Campfire cooking and knowing how to cook over a fire makes some of the best food you’ll ever have! From camping in the woods to backyard fire pits, these campfire cooking tips are an incredibly useful and frugal skill for anyone to learn.
Our family loves to camp. Camping is such a frugal family activity, that it’s not unusual to find us in the woods with nothing more than a fire pit and tent when we have time.
Because we typically camp primitive, one of the things I had to learn pretty quickly was how to cook on a fire. If I didn’t, we were eating nothing more than hot dogs and other things that could be cooked on sticks and frankly, I want more than hot dogs every night.
Campfire cooking or knowing how to cook over a fire is more than just a camping thing though. It’s a great emergency preparation for when the power is out and you can’t cook dinner normally.
Is Campfire Cooking Difficult?
I am going to be totally honest with you; learning how to cook on a fire can be a difficult chore at first; I burned my fair share of camping recipes at the start.
It’s okay if you have trouble at first. Learning a new skill is almost always challenging. Take the challenge in stride and keep working on it.
It is very much worth it once you’ve got the skill mastered.
How is Cooking on an Campfire Different from a Stove or Grill?
Cooking on a stove or a grill – even a gas one – is far different than cooking on a campfire. Yes, those things have flames, but you have instant control of how high the flame is to control the heat.
When you cook in a fire it, you lose that instant control. Short of removing the pot or skillet from the flame, you have no control over the heat whatsoever.
This difference can be everything when it comes to cooking an edible meal or cooking a burnt mess.
Side Note: If you are planning a camping trip soon, I highly recommend you use a camping planner like THIS ONE. They’ll really help you to have an organized trip and to make sure you don’t forget anything important.
What Cookware Should I Use for Campfire Cooking?
I truly believe the best cookware for outdoor use is cast iron. It’s durable and fireproof.
A good cast iron cookware set that is kept in good condition will still be usable by your great great grandchildren. It’s also the original non stick cook ware. A properly seasoned piece of cast iron will not stick to anything.
If you have never seasoned a cast iron skillet, you can learn how to season cast iron right HERE.
They’re a great buy new, but they’re even better if you find them the next time you go thrift store shopping which I often do.
Why Use Cast Iron for Cooking on a Campfire?
Cast iron will make the difference in your campfire cooking.
Really. I promise.
But aside from the taste factor, there is a real reason to use cast iron.
A direct fire is a much higher heat than what your stove produces. Cast iron is one of the few cookware materials that can withstand that kind of heat safely.
What Other Cooking Utensils Do You Recommend?
Your hands will thank you because regular pot holders will NOT work. Your lids and handles will be way too hot for them not only due to the heat of the fire, but also the heated cast iron.
Ask me how I know. 😉
Finally, having an outdoor grill or cooking grate like this one and a cast iron tripod like this one can make things easier for you. They are not absolutely necessary, but they will make your campfire cooking much simpler in that they keep your cookware off a direct flame or hot coals.
Different Methods of Cooking Over a Fire
Cast iron isn’t the only way you can cook on a fire. It is however the most common.
You can also do a spit roast for meat or you could use roasting sticks like these. They’re good for more than just marshmallows; especially meat such as brats and hot dogs or these camping shish kabob recipes.
You can also roast meat by burying it with hot coals or use a grilling basket like this one.
The best method for campfire cooking really will just depend on exactly what you’re cooking.
Steps to Successful Campfire Cooking
Now that you know what you’ll need to cook on a fire and why you should use it, we can get to the actual cooking method of cooking on an fire.
Cooking on a campfire is a lot like cooking on a charcoal grill in that you’ll start with a well built fire and allow it to die down. You can start your fire a couple different ways depending on your situation.
If you have a lighter and charcoal, obviously you can start it that way. If not, you’ll need something flammable to hold the flame while you build the fire itself. One very simple method is to use plain cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly like this. A chimney start can also be an option if you know how to use one.
Build your flame until it’s hot and burning well then allow it to burn down until all you have its hot coals. Do not make the same mistake I did my first time campfire cooking and try to cook while there is still a flame.
All that results in is Cajun style but it ain’t the kind of Cajun style we all love.
All you’re looking for is those hot, orange coals. Those will be what provides the heat to cook your meal.
How to Use a Cast Iron Skillet on a Campfire
Once your fire has died down to coals, it’s time to cook!
You can either use a cast iron cooking grate like this one if you want your skillet kept off the coals, or you can simply place your skillet directly on top of them. If you are using cast iron, it won’t matter much which you do other than one requires more cleaning than the other.
Watch your food carefully as it will burn far easier than on a stove.
If you are using a Dutch oven, place your food in the Dutch oven, place it in the fire, then place hot coals on the lid. Placing hot coals on the lid allows it to heat not only from the bottom, but from the top as well so you get a more even heat and don’t end up with your favorite camping recipes only partially cooked.
Speaking of camping recipes, here is my favorite!
Campfire Chicken Stew
- 1 Whole chicken OR
- 3 lbs Boneless skinless chicken breast
- 3 large Apples Sweet Variety with peels on
- 6 large Russet potatoes scrubbed with peels on
- 4-5 large Carrots washed, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 ½ large White onion quartered with layers separated
- 1-2 whole Garlic bulbs peeled
- Black Pepper
- Wash the chicken and pat dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Chop and prepare all other ingredients except the carrots.
- Add all ingredients except carrots to the Dutch oven.
- Cover with water.
- Place lid on dutch oven and move to hot coals. Cover lid in hot coals as well.
- When chicken has cooked for four hours, add carrots and replace lid with coals.
- Continue to cook until carrots are soft or up to two more hours. Serve hot.
Try it. Truuuust me. It’s ridiculously simple but tastes amazing!
Campfire cooking or just cooking on a fire in general might sound super difficult, but once you have the hang of it, you’ll find that you do it by memory most of the time. However, I do recommend that once you’ve got your cooking items, you get out into the back yard and get some practice.
Not only will you make an amazing meal for your family, but your kids will think you’re even more impressive.