Going Camping? These Campfire Cooking Essentials Will Ensure You're Well Equipped to Handle Every Meal
There's nothing quite like gathering around the campfire—except maybe cooking your meal on that very same campfire. But as anyone who has ever set up their tent only to find they forgot to bring butter or aluminum foil knows, the most important ingredient of a good campfire meal is planning. Pendleton Woolen Mills, the textile brand based in Portland, Oregon, that's renowned for its camping savvy, just published The Pendleton Guide to Campfire Cooking ($17.99, amazon.com), so we talked to one of the company's camping experts, April Rodgers, to glean a few insights. Consider reading this article your first step towards planning better fireside meals on your next camping trip.
How to Set up a Camp Kitchen
Off to the woods you go. When packing for your camp kitchen, Rodgers recommends striving for a balance of simplicity and preparedness. "Camping can be a practice in minimalism, but that doesn't mean you should feel ill-equipped. Striking this balance will allow for simpler camping trips, more confident cooking, and an appreciation of utility that yields delicious, nourishing meals," she says. Campfire meal preparedness, however, isn't just about cooking and eating. "Before embarking on any trip, check the local fire danger warnings and campfire regulations and be confident in your safety precautions—we always have a bucket and shovel at the campsite," Rodgers shares.
Of course, you can't cook fireside without firewood. As for where to get yours? The general rule of thumb is "buy it where you burn it," since invasive species often hitch a ride on out-of-town logs, notes Rodgers. In addition to firewood, you should plan to travel with the following camping cookware: a cast-iron skillet, paring knife, spatula, nesting bowls, cutting boards, wooden spoon, waterproof matches, pot holder, mugs, plates and bowls, cutlery, scrubbing brush, dish towels, and biodegradable dish soap.
Don't Forget About Your Camp Pantry
Figuring out what kind of food to bring on a camping trip can be tough, but it's also important to pack a few pantry goods to build upon or accompany whatever grub you ultimately feast on. "Knowing you have everything you need at your campsite gives you freedom to go off script, modify recipes, or create something spontaneous with that wild-caught fish," says Rodgers. To that end, she advises packing these essentials:
- Oils, like olive, canola, or grapeseed
- Salt ("We recommend Jacobsen from our neighbors in coastal Oregon," says Rodgers)
- Peppercorns, for fresh pepper (bring a pepper mill, too!)
- Dried herbs and spices ("Bring what you like to use from home," notes Rodgers)
- Canned beans, which are "super versatile and filling"
- Canned tomatoes, which come in handy when "you need to throw something together quickly"
- Dairy, including salted butter, Greek yogurt, and cheddar cheese
- Garlic, onions, and shallots (an allium trio that is essential for many recipes)
The Case for a Camp Stove
Yes, you should buy a camp stove if you don't have one already (and clean yours, if you do!). "A good, double-burner propane stove is worth the investment and will last a lifetime," says Rodgers. Be sure to test yours before you head out and become comfortable with changing its fuel canisters. And if you're worried you'll miss the romance of a made-by-hand campfire? "Even if you plan to cook over the fire, it's wise to bring a camp stove in case of an unforeseen storm, high winds, or damp wood—and always pack an extra canister of fuel," says our expert.
Finally, it's worth noting that a campfire isn't necessarily the end-all, be-all of your culinary adventures in the woods. "Just because you have a campfire doesn't mean you should feel pressured to cook everything on it," shares Rodgers. "It's easier to set up a stove to boil water for pasta or heat the kettle for coffee." But for s'mores, you definitely want to forage for those twigs and get to work over the open flame—preferably while your mulled apple cider warms on said stove.