As mentioned before, I said I would do a few posts in June for National Great Outdoors Month, so here is the second in the series.
When most people think of camping meals they think of hotdogs on sticks, s’mores, or those little bags of dehydrated food (yum).
But, I know you can do better than that. With a little planning and creativity you can still have some kick ass delicious meals out on the campsite. Sure some of them take a little longer than dinner at home, but what else have you got to do?
Since I am going to assume most of us are car campers (i.e. we drive to the campsite and park there) and getting your campfire cooking chops is super easy, I recommend bringing one pan and one pan alone, the cast iron skillet. Toss in some heavy duty tin foil, and you, my friends, are on your way to being the Julia Child of the outdoors. If you are the type that hoofs in it and weighs your tent before camping, then a) get out of here, you don’t need this post, and b) I would recommend against the cast iron skillet because they weigh ten pounds.
Now, if you don’t have a skillet then it makes sense to invest in one, you can get them pretty much anywhere from Target to Bass Pro to Williams Sonoma, and they come in a range of sizes and prices. If you are looking for good quality but not a budget buster try Lodge, with them you can get a quality pan for under $30 and they will last a long long time. Usually these skillets are non-stick, but you can always bring some cooking spray, butter or oil with you if you prefer. And make sure not to scrub your pan with any metal brushes just wipe off with a towel, soap and water.
So, why just the one pan you might ask? Beyond just simplicity (you can bring more if you so desire), it serves a couple of camping purposes, first it is heavy duty, you can plop it right down into the fire and it will not melt or scorch. Second, it heats up really evenly and retains the heat there won’t be any hot or cool spots. And third, start using these enough and they will provide extra flavor to your foods – this is a good thing.
The foil is your second major tool, because you can take pretty much anything, toss it in foil and throw it directly onto the coals of the fire, automatically opening up your potential meal options. Basically, the only thing that is stopping your is your imagination.
To make things easy, I am going to list for you below some easy things you can make on the campfire (and I mean literally on the campfire). Some stuff make take a little prep work at home before you head out, for example with corn on the cobb you can pre-butter and season your corn at home then wrap in foil so they are good to go and then you don’t need to bring the butter, but if you are already tossing things into your cooler already just add them in, or if you prefer to prep at the site, just remember to bring a cutting board and a solid knife for your mise en place.
On to the food, these are some suggestions, but feel free to be creative, and add whatever seasonings you prefer:
Super Simple Things to Cook:
* Baked potatoes – take your potatoes and wrap in tin foil (you can season with some butter or spices) and toss on the fire for about 45 minutes
* Corn on the cobb – if you have corn that is still on the husk, soak them in water for about an hour, peel back the husk and put some butter on, put the husk back up then just toss onto the fire, once the husk is basically black they are done, usually it takes about twenty minutes to half an hour. Otherwise, you can put butter on, wrap in foil and put it on the fire for about twenty to twenty five minutes
* Eggs and bacon – just put them in the pan and cook away to desired done-ness. Usually I pre-crack the eggs and put them in a ziplock baggie for easy pouring and not having to worry about eggs breaking
* Kabobs – these you can pre-make at home too, but make sure to soak your skewers. Just combine whatever meat and veg you like and toss on the grate
*Stick biscuits – buy some of the canned crescent rolls, and wrap around a nice thick green stick hold over the fire slowly turning until the roll is nice and brown. Some people fill these with chocolate or jams.
One Pot Meals:
* Combine ground beef with some of your favorite veggies – diced potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc.
* Make french toast – dip bread into your egg dip and toss in the skillet
* Grill up some kielbasa then add in onion, peppers, any extra bacon and some beans (baked, black or red) for a hearty dinner
* Jambalaya – cook some protein (chicken, sausage, shrimp) in the skillet then add tomatoes, onions, celery, peppers, garlic, a cup of rice and two cups water (or stock), keep stirring until the rice absorbs all the water
Foil Packet Meals: (Remember in foil packets you need to have moisture, so don’t skimp on that, and make your packets so there is some air space in them for the steam, that way your meat will be nice and juicy)
* Catch of the day – put your fresh fish in with some olive oil, butter or lemon juice, or marinate it in your salad dressing toss in some of your favorite herbs, add some asparagus and in ten to fifteen minutes and you’re done
* Asian chicken – toss in chicken breasts, teriyaki sauce, frozen stir fry veggies and put on the fire
* Pork chops – put in chop with some maple syrup, sauerkraut, and bacon, cook about twenty minutes
* London Broil – add tri-tip, mushroom gravy, and veggies
* Baked apples – core some apples, add in butter, cinnamon and sugar, cover in foil and cook about twenty five minutes
* Choco bananas – take a banana cut in half and sprinkle with chocolate chips, or toss in your favorite candy bar, wrap in foil and cook about ten minutes
So there you have it. All these are some starter recipes to try out. As you do it more and gain some confidence you can expand to bigger and better meals. But for a few nights out in the woods these are all a great place to start!