campfirecookThere is no meal that beats a dish cooked over an open camp fire.  I clearly remember my stay in a campground in Acadia National Park.  I was in my early 20’s and we were cooking a steak over a forked branch.  Eventually the steak fell into the fire, and, after fishing the steak out of the fire (not my preferred type of fishing!), we proceeded to finish cooking the steak, wiped the ashes off of the meat, and ate the absolute best steak we had ever had.  Maybe it’s because we were incredibly hungry, or maybe it’s just because there is something awesome about cooking anything over an open fire outdoors.  Personally, I think it was the latter.

We hope the tips below will help make your Maine outdoor cooking adventure more fun, and tasty as well!

Supplies:

  • Matches
  • Lighter fluid
  • Paper
  • Dry wood
  • Medium to large lightweight pot
  • Lightweight pan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Grate
  • Water & ice
  • Seasonings
  • Plastic or reusable bags
  • Spatula
  • Tongs
  • Fork
  • Knife

Cooking Methods

  • Wrap food in aluminum foil and place on cooking grate suspended over your open flame.  Place grate closer to coals to cook faster, and further away from coals for slow roasting.  Place tinfoil directly in coals for foods that require steady heat.
  • For soups, stews and pastas use pots that are placed directly in coals once the fire has burned down.  Make sure you have no intention of using these pots ever again in your home kitchen.
  • Cook on or over coals (wood or charcoal). Coals offer a more steady, even heat without smoke. Coals can prevent your food from burning and being raw in the middle, which most often happens from high-heat flames.
  • Fill two or four large coffee cans with water an suspend your grate over them.  While your food cooks, the water in the cans will heat up and works great for cleanup and doing dishes later.

Before:

  • Measure your ingredients ahead of time for each meal and put them in labeled storage bags.
  • Prepare dinners ahead of time, freeze and keep in cooler. Reheat for a quick & delicious meal.
  • Always bring heavy duty aluminum foil.  It is priceless when you’re at camp, and has many uses.
  • Freeze meats before packing them in a cooler.  They will work as an ice block and keep other items cold, and will keep much longer.
  • Block ice always lasts longer than cube ice, and you can always chip off pieces for your drinks!
  • Pack all items that go into coolers in water-tight containers.  As the ice in your cooler melts, it will get into anything that isn’t water-tight.
  • Keep all foods stored in your vehicle or up very high above the ground to prevent unwanted untamed critters for dining on your dinner!
  • Bring along cans of frozen juice.  They mix easily with water for a tasty beverage for all, and up until you use them, serve well to keep other foods cold.
  • To keep your matches dry dip them in wax (which you can scrape off before striking) and keep them in a waterproof container
  • When bringing prepared foods like soups, sauces, etc., pack them in freezer bags and freeze them before your trip.  They will keep longer, and will also keep other items in your cooler cold longer.  You also don’t have to worry about glass jars breaking, or the space they are taking up in your cooler.
  • To keep bar soap clean at the campsite place it in a sock.
  • Pita bread is easier to pack and carry than loaf bread.
  • Bring trail snacks that boost energy for in-between snacks such as GORP trail mix, granola bars, beef jerky, dried fruit, etc.
  • Fill milk jugs or soda bottles with drinkable water or juice, freeze and place in your cooler.  These help keep food cold and also serve as a ready-made cold beverage.
  • Use one cooler for drinks and another for food items to avoid cross- contamination and keeps food items colder, longer.
  • To prevent marshmallows from sticking together in warmer temperatures add a little powdered sugar to the bag.
  • Pre-slice ingredients like onion, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, etc. before you leave.  Pre-cook any meats you can to make meal prep faster when you reach the end of a long day and don’t feel like cooking.
  • Plan to use your pots as mixing bowls to save room when packing and during clean up.
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil bags take up less space  and are great for mixing vegetables and meats together.  They make cooking and cleanup easy.
  • Use a charcoal chimney to get charcoal ready for cooking quicker.
  • Use disposable water bottles for salad dressings, oils, and sauces.

During:

  • Whenever possible, cover pots cooking over a campfire.  They will heat faster, and the covers will keep ashes that rise from your fire from falling into your dinner!
  • Cover your camp grill with oil to prevent food from sticking (especially chicken!)
  • To evenly cook hamburgers over an open flame, put a finger-sized hole in the center.  The hole will disappear as the burger cooks, and your burger will be cooked evenly.
  • Remember what your mother taught you- keep all handles away from extreme heat, flames and elbows.  If you don’t heed this warning, at least remember to bring pot holders!
  • If you have a leak in your cooler, seal it with melted wax on both the inside and outside of the cooler.
  • Take one of your dirty pots or pans and fill it with water and place it over the fire while you eat.  When you are done, you will have a pan of warm/hot cleanup water ready.
  • Replenish your ice often so your food is kept cold all the time.  This keeps it from spoiling.
  • To make breakfast egg sandwiches, cook your eggs in a canning ring and put them on easily stored English muffins.
  • If you have electricity, crockpots are a campsite’s best friend.  Start them before you leave for the day, and when you return, you have a tasty, hot meal waiting for you!
  • If you accidentally add too much salt to a recipe, add a peeled potato.  The potato will absorb the extra salt, and will taste great when done!
  • When barbecuing chicken, grill the chicken without sauce until it is halfway cooked, then coat with sauce. The sauce won’t burn and your meal will be much tastier.
  • When you reach your final morning of camping, combine leftover meats and vegetables into omelets for breakfast.
  • To prevent vegetables from burning onto tinfoil, add a few ice cubes wrapped in foil to the packets.  This also keeps food in the tinfoil moist.
  • Use a leather or suede glove as an oven mitt.
  • For easy access to paper towels, put a rope through the paper towel tube and tie the ends together. Loop the rope over a board in your picnic table or hang it from a nearby limb.

tinfoilcookingAfter:

  • To clean your pots and pans faster, put a layer of liquid soap on the outside of them before using them for cooking.  This will also protect them from smoke and fire damage.
  • To remove odors from your cooler, wash it with some warm water and baking soda.
  • To remove food stuck to the bottom of your pots and pans, add a few drops of dish soap to the pans with water and heat up over your campfire.
  • To prevent items from sticking to your pans, line them with tinfoil whenever possible.
  • An old, large coffee pot serves as a great container for heating up cooking water, dish water, or hot beverage water.

View our Camping Checklist 2015 for an idea of what to bring on your camping trip this year!