5 Best Camp Cooking Methods (Some You’ve Never Heard of)


pot of food cooks on a campfire

In light of recent events, camping has become more popular than ever. Maybe you’re new to camping or maybe you’re looking for new ideas. Either way, you may be wondering, “How can I cook while camping?”

There are several cooking methods that you can use while camping:

  • Campfire
  • Camp Stove
  • Grills & Griddles
  • Food Warmers
  • Stovetop Ovens

Campfire Cooking

Cooking on the campfire is an honored camping tradition. Every child should have the experience of cooking hot dogs and smores on the campfire. However, there are some other popular ways to cook on the campfire.

Foil Packets

Foil packets, sometimes called “hobo dinners” or “hobo foil packets” are the easiest and most cost-effective way to cook on an open fire. Besides the food, you only need a few ingredients; wood, foil, and tongs, like these Oxo brand Tongs. There are many recipes for foil packets, but the idea is simple. Pull a large sheet of foil from a foil roll. The foil sheet needs to be large enough to wrap around the ingredients, about 12″ x 18″.

You’ll find an endless number of recipes online for foil packets, but the basic combination of ingredients is very similar:

  • Meat
  • Oil
  • Vegetables
  • Seasoning/Salt

One of my favorite foil-wrapped dinners is sausage, potatoes, carrots, and onions. I cut them up into bite-sized pieces. To that, I add olive oil (you can also use butter) and seasoning. I like to season them with Pappy’s Choice seasoning. Pappy’s Blue Label seasoning is a better choice if you prefer less salt. Don’t forget to add the oil. Oil (or butter) prevents the ingredients from sticking to the foil.

If you are making these at home, you can mix the ingredients in a bowl and place them on the foil. If you’re making them in camp, place food on the foil, then pour the olive oil on top of that and then sprinkle the spices.

Take one end (the shortest length) of the foil and line it up with the other end of the foil. Fold the foil on top of itself multiple times until the packet is tight. Then fold the longer length toward the middle of the packet.

When putting the foil packets on the fire, be sure to double wrap them in foil. This will prevent the food from leaking and keep the ashes out of the packets. If you are placing them on the grill instead of in the fire, this step is not as critical. When double wrapping the foil packets, repeat the above process, but start by placing the seam side of the packet down.

Place the packets on top of the coals. To avoid burning the food, rotate the packet, using your tongs, about every 10 minutes. If you hear a sizzling sound coming from the packets, that means they are cooking. Check the food periodically for doneness according to the recipe directions.

Preparing the Fire

Anytime you cook on an open fire you have to make sure you have a properly prepared fire. It’s important that you burn your wood down to coals so that you don’t burn the food. This will take some time, about 35-40 minutes, but you’ll be enjoying a fire in the meantime. You’ll want to make sure that the coals are still hot enough to cook your food. The coals are done at the point where they are giving off red embers (glowing), and are the same size or a little bit larger than a briquette. If you wait too long, you’ll end up with ash and have to start over.

Dutch Oven

A dutch oven is a heavy cooking pot with a lid. Most dutch ovens are made of cast iron. This makes them able to withstand the heat of the fire while still having excellent conduction. You can also buy aluminum dutch ovens, which are lighter but don’t conduct heat as well as cast iron.

Fancier dutch ovens are enamel-coated cast iron. However, standard cast iron dutch ovens are preferable for cooking over a fire.

There are several excellent dutch oven brands. When cooking directly on the fire, you’ll want a dutch oven that has legs, like this Lodge brand dutch oven. If you can’t find one with legs that fits your budget, or if you want to also use it on your cook stove, you can purchase a trivet to place under the oven when it is on the fire. You’ll also need a lid lifter since the lid gets too hot to handle. Some people use heat-resistant gloves like these Lodge Outdoor Cooking Gloves to prevent skin burns. You can also use welder’s gloves or heavy-duty oven mitts for this purpose.

Before using a cast iron dutch oven, be sure that it is properly seasoned to prevent rust. Conveniently, some dutch ovens come pre-seasoned.

I like the Lodge brand, and they have a 5 quart oven that is already pre-seasoned. The five quart is a good size for a small family. If you are feeding a large group, you can get them all the way up to a 10 quart.

lodge cast iron dutch oven
Lodge Brand at Walmart

Dutch ovens can make just about anything you make at home. You can fry, stew, bake, and saute. This is why they are so popular around camp.

It’s important to know how many coals to use with your dutch oven. Lodge has instructions and a handy chart.

Never put your hot dutch oven directly on a table as the feet will burn holes through the table. Use a heavy-duty trivet. Silicon, ceramic or metal are good choices. Never use metal utensils on your cast iron dutch oven; wooden or silicon utensils are your best bet.

Clean your dutch oven right after you’re done with it. That way, it’s easier to get the cooked food off the bottom before it hardens. I love scrapers for getting food off the bottom and Lodge makes these polycarbonate scrapers for that purpose. They are inexpensive and will save you some cleaning time.

After you clean your cast iron dutch oven, dry it over the fire, and then apply a thin layer of cooking oil to the inside on the bottom and sides of the pan. If that’s too much trouble, Lodge makes these handy aluminum inserts. In some instances, you can line the dutch oven with aluminum foil and put the food in that.

You May Ask, “How do I cook while Camping without a campfire? There are a few ways to cook without a campfire; camp stoves, grills and griddles, food warmers, and stove-top ovens Here we’ll talk about those:

Camp Stoves

Camp stoves are great for easy cooking. If you cook with gas at home, then a camp stove will be an easy transition for outdoor cooking. Anything that you can cook on your home stove, you can cook on your camping stove. The two most commonly used gases are propane and butane. Propane is the most common gas and it’s easy to find.

Camp Chef is a good brand of stove. Our friends had a camp chef stove for twenty years and loved it. You can get the big fancy Camp Chef stove with legs – that’s the one our friends had. The advantage to this stove is that you can purchase add-ons for it, like the griddle. Camp Chef also makes a compact 2-burner stove that gets high ratings.

If you purchase a stove with an igniter, the igniter won’t work at high elevation, so you’ll need a back up lighter.

If you decide stovetop cooking is for you, you’ll need a cook set. Cook sets come in a variety of costs. One option, If you’re new to camping, is to bring some pots and pans from home initially. That way you can experiment to see what will work the best before laying out a bunch of cash. Camping cook sets and mess kits are nice because they are usually nesting and take up less room.

Most people who camp frequently have a separate camping kitchen. These items can be contained in a chuck box. A chuck box is a storage container for your cooking accessories, like pots, pans, plates, etc. You can also store these items in large plastic storage bins.

Not everyone can afford new equipment. If you’re trying out camping for the first time, Walmart offers many lower-cost equipment options.

If you are cooking inside your RV, here are some ideas for your RV kitchen:

Grills & Griddles

Grills and griddles are another common means of camp cooking.

Grills

You can grill on fire using a folding campfire grill, an inexpensive grill that sits on the top of the campfire. Alternately, you can purchase a portable grill that either uses charcoal briquettes or propane. If you want to try using briquettes first without having to buy a grill, this portable grill is a good choice. I used one like this when I first started camping with my kids and didn’t want to invest in a grill yet. If you like the flavor of cooking on briquettes better, a grill like the Weber Smokey Joe might be for you. As far as gas grills go, we use the Weber Q1000 and like it. Weber makes a larger one, but this grill will cook six hamburgers at once.

Griddles

There are lots of options when it comes to griddles. There are all-in-one griddles, like the Blackstone, and griddles that fit on top of your propane grill, like the Camp Chef grill I mentioned above. We have the 17″ Blackstone, and we use it all the time. However, you may like the functionality of a grill with the griddle on top better.

Food Warmers

If you like to make your meals ahead of time and warm them when you get to camp, then a food warmer might be for you. There are many food warmers on the market. I like the Hot Logic brand. I have the hot logic mini and love it for ease of use. I make meals ahead and freeze them. The Hot Logic will defrost and cook/heat the food.

The downside to food warmers, like Hot Logic, is they take HOURS to heat food so you have to plan ahead. For just the two of us, I like to Hot Logic Mini 12 volt. This plugs directly into your car cigarette lighter. If you have a family, you could use the Hot Logic mini for a side dish and another method for your main dish. There are other brands of food warmers. Some people like the SabotHeat because it has adjustable heat levels and a timer.

Stovetop Ovens

If you enjoy baking, you’ll have fun with a stovetop oven. There are a few different models to chose from. I have the Omnia Stovetop Oven and enjoy using it. You can buy it with all the accessories. I have the thermometer, the silicon muffin pan, and the silicon insert. The silicon insert really helps with clean up. If you don’t use the silicon insert, you’ll have to grease and flower the bottom of the pan.

The Omnia is not just for baking cakes, I’ve made meatloaf in it. You can get a double-sided silicon liner. It’s handy if you want to make, for example, meatloaf on one side, and Au Gratin potatoes on the other side. I really like the Omnia because it doesn’t take up much space.

Before we had the Omnia, we had a Coleman Camp Oven. It is bigger but packs down nicely. One year, my husband made baked cinnamon apple roses in it for my birthday. I gave it to my daughter and her boyfriend and now they are enjoying cooking in it.

Another option for a stovetop oven is a dutch oven. You’ll want the kind without the feet, for obvious reasons. As I mentioned above, you can make just about anything in a dutch oven. You know I love the Lodge brand and here is one that is pre-seasoned:

Looking for some tips to cook in your RV oven?

Conclusion

Camp cooking should be an integral part of your camping experience and I hope that you find all the tools you need to enjoy it.

Crystyn Chase

Crystyn enjoys traveling to new locations off the beaten path. She's passionate about RV adventure travel and her desire is to share that love with readers. She is married to Doug and has a playful German Shepherd named Trinity. When not on the road, Crystyn enjoys gardening and food preservation.

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