Cooking outdoors over a campfire can be a fun way to enjoy a hot meal after a long day of hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities. Most family meals can be adapted to outdoor cooking, but keep in mind that you will not have the kind of temperature control you have at home. You will need to gauge when parts of a meal are ready based on sight and smell rather than cooking time.
It is important to take the same precautions for food safety that you would at home. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all meats should be cooked to safe internal temperatures ranging from 145 degrees Fahrenheit for steaks to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken and hot dogs. Cold foods must be kept cold in a cooler. Large blocks of ice will keep food cold longer than smaller ice cubes or cold packs. When planning meals for your camping trip, try to avoid perishable foods such as seafood and mayonnaise. Even with a cooler, you will not be able to keep these foods at a constant safe temperature, especially if you will be camping for several days.
Before deciding what to serve, find out if your campsite has regulations forbidding open fires or propane stoves. Especially in hot, dry weather, many campsites forbid any type of open flame in an effort to reduce the risk of forest fires. Some campsites provide charcoal grills, while others require you to bring your own cooking gear. Many campsites forbid alcohol, so check the regulations before you decide to bring beer or wine.
Classic Or Creative Meals
Camp food can be as basic or as elaborate as you want. Hot dogs are a classic camp dinner and are easy for anyone to make. If you want something more elaborate, foil meals and dutch oven dishes are delicious and well suited to campfire cooking. While you will not have the modern conveniences of your home kitchen, remember that for most of human history food was cooked over a campfire. There are few dishes that cannot be adapted to campfire cooking.
Safe Food Storage
When you are camping, you are a visitor in the wilderness, so remember the animals who make that area their home. If you leave food accessible, especially overnight or while you are away from the campsite, animals will be attracted to your campsite. In areas with bear populations, many campsites have locking metal bear boxes in which to store food.
Meal Planning and Weather Considerations
Write down each meal you will prepare and the ingredients—including spices, condiments and other staples—you will need for that meal. Remember to include side dishes and beverages.
Consider bringing extra ingredients for a cold meal, such as sandwiches or cereal, in case it rains and you are unable to light a fire or use a propane stove. Don't use a propane or liquid fuel stove inside a tent.