Camp Cooking Strategy

Splurging with a rib dinner at 9,000-feet in the Sierra Mountains

Camp cooking is a popular topic and there are a myriad of recipes available on the Internet covering every conceivable style of outdoor cooking, from dehydrated meals requiring only hot water, to extravagant dutch oven meals made from scratch and cooked over a campfire. Camp cooking can be a lot of fun and, owing to its popularity, a lot of people must find it enjoyable. It’s important to remember, though, that if you are camping with your family for a weekend of “getting away from it all” and destressing from a hectic week, keeping your camping meals as simple and easy as possible might be more inline with your goals.

Our strategy for camp cooking is to keep it simple. For the most part, we do not differentiate between “camp cooking” and the regular weekend family meals that we have at home. This may be boring for some who like to make camp cooking more of a special event, but sticking with the same foods eliminates an extra trip to the grocery store and reduces our risk of forgetting something important.

On a typical weekend camping trip, we will arrive and setup camp right around dinner time. This meal has to be quick and easy, since the sun is going down and we do not have a lot of time to prepare a meal. Our favorite type of meal for this situation is a pasta dish, with an off-the-shelf sauce. Preparation is limited to boiling some water for the pasta, and it is a big hit with the kids. Other options would be soups, stews, curries, and similar dishes.

Saturday morning is the real start of camping, for us. There is something special about waking up in the backcountry that calls for a hearty breakfast. Pancakes are quick and easy, but we like to also add some eggs, or maybe some ham or bacon. A meal like this really highlights the utility of a large frying pan, or a griddle. It also highlights the size-limitations of many dual-burner camp stoves. The burners on our Coleman are 9 1/2 inches apart and can support two 10-inch pots or pans, simultaneously.

Lunch is a much simpler affair, but it is still an important meal for us since we are either just coming in from a hike, or getting ready to head out. During the warm summer months we will have sandwiches and chips (admittedly something the kids don’t usually get at home, but it’s camping!). In cooler weather, though, we will pair this with a soup.

Dinner could range from hamburgers to ribs or steaks, but it is usually something on the grill (along with our Coleman, we camp with a Weber Q grill). We usually pair this with baked potatoes or corn-on-the-cobb, both grilled over the campfire. With five of us, there is not enough room for everything on the Weber and there is something special about cooking over a campfire.

We try to keep our meals simple when we are camping, but simple doesn’t mean that we cannot prepare some tasty meals. We want camping to be special for the kids and camp cooking is an important part of that. What is your strategy for camping meals?

See also…

16 thoughts on “Camp Cooking Strategy

  1. I noticed you did not have a precooked stew ( or any meal from home) ready to reheat when you got to the campsite…. makes the first night nice also..

    • You’re right, Barry – surprised I didn’t mention that. It is something we used to do more of, but we still do it occasionally – particularly if the kids bring along some friends. We freeze stews in crockpot liners and just drop them into boiling water:

  2. We’ve been tent camping for years and still love it. Earlier comments about the chili for dinner the first night echo something my husband and I hit upon when our boys were still young. I always had it hot and wrapped the pot it was in in newspaper so by the time we got to our site and tents set up we could sit around the fire and eat dinner. I really like the idea of freezing it and using it to help keep the ice chest cold.
    Thanks for the great tip and even better site.

  3. I went camping for the first time a few weeks ago, and am heading back out in a couple of weeks. When I went with my father, I prepared at home a chicken pasta salad for Friday night dinner because I knew we wouldn’t have time to be fancy when we got to our site.

    The next morning was just eggs and bacon. We put some baked beans in a pan for lunch. For dinner that night, we made a delicious yet simple bison chili. It went wonderfully with the foil-wrapped potatoes I threw in the fire for about 45 minutes.

    Cooking may be what I look forward to the most when camping…

    • Cooking really is a lot of fun, Matt – I love to try new meals and different techniques. We had some frozen pizzas for our Friday night meal, a few weeks ago, and they were really quick and easy (it helps to have a Weber Q grill, because of the lid). I’m going to make my own at home, next time.

  4. Pingback: Camp Cooking Strategy | Perfect Camping is Easy!

  5. Eric – I’m pretty happy with the Coleman. I’ve got a great recipe coming up for sausage, I’m just waiting to get some pictures.

  6. Regina – there is something special about a hot cup of coffee when you crawl out of the tent in the morning!

  7. We still love cooking over the good old campfire. Our car gets loaded up with firewood, so we have enough for our stay.
    We grill a variety of meat or sausages; marinades make a big tasty difference. On one of our last camping trips our Japanese friends brought chicken yakitori – the best camping dinner – simple, tasty and kids LOVE it.

    I find a good cup of coffee in the morning very inspiring and even more so when I just spent a night in a tent in the woods. We always bring our italian coffee maker and milk-frother for the best camping latte.

    Regina’s last blog post..Glamour + Camping = “Glamping”

  8. John – nothing better than chili on a cool evening!

    in-a-tent – a cold pasta salad sounds like a great idea. We have one at home, sometimes (usually with some sausage, too), but we have not made it on any of our trips, so far.

    Deb – that’s my kind of breakfast!

    Dan – I should probably get some gloves 🙂

  9. My favorite camp kitchen and fire tools are thick leather glove(s) and tongs. I don’t flip burgers with tongs, but I can do almost everything else with them (without burning myself or dropping things). I work the same way in the kitchen, I probably have 8 pairs of tongs or more and use them all the time. A small spice kit (ziplocs, medicine bottles, etc.) and a little pepper grinder really kick the flavor up.

    Dan’s last blog post..Inside Out Bacon Cheeseburger

  10. Besides what’s already been mentioned, we often bring our tripod, cast iron kettle and cast iron dutch oven when car-camping. One night, we’ll do baked beanies and weenies in the kettle and some cornbread in the dutch oven (boxed mix or our own mix, put in a baggie beforehand). On another night, we might do a beef/veggie stew in the kettle and cherry or blueberry cobbler in the oven. Breakfast is sometimes a burrito with eggs, bacon, cheese, salsa, avocado (etc), and my husband makes a mean camping version of huevos rancheros. (I rent him out, by the way. 🙂

    Deb’s last blog post..Rock Rescue Practice

  11. A twist to your pasta and sauce meal we sometimes have is, pasta and pesto, which removes the need to heat the sauce at all – we sometimes will do a pot of both, then you get the choice between red pasta and green pasta.
    To go with the pasta and pesto fried halloumi cheese is wonderful 🙂

    in-a-tent’s last blog post..I remember queuing through Conwy