Camp food is as much a part of the camping experience as the activities. Nothing is more satisfying than starting off a long day of rigorous activity in the outdoors with a hearty breakfast or ending the day’s adventuring with a relaxing dinner. Who doesn’t remember the smell of fried bacon and freshly percolated coffee wafting through their campsite in the morning or the aroma of steaks sizzling on the grill over an open flame in the afternoon? Gathering around the campfire and enjoying great meals is part of what makes camping such a memorable experience. However, without the convenience of your modern kitchen appliances, preparing food in the outdoors can be a daunting experience. Here are my best tips to make the camp cooking experience less daunting and more fun.
Plan ahead and pack carefully.
• Plan your meals ahead of time so that you will know exactly what ingredients and kitchen tools you need for your outdoor feasts.
• Pack nutritional foods that will give you and your family the energy to enjoy strenuous outdoor activity.
• Use two coolers – one for drinks and one for food storage. The food cooler will not be open as often, reducing the possibility of food spoilage.
• To save money and conserve space, try to overlap ingredients. For example, biscuit mix can be used to make biscuits in the morning and a meat pie in the evening.
• Don’t worry about not having all the new-fangled cooking gadgets; aluminum foil is still one of the best ways to prepare fast, nutritious meals. Besides aluminum foil, all you really need is a large pot, cast iron skillet, tongs, spatula, mixing spoon, measuring cup, grate, cooking coals, matches, and lighter fluid. With this combination of cooking equipment, you can prepare just about anything.
Establish a safe, organized kitchen.
• A camp kitchen should include the equipment and utensils you need to prepare meals, an ice chest (or two) for cold-food storage, a place to serve and eat meals, and the equipment you’ll need for clean-up.
• The cooking area should be located a safe distance from the tent site. If using a cooking fire, it should be located downwind about 50 feet, safely away from combustible items. Cooking areas using stoves should be about 15 feet from the tent. Never leave a grill or fire unattended.
• Invest in separate cookware and utensils for camping, and store your camp kitchenware in labeled containers. Having the containers ready to go will save you time and eliminate the possibility of forgetting basic kitchen equipment.
Use environmentally sound clean-up practices.
• Waste water should be strained to remove as much food as possible before being dispersed away from water source, campsite or trail.
• Food waste should be bagged and packed out or disposed of properly. Some waste, such as paper, can be burned.
• Minimize the amount of food waste by not cooking more food than you can eat.
I could provide pages and pages of additional useful camp cooking tips, but the most important thing to remember is that camp cooking is supposed to fun. So while you should plan ahead, establish an organized kitchen and be conscious of the environment, you should also be creative and enjoy the experience of cooking in the outdoors. Each time you camp, try new recipes and cooking methods. On your next camping trip, I challenge you to skip the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and instead, go wild and have a culinary adventure!