Campfire Cooking for Summer Camping Fun

Campfire cooking seems to be getting a bit of a bad rap from some camping aficionados lately, which is a real shame. Most of the arguments that I have seen against campfire cooking revolve around its difficulty, compared to cooking on a camping stove. The truth is, if you are going to have a campfire anyway, then there’s no reason not to cook something on it – and it’s just a lot of fun.

Thinking back on all of our family camping trips, I can’t think of one where we cooked our entire meal over a campfire. Most of the time, though, we cook part of our meal over the campfire – both out of necessity (two burners only take you so far!) and because foods cooked over an open flame just taste so good.

Cooking a pot of chili over the campfire

Cooking a pot of chili over the campfire (photo by JimOnLight on Flickr)

Part of my attraction to family camping is experiencing a little bit of my heritage and sharing this with my children. Our ancestors didn’t always enjoy many of the things that we take for granted, and yet they persevered and overcame what we would consider to be hardships – things that they just considered to be living.

There are a lot of different foods that can easily be cooked in, or on, a campfire. Soups and stews are a natural choice. A heavy cast iron pot works best for this, because it distributes the heat so well. Other options include dutch ovens placed directly on the coals, or a pot suspended over the fire with a tripod.

I find that it is actually easier to cook soups and stews over a campfire than it is on a propane camping stove, because the stoves are so hot.  Trying to simmer chili on a camping stove can be nigh impossible, but over a campfire it’s as easy as moving the pot away from the hottest part of the fire.

Foil meals are easy to cook in a campfire

Foil meals are easy to cook in a campfire (photo by szlea on Flickr)

When it comes to camp cooking, clean-up can be a major consideration – particularly when you are cooking for a family. Foil meals give you the best of all worlds; a complete serving of meat and vegetables with no pots or pans to wash, afterwards.

Foil meals taste great and there is very little work involved, other than placing each person’s individual foil meal packet onto the coals. We wrap our meals in a double-layer of standard aluminum foil, which helps to protect them against punctures. Cooking time is about 15 minutes on each side – 10 minutes for fish.

Corn on the cob is easy to cook over a campfire

Corn on the cob is easy to cook over a campfire

The best way to ease yourself into campfire cooking is baked potatoes and corn on the cob. Baked potatoes, in particular, can be prepared just like you probably do at home. Poke a few holes in the potato, wrap it in foil, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. We have tried coating the potatoes in butter, but it’s messy and, in our opinion, did not improve the taste.

There are a lot of different ways to cook corn over the campfire. The traditional method is with the husk on, tied with twine at the top of the ear. This is how we used to cook our corn and it worked fine, but the corn needs to be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes, to keep the husks from burning. We found that husking the corn and wrapping each ear in foil worked just as well, and did not require so much preparation. We have since changed to grilling the ears directly over the fire, without foil, because it adds a really tasty grilled flavor to the corn. Like roasting marshmallows, this is something that the kids really enjoy, since they can cook their ear of corn just the way they want it – grilled dark, or cooked light.

Campfire cooking is something that the entire family can participate in and have a good time doing it. Kids will learn the difference between a roaring “fun fire” and a low, smoldering cooking fire. In addition, everyone will appreciate the experience of cooking their own food.

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39 thoughts on “Campfire Cooking for Summer Camping Fun

  1. All’ze too healthy. How about hollowing out granny apples, stuff a marshmallow in one end and fill the cavity with a brown sugar/cinnamon mix, cap with another marshmallow, wrap in tin foil and over the fire.
    Decadent but enjoy

  2. At Sam’s Club..or Costco..you can get the MASSIVE packs of baked croissants..split them in half (like a hamburger bun) and throw them on the grill part of the camp fire..they toast up quick, so don’t leave them. Then do what you want..little butter, jellies or jams, I also really like a fried egg and cheese sandwich. It’s one of my favorite camping meals. :)

  3. we first tried these at girl scout camp. it was a little slice of heaven. me and my girls love them. daddy never had one but he will this camping trip.

  4. Try making dutch oven peach cobbler its easy 1 box white cake mix 1 can of 7up 1 can 32oz peaches (drain the juice ) pour all into dutch oven 10 coals on bottom 7 on top turn every 5 minutes cook until cake is golden brown and enjoy better than you can get in most cafes

  5. im surprised that you dont have a desert for the campfire.

    the materials you need are:

    - sheet of tinfoil
    - ripe banana
    - herseys milk chocolate bar
    - white mini marshmallows
    - sharp knife

    place the banana on the sheet of tinfoil, cut with the knife along the body of the banana (end to end) to make the banana in half without slicing the bottom of the peel.

    break the chocolate bar into small pieces and stuff them into the banana, then place & stuff the mini marshmallows to your liking.

    after your done filling the banana, wrap the banana with the tinfoil and place next to the hot coals of the fire for 10 – 15 mins. to melt the marshmallows and chocolate. take out from the fire and let it cool to not burn your fingertips. take out of foil and enjoy your banana boat =o)

  6. We cook all of our camping meals over the fire!
    There is nothing you can NOT cook over the fire that you make at home.
    If you have a cast iron frying pan and a dutch oven, you’re set.
    But in the early years we just used cheap yard sale pans and they worked out just fine,lol.
    Meals we’ve made : chicken and rice w/broccoli, fried eggs, potatoes & sausage, Tropical dump cake, baked potatoes (tinfoil wrapped and set in the coals) , baked apples & banana boats, darn goods (a biscuit with chocolate or honey in it), lasagna, tacos, pizza, hobo eggs (boil water, put scrambled eggs & cheese is a ziploc and toss baggie in hot water) – the list is endless.

    • We have a lot of fun, trying new recipes over the campfire, Kit. We still need to get a good cast iron skillet, one of these days, but the old “yard sale” one is working okay, for now. I love cooking with the dutch oven – it really is a versatile pot.

  7. Roy,
    This is my first visit here. I would like to share my favorite potato recipe. We will do this a lot at the deer lease but will work just fine at any campsite.

    Ingredients:
    New potatoes, Yellow and Red bell peppers, white or yellow onion, fresh jalapenos and a aluminum pan. Big or small, depending on how many you are feeding.

    First:
    You’ll need to slice up the new potatoes, bell peppers, onions, and jalapenos. (the thinner the better)

    Second:
    Put them all in a pan and season with salt and pepper. Mix them all up.

    Third:
    Add any liquid. 1 can of Beer works the best. It will mix with the starch of the potatos and create a really creamy sauce as it cooks. Water will work as well.

    Finally:
    Add your favorite meat and sit on top of the pile of potatos. Cover with Aluminum foil and sit on the grill or fire pit. About every 10 minutes (depending on how heat you have) you’ll need to rotate 90 degress. Do this four times to even out the cooking. When that potatos are soft, fix your plate and enjoy.

  8. I like to cook my corn in the husk, but I didn’t know it was the traditional way. I don’t mind some burnt leaves, as long as my corn is juicy and not burnt inside. Burnt food is actually bad for you so be careful when cooking on the camp fire.

  9. My wife and I enjoy working in the yard. So we started cooking outside. Its a lot like camping but never leaving the backyard. We have plenty of Dutch Oven Recipes. Yum!

  10. I cooked my hand on the campfire once. Lost my balance while sitting and leaning by the campfire and without thinking I reached out and grabbed the grate. The one that had been in the fire for the last 8 or so hours…

  11. Roy, I’d love to be sitting around a campfire on this chilly morning! I love the foil meals idea. So simple. Will have to give those a go next time we have a campfire. I especially like no washing up!

  12. We’re an American on an open ended world tour since 2006, so we have been camping in Europe for the last 4 years.

    It’s a fantastic ( & cheap) way to explore Europe, but things are a little different here as far as camp fires.

    Like many, we bring our own little BBQ and use that to cook on often. We don’t find cooking difficult at all while camping, but then we do have a small RV, so that helps.

  13. I thinks it’s kind of funny that many people stress out so much over cooking while camping. Yes, it is difficult if you’re new to camping, but once you find tips like these it really opens up the door for cooking more creatively. Well done Roy!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Jason – I think a lot of us start pretty simple, when it comes to camp cooking, but it’s fun to venture out and get a liitle creative!

  14. My kids favorite thing over the fire is a ‘big juicy steak’, to quote them. I’m partial to the pot of chili myself. A heck, who am I kidding? Cooking over a campfire is like cheese, it makes anything better! Cooking on a stove is great for fast meals on the go (like when you’re breaking camp) but nothing beats the social experience, and flavor, of cooking a meal slowly over a fire.

    • Absolutely, Marc – a big steak sounds mighty good! I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a steak on the campfire, though – maybe we should leave the Webber at home, next time :)

  15. My family’s cooking menu is still growing, albeit very slowly. The potatoes may go a long way, but we tend to stick to hot dogs. Believe it or not, my boys don’t even like s’mores because of the marshmallows.. Sad, Sad, Sad..

    • Eric – I’ve met a few kids who didn’t like marshmallows (actually, I think the sticky mess was more of an issue). You should checkout one of those ice cream balls – they’ll like that!

  16. Yes on all of this! Even as a single camper this is the best way to cook, heat water, and ponder the greater issues of the universe late at night. I have scaled back to a very minimal cook stove as a backup to the fire.

  17. Roy, I started salivating at the thought of corn over the campfire. Oh, and the marshmellows. It’s a sad camp when you realize no-one bought the marshmellows.

    You mentioned your preference to use a campfire for cooking, rather than a camp stove, which I entirely agree with.

    Also, you briefly mentioned the learning aspect of using a campfire for cooking. I find that campfires tend to be the social hub of any camp; a place where kids and adults tend to congregate and where we solve the problems of the world. Okay, well that usually happens later in the evening.

    Adding cooking to the campfire mix of activities tends to be a “soft” learning experience for kids about camp cooking. They can learn a great deal just by being around the fire as the cooking is taking place.

    It not often that we would see children standing around a camp stove.

    Interestingly, when we go camping we tend to seek out places that allow camp fires and try to avoid those places that don’t.

    I’d be interested to know whether other campers do the same.

    • Right, particularly in the early evening when things are winding down and everyone is hanging around the campsite – cooking is a great social activity for the family :)

  18. My kids love cooking their own hot dogs over a fire on a telescoping fork much like marshmallows. As with grilling corn, they get to cook the dogs just the way they like them. I also toss foil-wrapped potatoes into the coals, turning occasionally to cook.

    We haven’t yet purchased a Dutch oven, but we might for this summer’s outings. Friends made oil-popped popcorn in theirs – great fun for the kiddos.

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