One of the things I love most about going camping is a campfire! Not only that but the food from a campfire is amazing. But, we have all had our struggles with building a campfire, knowing what to cook on it, or even what equipment we need. Keep on reading and you’ll learn all you need to know to have success with a campfire!
There are two ways of using a campfire to cook your food while you’re on your adventures. Firstly, you can use some of the hot coals to the side of the fire to cook your food on. Otherwise, you can utilize the campfire itself, but watch out and be careful, we don’t want any injuries!
Don’t fly off yet firefly! You’ll need to know a few more things before your cooking up a storm. Keep reading and you’ll find out how to build a campfire, equipment you need and some easy foods to cook up!
How To Build Your Campfire For Cooking
Your aim is to get all the wood to turn into hot coals at the same time. This allows you to have an even fire with no flames flickering around to blacken and burn your food or cookware. An even fire is the best when it comes to cooking as it gives you the longest cooking time from the hot coals.
Things you need:
- Kindling (Thin Splits of wood or small dead branches/sticks)
- Wood (All roughly the same size)
- BBQ Lighter/Matches (Ignition source)
Building Your Camp Fire
- Start the fire about 45 minutes prior to commencing cooking to generate enough coals.
- Pick a campfire site well away from any bushes or anything that can ignite or combust.
- Use some rocks to make a perimeter of your fire-pit (If windy make sure the back of the fire-pit is facing the wind and there is a large flat rock at the rear to act as a chimney).
- Fill the area inside your perimeter rocks with crumpled paper and/or tinder.
- Lay kindling over the tinder/paper in layers, altering direction like a Jenga tower (Do not build a tee-pee).
- Have a bucket of water near the fire area.
- Light the paper and tinder to start your fire.
- Add firewood once the kindling is burning, try to make sure the wood is all the same size and distribute over the fire-bed evenly.
- Once the last flames die down leaving mostly white coals, you can use a shovel/stick to arrange to coals to suit your cooking needs (More coals give you a higher heat source, fewer coals give you a low heat source).
Whats Some Of The Foods You Can Cook On A Campfire?
There is a large variety when it comes to cooking on a campfire, you can cook practically anything, from dampers and potatoes to roasts and desserts! (Make sure you read our article on Cooking With Camp Oven). Personally, My favourite is wrapping the food in alfoil, creating a little package and putting it on some hot coals, this is one of the simplest techniques that can give you an amazing flavour. Here’s some of the stress-free foods to get you started:
- Bacon (pan/pot to prevent fats dripping onto fire)
- Eggs (in its shell by the coals or crack an egg into a baking dish on a grill grate)
- Toast (bread on a long camping fork or on top of a grill grate)
- Hot Dogs, Sausages, Kebabs (on a grill grate or in a pan)
- Potatoes ( wrapped up in alfoil with some butter and herbs)
- Any vegetables you want (wrapped in alfoil, in a pan, in a baking tray etc)
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich/Sandwiches (on a grill grate or in a jaffle iron)
- Damper/Breads (in a pot, baking dish or on a grate)
- Pizzas (on a grill grate)
- Fish (wrapped, pan, pot)
Basic Campfire Cooking Equipment
There is a whole range of equipment you can have for cooking on a campfire. Don’t go taking your kitchen cookware as you will end up ruining it! Be sure to have cookware that’s meant for outdoor use on an open flame or cast iron cookware. Here are some of the essentials that we wouldn’t leave home without if you want get serious about campfire cooking:
- Camp Oven
- Dutch Oven
- Grill/Cooking Grates
- Lid Lifter/Long Tent Peg (Something long to lift your lids off without injuries)
- Leather Gloves/Welding Gloves (A simple oven mitt isn’t going to cut it)
- Long Handled Tongs
- Baking Tray
- Cooking Oil
- Paper Towel
- Grease Proof Paper
- Cast Iron Jaffle Iron
- Cast Iron Pan/Pot
- Cast Iron Kettle
- Long Camping Fork
Don’t forget your basic cooking supplies (cutting board, cutlery, spoons, knives, spatula, plates and bowls etc)
When starting a campfire every precaution should be taken to prevent any spread of the fire as well as prevent any danger to yourself or children. Always wear shoes around the fire and take precautions to avoid burns. Clear or rake about 5 meters of the surrounding area of leaves and any flammable material and keep well away from overhead branches, tents or RV’s.
Before you think about an open fire, you need to make sure that there is no Total Fire Ban (TFB) in place. TFB is declared when the weather is extremely hot, windy and dry. It prohibits the lighting of fires in open air or any other activities that could cause a fire ie welding/soldering. You also need to be aware if the fire danger rating is very high, in those conditions you are not allowed to light a fire due to the conditions, as it will be very easy for the fire to spread. Be sure to check out your local Country Fire Authority website, your states Department of Fire and Emergency Services website or even your local rangers for details in regard to a fire ban.
When collection wood for your fire be sure you keep an eye out for snakes, spiders and any other creepy crawlies that might be hiding in or under the branches and wood your picking up. Collection of wood can be prohibited in some National Parks and State Forests in Australia, so do your research prior, otherwise buy some firewood beforehand.
Always keep a bucket of water near the campfire in case of emergencies and also to put the fire out. When you do use the water, make sure to refill it immediately if your fire is still going. You can also keep a spray bottle filled with water near by for those flames that get a bit too high or burst because of your foods dripping fats and juices.
Place a ring of rocks around the fire but leave enough area for fire to breathe and to be able to insert a shovel to collect hot coals. Keep a bucket of water nearby and keep children and pets well away from the fire area. Before leaving the campsite, make sure the fire is totally extinguished with water.
Don’t forget to always wear shoes around a campfire and try to avoid clothing with tassels, ribbons or dangle bits when around a fire.
Keep kids and animals away from the fire-pit, lighters, matches etc to avoid injuries and make sure there is adult supervision at all times!
Have a First Aid Kit that is on hand and a print out of the steps to take in the event of a burn injury. DO NOT use an accelerant to ignite or increase the fire!
Things To Keep In Mind When Around Campfires
- Use water to put out the fire and coals, never use sand/dirt as it will insulate the hot coals and retain the heat.
- Be considerate of others, don’t leave behind rubbish or food scraps.
- Ensure your wood is dry to avoid a smokey and pointless fire.
- Make sure the ground around your fire-pit is free from debris, utilize a previous fire-pit location if possible.
- If the wind is quite gusty, a fire is out of the question, as sparks could fly away and ignite somewhere else causing a problem.
- Never leave your campfire unattended.
How Can I Prevent Campfire Burns?
When lighting fires an accelerant should not be used.
Children should be supervised at all times around campfires and things such as fuel, lighters, and matches placed out of their reach. Ensure children do not wear flammable clothing. Have a First Aid Kit and a print out available of steps to take in the event of a burn injury.
Don’t leave food scraps, beer cans or bottles in the fire.
When manipulating coals for camp oven cooking, it is advisable to use a long-handled shovel. This will enable you to keep your body and hands far enough away from the fire (and smoke).
Do not use sand and dirt to extinguish the fire as they can camouflage the hot coals and retain the heat. Extinguish the fire using water. Each year a number of people, particularly children, are treated for severe campfire related burns. A number of those burns resulted in the morning after a campfire when children have stepped on the hot coals.
Here Are Some Camp Fire Tips And Tricks From The Pros
Do not use accelerants such as petrol. There is a product called ‘Little Lucifer Firelighters’ that come in a packet of small white cubes that the manufacturer claims to have a special odourless and smokeless formulation and these are suitable for lighting briquettes, coal, charcoal, coke and wood.
In the absence of available hot coals for camp oven cooking there is a product called ‘Heat Beads’. These are small compressed briquettes that provide a high cooking temperature. They also require to be lit about half and hour prior to cooking. There is also a ‘Heat Beads Easy-Lite Barbeque Fuel’ that the manufacturer claims no firelighters are required “just the flick of a match”.
If you are new to campfire cooking, it is advised to steer clear of foods that can create hot, drippy fat. The hot fat that drips onto the fire can create flames that will scorch your food and could cause injury if you are too close at the time.
Frequently check and turn your food to prevent charring and to ensure it is evenly and properly cooked.
Remember campfire cooking, isn’t like an oven or stove with temperature control, so it can take some practice to get the hang of things!
Prep meat and veggies so they are already cut and divide into correct portions to save time. If you freeze the meat or veggies you have prepared in a clump instead of laying flat, it will take longer to defrost. This ensures your not going to have issues with your food going south.
What Can I Use If I Ccan’t Have A Campfire?
If your unable to use a campfire due to weather conditions, fire ban or restrictions in your area, a great alternative is a solar oven or a camping stove. You can bake, boil and steam without a single flame, as long as you have sunlight with a solar oven. While a camping stove is portable and is often great at grilling foods.
What Can I Do On A Camping Trip?
There is a variety of activities and things to do when you go camping. Depending on your area you might be able to go fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, bird watching or even star gazing. Otherwise, check out the tourist sites in the area and many national and state parks/forests have activities available. The possibilities are endless.