If you are planning a road trip with kids – or perhaps your first camping holiday as a family – then have you thought about doing a bit of campfire cooking? Kids love it just as much as adults do. There is something so lovely about getting back to nature in that way, cooking over a campfire as our ancestors used to. This post contains all the tips and tricks you’ll need to get started. It may even entice you to go camping more often in future.
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Before you light up
Before you start setting up your campfire cooking equipment, there are several key issues to consider.
Gone are the days when you could light a fire just anywhere. So, the first thing to check is – are you allowed to start a fire in your planned location? If you are at a campsite, ask the managers. When you are camping in National Park, for example, check the rules before you begin. If there are fire pits available, then use one of those. You are likely to have more success with lighting the fire, plus it saves scarring the landscape. If there is no fire pit, build your outdoor campfire on a rock if possible.
Watch out if it is windy. Even a medium wind can be dangerous, as sparks from your fire could start a much bigger one. Windy conditions also mean that the fire burns more quickly, reducing available cooking time. Look for shelter if there’s wind. If you cannot find a sheltered spot, don’t take the risk.
You will need dry, seasoned logs for your campfire, as they will burn cleanly and generate sufficient heat. The campground may be able to supply you with suitable wood. Don’t use green wood taken from trees, as your campfire will not only emit too much polluting smoke, it will also not burn well.
Come on baby, light my (camp)fire
Here is how to set up your fire, all ready for some campfire cooking with kids. Your aim is for all the wood to turn to coal at pretty much the same time. If you achieve this, you’ll have an even fire that will burn for some time, while avoiding burnt food or ruining your new outdoor campfire cooking pot.
As any good scout might say, be prepared. If there isn’t a fire pit, at least choose a site that’s not too close to any bushes, shrubs or overhanging branches. Use large rocks or stones, or green (wet) wood to create a large U-shaped border: this will act as a barrier. If there is any wind, ensure the back of the fireplace faces it. If you can, place a large, flat rock at the back to act as an improvised chimney. This will help to direct the smoke upwards and outwards.
Lay the fire
Firstly, place some crumpled-up paper within the barrier, then lay kindling over this. With each layer you add, change direction. Small fallen branches or thin strips of wood are ideal. Cover the entire fire area with kindling. Next, place a bucket of water close at hand, then light the paper.
Setting the place alight
Once the kindling has caught fire, add your firewood. It is best if each dry, seasoned log is of a similar size. Spread the logs evenly across the fireplace. Once the flames begin to subside, and the logs are turning to white coals, you can carefully use a stick or long-handled campfire cooking tools to create a higher level of coals at the back end and a lower one at the front. The idea is to give you different heat settings. If you prefer, you can simply level the coals out.
Let’s get cooking
To cook, you will need a campfire cooking grill. Place this over some wet, green logs or rocks. You can then either place food directly on the grill to cook or use some campfire cooking gear – such as a sturdy, specially designed pot – to prepare your meal. If you plan to use just the campfire cooking rack, it is useful to have a spray bottle of water to control any rogue flames. If you need to, stack up the coal as the fire dies down to make the most of the remaining heat.
When you are done with cooking, you may add extra wood if you want to enjoy an evening campfire. Before you go to bed, make sure you extinguish the fire completely by soaking with more water.
Outdoor Campfire Cooking Equipment
If you are planning to cook over a fire you’ve built yourself, then you’ll need some sort of campfire cooking pans. You could also invest in a camping stove, making the fire far easier to set up and control.
There is a range of camping stoves on the market. When you use one of these, it takes a lot less time to create a campfire cooking setup. They are very affordable, and make campfire cooking a lot safer. These are definitely recommended for campfire cooking for kids, although they make life easier for adults too! Here are some of the products we like.
This one is very portable. It folds up, is lightweight, and comes complete with its own storage bag. You can also use it with a range of fuels – wood, charcoal, butane gas or even alcohol. It is stable and gives off a steady, even amount of heat.
SEE the Odoland Camping Stove HERE
This portable one burner stove even has built-in automatic ignition, so it is a cinch to get it going. It meets the highest safety standards, and includes a safety shut-off feature. This one also comes with a carry case.
VIEW the One Burner Gas Stove HERE
Having two burners at your disposal can make your outdoor campfire experience more like cooking at home, especially with hangry kids around. You can cook a sauce, for example in one pan and pasta in the other or have one pan for beans and another for frying bacon, sausages and eggs. This stove features precise temperature control as well as sturdy panels that protect your food from the wind.
FIND OUT MORE about the Coleman Two Burner Stove HERE
Some people prefer a bottle top design. It is very simple, as well as effective. This Coleman product has a large burner and gives a steady, adjustable output of heat.
DISCOVER the Coleman Propane Gas Camping Stove HERE
If you go camping a lot, then this stove is worth investing in. With this one you can cook at a usual standing height, making it easier on your back. Not having to bend down over a low-down stove is also safer, especially if a few of you are getting involved in preparing dinner or the kids are running around your cooking area. This one also has a built-in screen to shield you from the wind.
READ all about the Camp Chef Standing Stove HERE
A Campfire Cooking Set
Whether you plan to light an old-fashioned fire or use a camping stove, you are going to need some appropriate kit. Most of this equipment comes as a set, so buy the right one and you may end up with everything you need. Here are some of our favourites.
This useful set should last a lifetime. It consists of two cast iron cooking pans – one saucepan and one frying pan. The pots come pre-seasoned and ready to use, and can be used on all cooking surfaces and in the oven too.
VIEW the Lodge Two Piece Pan Set HERE
Buy this one along with the Lodge set detailed above and you’ll have your campfire cooking kit sewn up. Designed for two burner stoves, this sturdy griddle has a non-stick coating and is made from heavy gauge aluminum.
FIND OUT all about the Two Burner Camping Griddle HERE
This handy set comes with pretty much everything you might need. There’s a frying pan, saucepan and kettle – which the manufacturers say boils water in under three minutes. It comes with campfire cooking utensils – namely a wooden spatula and serving spoon. You even get a cleaning sponge included. The lightweight, space-saving set comes with a mesh carry bag too.
SEE the Terra Hiker Camping Cookware Set HERE
If you’re cooking over a classic campfire, then you need this robust piece of kit. It’s basically a strong grill that stands over the fire – a surface on which to place your pots and pans. There’s room for a few pans at once to make life easier. For portability, it folds up.
READ MORE about the Folding Campfire Grill HERE
If you like to keep things simple then this handy Stanley pot is a good bet. It can be used over a stove or the type of grill listed above, and offers great value for money.
VIEW the Stanley Camping Cookpot HERE
Buy the whole kit and caboodle in one hit with this. The set includes a hanging pot, a saucepan, a kettle and a frying pan. Six dinner plates, cups and forks are also thrown it – as well as four cleaning cloths and a carry bag. It really is a good, all-round camping cookware kit!
DISCOVER the 39 piece Cookware Mess Kit HERE
If you’re buying your camping crockery and cutler separately, then this kit has everything you need. There’s four each of plates, bowls, mugs, knives, forks and spoons. The speckled red enamel finish is classic as well as crack resistant. A roll-up case comes with it for storing the cutlery.
SEE the Coleman Enamel Mess Kit HERE
Water for Campfire Cooking
Don’t forget that you’ll need a clean source of water for adults’ or kids’ campfire cooking. If you’re staying at a campground, then they should have a reliable, clean source of drinking water. When using water from an outside source like a freshwater stream or spring, boil it for at least a minute before use. If not, don’t forget to bring your own water to your campsite. If you’re doing that, it is worth investing in a decent water carrier such as this one.
VIEW a collapsible water carrier HERE
Keeping your cool
Unless you are going to buy fresh food before every meal, or dine solely from tins, you’ll need a cooler to keep produce in good condition. This Coleman cooler comes in cheery red or cool blue and can retain ice for three days – even during hot weather. It is deep enough for 2-litre bottles – and a camping cooler also doubles up as a handy seat!
FIND OUT MORE about the Coleman Cooler HERE
Campfire cooking recipes
As much as we love a good fry-up, you might not want to eat one every day of your stay. So, it might well be worth investing in a good campfire cooking book to take with you, or for meal planning ahead of your family camping trip. It also provides some reading material for those dull rainy days! Here are a few of our favourites.
This hardback (or Kindle) book contains over 75 recipes, ranging from chilli and stews to skillet pizza, breakfasts, energy bars and even some inventive S’More recipes. Let’s face it, a campfire is not a campfire if you don’t make S’Mores at least once!
READ about the Campout Cookbook HERE
This book promises gourmet food for campers. There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. A book that has been well received, winning a clutch of accolades since publication.
SEE the New Camp Cookbook HERE
The lovely photography in this book is enough to make your mouth water. With 70 recipes, it also includes helpful tips to make campfire cooking easy.
DISCOVER Feast by Firelight HERE
You can see some easy recipes for cooking over fire or gas here.
Cooking in the great outdoors
Wherever you are headed, we hope this guide will help you get started with campfire cooking. Don’t forget to get the kids involved where they can, whether is it collecting wood for the fire or helping to prepare a salad to go with your delicious gourmet campfire meal. Remember safety first, especially with kids, and be considerate of others. Once those boxes are ticked, it is all about outdoor fun and enjoying this fabulous new experience.
If you are in the market for camping accessories and are UK-based, check out Life and The Great Outdoors.
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