tinfoil pouches right in the hot coals for the best results. The coals give off a nice consistent and uniform heat which will thoroughly cook items like meat, fish, and vegetables. Use tongs or sticks around the hot coals, as they will easily burn through an over mitt or cloth.
I hope that these campfire cooking tips help you prepare for your camping trip. There are many ways to cook and enjoy the outdoor environment, while not sacrificing meal quality or safety. Be sure to check out some of our favorite camping recipes! Your campers will remember the memories of eating around the campfire forever. Bon Appetit!