Whether you and the family are spending a weekend at the beach or a week in the mountains, the meals that you prepare can make or break your trip. Camping is all about rest, relaxation, and spending time with your family. It’s not about slaving over a campfire and spending a lot of time preparing meals. Here are 10 tips to keep your meal prep and cleanup to a minimum, while still ensuring that your tasty delights will be the hit of the trip.
Campfire cooking needs to be done over hot coals, so allow enough time for the flames to burn down before you throw those burgers on the grill.
Prepare at home
Outdoor cooking is great, but remember that you won’t have your kitchen counters in the woods. Prepare of much of your food at home as you can. Dice vegetables, premix spices, etc. and store in individual bags.
If you are cooking with a non-cast iron pot over an open fire, wrap the bottom and sides of the pot in tinfoil, or coat with liquid soap, to make cleanup a breeze.
Cook in foil
Foil meals (see Reynolds packet meal recipes for examples) are easy to prepare, easy to cook, and there is almost no cleanup. Cooking times will vary, so check one meal after 15 to 20 minutes, before removing all of the meals from the fire.
Clean the grill
If you forget the cleaning brush for your barbecue grill, wad-up a ball of aluminum foil (you remembered the aluminum foil, right?) and scrub the grate with that. It will be a lot easier to clean if you do this while it’s still warm.
Tired of all the marshmallows getting stuck together? Add some powdered sugar to the bag, before you hit the road.
Start with frozen foods
Freeze meats, and even stews, before putting into the ice chest. The frozen food will help make the ice last longer.
Make individual hamburger patties and freeze with wax paper in between the patties. Making your own is a lot cheaper than buying pre-made patties and you will be cooking a lot faster with patties, because you do not have to wait on a big clump of hamburger to thaw.
There’s more to camp deserts than marshmallow s’mores. Baked apples are easy to make, by wrapping in foil and placing on hot coals. For an added treat, core the apple halfway through. Press several caramels into the center and plug the hole with the top of the core. Cooking time is similar to baked potatoes: about 30 minutes.
Corn on the cob doesn’t take up space in the ice chest and it is easy to prepare. Cook directly on the grill, or butter and wrap in aluminum foil and place on coals for about 20 minutes.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you’ve got a camp cooking tip (or two!) to share with us, please leave a comment.
Never knew that trick on the marshmallows. Something new to me. 🙂
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Hi, I hope your camping was fun this year. I would like to add that we get a lot of use out of the pie irons at the fire. Our favorite is the Reuben sandwich. Their is no limit to the different meals you can do in them and they come in many different sizes now. Just don’t forget the Spray oil and then they are an easy clean up too.
Caroline – I’ve really got to try a pie iron. I wonder how many are needed for a family of 5, maybe 2?
I love cooking with a dutch oven! We make Bisquick biscuits with cream corn…yum…serve with butter and jam. We also like a black forest cake: chocolate cake mix/ use a can of cherry pie filling rather then the liquid the cake mix calls for…throw in eggs and oil. I mix this separate then spray down the interior of the oven with a spray oil and pour in the batter. Use more coals on the top then underneath and use the smell test for doneness. Scoop it out with a big spoon in to bowls, spray with whip cream and its is delicious!
Cast Iron Pie Irons are great too, and would be good for older kids to use by themselves over a fire. Kids like being involved in the cooking process.
We do the eggs in a bag too…easy and good.
Jenn – that cake sounds *awesome*!
This tip is really useful not only for most tourist but also for a professional adventure tour guide like me. Thank you Roy and warm greeting from Indonesia
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That sounds really good and it’s a great change from the s’mores. I’m definitely going to have to try those!
Banana Boats are quick and easy and the whole family will love them. Cut a banana open lengthwise, fill it with chocolate and/or marshmellows. Wrap in foil and place on grill/ fire for approx 2-3 minutes. Yummmmmmmm!
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That’s interesting, any idea how the aluminum holds up over an open fire if there’s any weight in it? I’d had some cheaper camping pots and pans that were aluminum bend and get destroyed in a fire pit, but I’ve often wondered it that was more of a quality issue, rather than a material issue.
SouthernHiker’s last blog post..The Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Yeah, no doubt – Will Volpert of Idaho River Journeys was saying they recently switched to aluminum dutch ovens, because of the weight.
Dutch Ovens are extremely versatile, you can essentially cook anything on them that you could cook on an oven or stop top using the pot and/or lid. The only problem with them is how heavy they are. This has me thinking how much I need to post some of these Dutch Oven Recipes online. I’ll send you the birthday cake
SouthernHiker’s last blog post..The Cast Iron Dutch Oven
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I never cooked in a dutch oven, sounds like something to try this year if i could ever get away from the office.I’m ready for a five day camping trip, can’t wait.
I’m just about ready to order a dutch oven – I’m going to be a cooking fool with that thing! I’m already lining-up recipes; tortilla casserole, pineapple upside down cake, I can’t wait!
By the way, just a little bragging on my camping group, but we actually made Birthday Cake for desert in a dutch oven over hot coals on our last camping trip. One of our wives’ birthday was that weekend, so we had a great cake recipe from the dutch oven cook book. Just goes to show there are other options than S’mores (although cake ingredients took some space in the cooler).
SouthernHiker’s last blog post..Mills Park Disc Golf, Gatlinburg, TN
The marshmallow and powdered sugar is a great idea. I have often had the problem with sticking marshmallows when camping, and thought it was something I just had to put up with when camping. I’m going to be doing some camping in Florida in a couple of weeks, and I am going to definitely give that a try. I’m sure it will help with the humidity. Thanks for the tip, and the great article. (and for the GPS a few months back, I’ll have some articles where I have been using it coming out soon).
SouthernHiker’s last blog post..Laurel Falls – Smoky Mountain National Park – Gatlinburg, TN