By Anthony St. Clair on September 1, 2021 in Travel
Camp cooking can be quick and indulgent — and it can be delicious and nutritious at the same time. No matter how long your camping trip, you can fill up with hot, delicious meals and snacks that pair perfectly with your adventures in the great outdoors.
Making mouthwatering, gourmet camping meals and snacks doesn’t have to involve fancy ingredients, specialized cooking gear, or hours of prep. With a few workhorse tools and a camp-friendly pantry, you’ll be able to prepare delicious camp meals quickly and with minimal equipment.
Make Meal Prep Easier with These Must-Have Camp Cooking Supplies
A few cookware essentials can go a long way when it comes to expanding the range of meals you can prepare at your camp site. Consider some or all of the following.
When packing food, keep more perishable foods (such as meats) close to the bottom, and frequently accessed items at the top.
Tip: Consider using two coolers — one to hold cold drinks for easy access and the other to store food.
If your camping setup doesn’t include an RV with a built-in camp stove, look for a two-burner propane stove that’s lightweight, has responsive flame and temperature control, and features a push-button ignition.
Cooking over a campfire takes time and planning, and sometimes you may just want to fire up the stove and cook. If campfires aren’t an option, perhaps due to elevated wildfire risk, then a camp stove makes for a helpful alternative to serve up a hot meal.
Tip: Disposable green propane bottles can be expensive, hard to find, and difficult to dispose of. A local propane shop can adapt your stove’s hose and regulator to fit a refillable propane tank. It’ll cost more upfront, but your fuel will last longer, and refills will cost less than replacing disposables.
Cast-iron Dutch oven, skillet, and double-sided griddle
Cast-iron cookware and camping are a natural match. Cast iron holds heat well for more even cooking. The durable material can stand up to high temps (including campfire flames) as well as coarse metal grates. Consider adding a cast-iron Dutch oven, skillet, and/or double-sided grill to your camp cookware arsenal.
Tip: Acidic ingredients, such as tomato sauces, can be cooked in cast iron without producing off flavors from the acids reacting to the metal. For best results, aim to keep the acidic ingredients in contact with the cast iron for no more than 30 minutes.
Cutting mat and boards
Thin, flexible plastic cutting mats are the camp cook’s friend. They take up little storage space, and you can fold them into a U-shape to help you transfer prepped ingredients into the cooking pot.
Tip: Designate one mat for raw meat. Pick one that’s a contrasting color so it’s easy to tell it apart from your other cutting mats.
A 6-inch chef’s knife or 7-inch santoku supplies your camp kitchen with a compact option that can handle just about any slicing task.
Tip: Consider packing a short paring knife for small jobs, and a short serrated knife (such as a steak knife) for sawing through anything from tomatoes to semi-hard cheeses like cheddar.
Whether to keep bugs off a bowl of sliced watermelon or to mold into packets to cook food in the campfire’s embers, aluminum foil can help you tackle a range of cooking tasks.
Tip: Ball up a small sheet of foil to scrub your cast iron clean.
French press or pour over coffee maker
French press and pour over coffee are reliable, delicious ways to brew coffee not only at home, but at camp, too. Boil a kettle, pour, steep, and enjoy. A French press can be ideal for making multiple cups of coffee at once. You can also use a compact pour over cone if you only need to make a cup or two at a time.
Tip: There’s some evidence that burning coffee grounds in a campfire can repel pests such as mosquitoes. While it isn't a proven pest repellant, it may be worth a try.
Insulated leather gloves for handling hot cookware
Whether over a fire or a stove, cookware — especially cast iron — can get hot. Insulated or fireproof gloves can protect your hands from searing heat and leaping flames.
Tip: If you cook mainly over a stove, a simple kitchen potholder or even a folded-up bandanna can suffice.
Transform Your Camp Dishes From Glum to Glamp
You’ve got the goods. You’ve got the gear. Now it’s time to cook!
Pre-cook the first night’s dinner
Your first night at camp can be exhausting. Pre-cook dinner at home, then keep it cold in the cooler. Once at camp, reheat, serve, and relax. Remix any leftovers into future dishes.
Freeze food before you leave
Freezing pre-cooked and raw meats, soup, pesto, marinades, and more not only protects food against spoilage, but it also keeps your cooler cold. Freeze everything (including fully prepped and cooked meals) at home, then thaw and reheat at camp.
Cook over the fire with aluminum foil packets
Simple dishes can be separated into individual portions, wrapped in a double layer of aluminum foil, and cooked directly over a fire or in a bed of coals. Don’t want to fumble with foil? Cook over the fire using your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven instead.
Remember that campfire cooking is about coals, not flames
Lay a campfire that’s about one to two feet wide, then light it about an hour before you want to cook. Use that time to build up a thick bed of red-hot coals. Ideally, you don’t want a big fire for cooking; instead, you want low flames with hot coals and embers.
Roast on a stick or grill on a griddle
Roasting sticks can make food taste so good; they might as well be magic wands. You can put camp skewers to work in plenty of creative ways beyond meat and veggie kebabs. Remember: Rotate the skewer regularly so food cooks evenly and is less likely to burn. If cooking over a fire isn’t an option, use the ridged grill side of a cast-iron griddle instead.
Ideas for Gourmet Camping Dishes
Now let’s put those camp cooking tips to use with a few gourmet ideas for your next campout. For easier cooking at camp, prep meals at home by pre-mixing dry ingredients or chopping vegetables, for instance.
Want a belly-filling breakfast that starts your day with a dose of veggies? Look no further than this one-pan meal.
Top chia pudding with your preferred fruits, nuts, seeds, and sweeteners to tailor your bowl to your taste buds.
Canned beans are great for camping. Dial up the flavor with olives or sun-dried tomatoes.
Thinly slice all your ingredients to make sure all your fajita components finish cooking at the same time. For bonus flavor, warm (and slightly brown) your tortillas on a grate, skillet, or griddle.
Ramen noodles cook in two to three minutes, making them perfect camp food. Serve hot or chilled, as a soup or drained. Add your choice of protein, veggies, and seasoning.
Canned biscuits — and sweet rolls! — cook up great in a cast-iron skillet. Butter or oil the skillet well for a perfectly browned result.
For quicker, more even cooking, cut meat and veggies into bite-size pieces.
This corn-cooking strategy is worth bringing an extra cooler for, especially if you plan to camp with a large group.
After cooking, season with shredded hard cheese, such as parmesan or pecorino, for extra umami flavor.
For best browning, preheat the skillet while you mix the batter.
An ideal snack or dessert! Skewer a peeled banana, warm it until it starts to soften, then roll in your choice of toppings, such as sprinkles, chopped nuts, or chocolate flakes.
A basic s’mores step-up? Substitute the standard chocolate square for a peanut butter cup or white chocolate. Really get creative by adding bacon, roasted berries, or hazelnut spread.
Gourmet Camp Cooking Can Be Easy, Nutritious, and Delicious
With a few tools, a select set of your favorite foods and ingredients, and a little creativity, everyone can leave your next campout hungry for the next one.