Learning how to cook over an open fire is a skill anyone should 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. When we have the time, it’s not unusual to find us in the woods with nothing more than a fire pit and tent. Because we do rustic camping right now, one of the things I had to learn how to cook on an open fire pretty quickly. If I didn’t, we were eating nothing more than hot dogs and other things that could be cooked on sticks.
I like food. Okay, I like food that is cooked right and tastes amazing. I wanted to do better than stick meals every day.
Knowing how to cook on an open fire is more than just a camping thing though. It’s a great skill for when the power is out and you can’t cook dinner normally.
Trust me. It’s saved my bacon plenty of times with power outages and a back yard fire pit like this one (Amazon).
It’s also a great survival skill to have if you’re looking to increase or improve yours.
How to Cook on a Campfire
I do want you to understand something though; learning how to cook on a campfire can be a chore; especially at first. I burned my fair share of camping recipes at the start.
That’s okay though; 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 Open Fire 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 or 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 these (Etsy). 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 to Cook on a Campfire?
I truly believe the best cookware for outdoor use is cast iron. It’s durable and fireproof.
A good cast iron cookware set (Amazon) 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 (Six Dollar Family)
They’re a great buy new, but they’re even better if you find them the next time you go thrift store shopping (Six Dollar Family).
Campfire Cooking Tips for Cooking on an Open Fire
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.
If you are planning on using a dutch oven, be sure to pick up a lid lifter like this one (Amazon). If you chose to skillet too , you’ll also want to consider a silicone hot handle holder like this one (Amazon).
Your hands will thank you because regular pot holders will NOT work. Your lids and handles will be way too hot for them.
Ask me how I know. 😉
Finally, having an outdoor grill or cooking grate like this one (Amazon) and a cast iron tripod like this one (Amazon) can make things easier for you. They are absolutely not necessary but they are incredibly helpful.
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 (Amazon. They’re good for more than just marshmallows; especially meat such as brats and hot dogs or these camping shish kabob recipes (Fresh off the Grid).
You can also roast meat by burying it with hot coals or use a grilling basket like this one (Amazon).
The best method for campfire cooking really will just depend on exactly what you’re cooking.
How to Cook On an Fire Pit
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, we can get to the actual cooking method of cooking on an open 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 (Amazon).
Another is to make dried orange peel fire starters. They’re super simple to make and don’t take much time at all.
Build your flame until it’s hot and burning well then allow it to burn down until all you have its hot coals.
Don’t make the same mistake I did my first time campfire cooking. Don’t 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.
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 (Amazon) if you want your skillet kept off the coats, or you can simply place your skillet directly on top of the coals.
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 equal amounts of cooking and don’t end up with your favorite campiung recipes only partially cooked.
Speaking of camping recipes, here is my favorite!
Super Simple Chicken Camping Recipe
- (1) whole chicken
- (3) apples
- (4) large potatoes
- (1) onion
- Salt and Pepper
- Any other spices you prefer
Season the chicken with salt and pepper then add to a dutch oven.
Chop the veggies and apples to the size you prefer and place around the chicken.
Add spices and cover with water.
Place the lid on your dutch oven, sit in the fire and cover the lid with hot coals. Let cook until the chicken is tender and cooked thoroughly.
Try it. Truuuust me. It’s ridiculously simple but tastes amazing!
Practice Your Favorite Camping Recipes and these Campfire Cooking Tips
It 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. 🙂