Ask The Readers {Tips and Ideas For Cooking While Camping}

I have had several emails and comments lately asking for ideas for cooking while camping.

Well, here is where I admit that I have not been camping since I was about twelve. I grew up camping all over Oregon. It was an inexpensive and fun vacation and I have some great memories of the summers we went camping and hiking, but my husband and I have never taken our kids camping.

My cooking skills while camping involve mainly watching others do it. Well, okay I have roasted a hot dog, toasted a marshmallow, and made the foil packets full of meat and vegetables that you put in the coals of a fire, but that really is the extent of my camping and cooking skills.

So, here is where I am hoping you all have some tips and ideas for eating and cooking while camping. What things do you like to take and eat while camping?

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Comments

  1. Definitely Dutch Oven recipes! You can make anything from biscuits for breakfast to lasagne for dinner. It’s also something you can do at home if you make the investment, with briquettes on your back patio in the heat of summer and not heat up the whole house with the oven.

    Our go-to breakfast that’s not dutch oven is pancakes with bacon and eggs on the cast iron griddle, and my kids would eat hotdogs for every camping meal, but I find that with a little camping stove you can really make just about anything you can image for dinner. Normally we pack sandwich fixings with fruits, carrots, and chips for lunches.

  2. I would always:

    Freeze meats to extend the shelf life, and to maximize room in the cooler. put EVERYTHING in ziploc bags to keep sealed from “cooler melt”
    take ground beef already cooked for chili /sloppy joes /tacos
    use beef and chicken meats first in menu plan

    Once I used up the fresh meats, some of my quickie meals would be

    canned beef stew served over rice,
    sweet and sour sauce over canned spam/chicken/ham
    canned chili over baked potatoes, topped with cheese, chips and salsa
    red beans and rice

  3. It depends on how many people are camping with you. Once a year we camp with extended family and this year there will be 29 of us. So, we split up the meal assignments and think bigger. Lots of foil packets in the campfire, fish with potatoes, chicken and veggies, that type of thing works great. You can even prep them at home if you feel like it.

    Put together the dry portion of your favorite pancake recipe and then just add eggs, milk and oil when you get there. If you are doing them the first morning, I would even mix everything and just jar it in the cooler. That way you are just shaking it and then pouring it on the griddle the next day.

    I tend to do a bit of baking ahead of time and then we have muffins and bread for breakfast with fresh fruits. Peanut butter and cheeses can add some easy protein as well. Eggs are great, but for our crowd, it takes a LONG time to prepare that much hot food. I’ve considered making burrito fillings ahead of time and then just assembling them there and wrapping in foil to put in the fire to warm them.

    Lots of snack foods, veggies and easy fruits ready to eat in individual bags make healthy snacking easier. I dislike having to prep that kind of thing outdoors. If I have a gallon ziploc in the cooler with individual portion sized bags inside it, it’s much easier to take on a walk or just snack on in general.

    Definitely easy sandwich fixings for lunches! We rarely cook a hot lunch, since we are typically pretty active during the days. Soups are great for nights as well. They can be made ahead of time and then just reheated.

  4. We do mostly “backpack” style cooking. So, we use LOTS of freezer bag recipes. This is the site we use a ton http://www.trailcooking.com .

  5. April Walker says:

    I take an electric griddle camping with us. You can cook anything on it. It makes breakfast really easy whether it’s bacon/sausage/eggs/toast, or pancakes (shake n pour bottle makes pancakes easy too. just add water to the bottle….shake…and pour)

  6. My main camp-cooking tip is to chop up veggies before you leave, and take them in baggies/jars/containers. No matter how nice our campsite, it’s just never set up as well as my very own kitchen for chopping and dicing. :)

  7. Homemade soup (chicken or ground beef) cooked at home and frozen flat in gallon zip bags. Place these in the cooler to take with you. Be sure to take a big soup kettle to reheat it at the campsite.

  8. I moved to the UK in 2010 and was surprised to find that European camping doesn’t involve a campfire!

    I have a single burner gas stove, but I’m hoping to upgrade to a double for this year. When we were in Austria camping, we had a lot of boiled franks and kraut, or those Knorr pastas (like the Lipton ones in the US) that I doctored up with diced cooked chicken and extra veggies. Other than that, we stuck to sandwiches!

  9. We like to roast veggies and vegetarian meatless patties (like Morning Star) over a fire. One of the favorites is mushrooms and onions with butter, salt and a little pepper. Always a huge hit. We usually have a gas stove as back up just in case as well.

  10. I’m seconding the Dutch oven idea. We absolutely adore ours. And as an added plus, the lid inverted functions as a griddle. You can use it as is, propping it with stones over your fire, or there is a separate holder you can purchase to use with it. I would also recommend purchasing the lid lifter, especially if you are cooking with coals on top, as most Dutch oven recipes call for.

    We always make a pot of chili then freeze flat as a previous poster suggested. That’s always our first night’s meal, as once we’ve traveled & setup, we don’t feel like preparing a meal.

    We also love using pie irons. You could feasibly take only pie irons and cook over a campfire every night, not needing anything else. You can use them for a lot more than sandwiches – eggs, bacon, s’mores, pies, you name it!

    I would definitely advise having a backup stove, as you never know when weather conditions might prevent you from using a fire.

    Ah, I could go on about camping forever. We love it!

  11. We do a lot of camping, backpacking and whitewater rafting. Here are three things that seem to be popular with everyone.

    The first is personalized omelettes. Scramble the eggs (or bring Egg Beaters) and prep separate containers of grated cheese, onions, chopped ham, bacon bits, mushrooms, etc. Give everyone a quart-sized freezer zip-lock bag. Write their name on it w/ a Sharpie marker, then have each person fill their bag with about 3/4 cup of the plain eggs, plus whatever add-ins they like. Be sure bag is no more than 1/2 full and use quality bags. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. We like to double bag ours (again, remember to remove all air) then drop bags into a large pot of boiling water. Limit the number of bags in the pot at one time to prevent them from getting pushed up against the pot without moving. All bags should be rolling around a bit in the water. It takes about 5-8 minutes per bag. Lift out with tongs, then open the bag and dump the now-cooked omelette onto a tortilla. Top with more cheese and salsa, as desired. The novelty of this, plus the lack of clean-up, is lots of fun. I’m not crazy about the idea of heating my food in plastic bags (just seems toxic somehow!) but it’s a rare occasion so I just go with it since it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

    The second idea is Dutch Oven Tamale Pie. Combine (3) 40-oz. cans Hormel chilli w/ beans, (3) 4-oz. cans diced green chiles, (2) diced jalapenos, and pour mixture into 14″ dutch oven. In separate bowl, mix (3) boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix, 3 eggs and 1 cup milk. Mix well and pour over bean/chile mixture in dutch oven. We cook this over 35-40 briquettes/coals for 45-50 minutes and serve with salsa, sour cream and green onions.

    And finally, the last suggestion is for Killer Brownies. Line a 9×9 or similar square pan with foil, spray with buttered cooking spray and set aside. Mix a box of commercial or pre-made brownie mix per pkg. directions. Chop up 2 regular sized Snickers or Milky Way candy bars (or one of each) and stir into the brownie mix. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 30-40 minutes. It will be gooey, so serve in bowls, preferrably with spoons. We make this with a small Coleman pop-up “camp oven” (about $30 new) over a gas camp stove, or Dutch Oven style over coals of a campfire (Use coals and ashes, NOT active fire or it will burn!).

    Happy trails!

  12. We do crock pot meals (if you have a generator or electricity hook-ups). Also we grill A LOT and we pre-marinade our meats in freezer bags so they’re ready to throw on the grill! Love this post! Great ideas.
    We also use the electric skillet for breakfast. Baked potatoes in the fire coals are our all time favorite! All the leftover potatoes are eaten in the morning with eggs for breakfast (in the skillet)!

  13. Danielle says:

    There are so many options for cooking while camping – dutch oven, pie irons, foil packs, stick cooking and box ovens. Anything you make at home can generally be made while camping – it just may take a little more work or a little more time!

  14. Since everyone has given you so many good cooking ideas will share a clean-up idea. Before you cook with anything (dutch oven, skillet, etc) over a fire, coat the outside with a film of dish soap. The items will clean -up easily and no burnt on stuff from fire.

  15. we take hot dog, hamburgers (frozen and well sealed ) steak, bake potatoes ( wrap in foil place in coals in campfire). chicken for fajitas ( wrap peppers and onion in foil with a little oil place on coals in campfire). You can also take corn on cob wrap in foil and place in fire too. remember foil is your friend when camping. lol

  16. We used cookers over the grill – I don’t know what they are called, but they are square (the size of bread) and you can make anything you want in them. Two slices of bread, buttered, with anything you want inside. We made desserts, pizzas, breakfast burritos (with bread, not tortillas), etc. We always topped that off with smores.

  17. Dandi Bond says:

    Wow! This post has brought back some memories for me! My mom is a super cook, and camping was no different. I would have to agree with Chelsea and expand. I think one of the biggest things that you can do is PREP!!! We used to have a cooler with only uncooked food, packed like the fridge: meat on the bottom, dairy, then fruits and veggies. The key was that my mom would make marinades for all of the meat and put them in zip lock bags the day before the trip so by the time it was cooking over the grill or campfire, the meat was amazing. She would put everything together in meal compartments so all ingredients were right there together, and lists. She was crazy organized in this area. Our camp food was SO great. She would even take frozen homemade spaghetti sauce and we’d cook the pasta over the fire. She just made sure that everything was planned out!

  18. We camped all the time when I was a kid. My Grandfather could cook amazing meals with 2 cast-iron skillets, an old fashioned coffee pot and some long metal skewers. We baked biscuits, made pancakes, fried trout, roasted any thing we could put on a stick (one time we even did meatballs), and made soup in the coffee pot if it was raining. The only prep ahead we ever did was to bake a few potatoes to use for hashbrowns. We never used fancy marinades or recipes but, I think, because everything was cooked outdoors it always tasted great.

    Unfortunately, my husband’s idea of ruffing it is staying at a resort that does not have a golf course so we have never taken our daughter camping. I am her Girl Scout troop leader though and I have noted down some of these wonderful ideas to use at our first camp out :)

  19. I like to do some make ahead salads in ziploc bags. Easy and portable and by the time we get there, they’ve had enough time to marinate.

    I second the crock pot cooking. It doesn’t seem like authentic camping cooking, but it’s so much easier!

  20. Christine says:

    We camp several times a year. My go-to recipe is chili. I always pre-make it and freeze it. Then I pack it in the cooler. We always have this the first night. It is nice to have a meal with no prep the day we set up camp. We like fajitas also. I have used the KOA website to find recipes and have been happy with them.

  21. English muffin pizzas are always good. They’re easy to whip up and even put together before you leave. We always took a little toaster oven and just put a few in at a time. Serve with some fruit and you have a quick and easy lunch or dinner!

  22. We came one weekend every summer with our church family! The kids LOVE it and look forward to it every year. It is a lot of work, but so worth the memories!

    I do a lot of prep at home (baked goods, jello, marinating meats for grilling).

    We marinade our meats and then freeze them – the more you take frozen, the better for your cooler – everything thaws quickly.

    Walking tacos are a fun one with easy cleanup. Again, do the prep of making your taco meat at home and then just pack all the fixins along with small bags of doritoes. Cut the side of the chip bag and dump in meat, cheese, lettuce (and we like catalina dressing).

    We do pancakes with our electric skillet or cook stove.

    All our meats are grilled with a handy-dandy “tripod.” A round grill rack hooked up on a metal tripod so you can lower your food closer to the fire or lift it up (bought it at the camp store!)

    Campfire potatoes is a side we all love (I make them at home too!) Layed sliced potatoes, onoins, bits of butter, salt and pepper on greased aluminum foil sheets – wrap it up well (you can use the foil oven bags too) and grill until soft – about 25 min if near hot coals/ashes!

    We also use a mountain pie maker – spray insides and line both halves with bread. Fill with pizzas sauce/cheese/pepperoni or canned pie fillings for a yummy evening snack!

    We go camping in less than a month, so it has been fun to get some new ideas with this post!

    Thank you!
    Leigh Ann

  23. Alisa Baker says:

    We always pack smore’s supplies. the other is you can use a pie irons. All you need is bread and whatever you want to fill it with. We make everything from Ruebens to apple pie. we also have done various things on the grill from basic hot dogs to pizza.

  24. schroeder says:

    This is from my boy scout days. It is a concept that you can use with many types of food. If i recall correctly, it is called “silver turtles”. You take two maybe three large shees of aluminum foil. I would take a big groun beef patty and mix it with spices and sometimes onions. I would take canned corn / green beans along with a potatoe. I would clean it and cut it up. I then layered the meat, potatoes, veggies added any spices and a couple of tea spoons of water. The placement of it on the sheets of the aluminum foil is to one side of it so you could foled it over. You want to make sure the food is in the center. You would roll the three ends creating a seal. I would stick it in a large zip lock bag to prevent punctures. You can cook it on coals of a fire. The heat creats steam and it cooks that way. Then you pull it out and cut it open and enjoy. I have done this before when I was a kid by cooking it in the oven. Kinda of a neat thing. Maybe I will try it again soon !

    S!

  25. I prepare everything that I can ahead of time – cutting veggies, browning meat, etc. I freeze everything that goes in the cooler so it’s more likely to stay colder longer. I try to do our “fresh” ingredient meals at the beginning of our trip and the “canned” ingredient meals at the end of the trip so I don’t have to worry about spoilage as the trip goes on (we are often gone several weeks at a time).
    My kids love the “omelette in a bag” that they learned at scouts and it’s a way to get them to cook! I never buy boxed meals for home, but while camping, I usually invest in some Hamburger Helper. It’s easy and the kids love it because they never get it at home. They also love quesadillas in foil (easy to melt cheese over a fire). The boy scouts are a great resource for easy camp cooking recipes that kids can often help with or do on their own. http://www.boyscouttrail.com has a recipe section that is useful.
    We do all day hikes while camping so I pack portable lunches. The favorite is “Pita Pizzas” – a pita pocket with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni inside. They’re easy to make in the morning and can be wrapped up and thrown in the backpack.

  26. We love to camp and try to do so several times a year. Some of our favorites have already been mentioned – hot dogs, hamburgers, ziplock bag omelettes, smores, etc. But one other recipe that we absolutely love is Dump Cobbler – a boyscout recipe that has probably been altered over time but this is the way we make it. And it is so easy – it takes all of 5 – 10 minutes to prepare, plus there’s no stirring necessary.

    1 box yellow cake mix
    1 large (28 oz) can fruit or 2 cans pie filling
    brown sugar
    cinnamon
    1 stick butter

    Melt 1/2 stick butter and pour into dutch oven to coat bottom. Sprinkle some brown sugar over butter and then pour half of the cake mix on top of that. Add can of fruit (juice included) and spread remaining cake mix over top of that. Sprinkle more brown sugar and slice remaining butter into small pats making sure to cover entire top with the butter. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of the butter. Bake about 45 minutes until light brown and bubbly. When I bake this at home, I bake it at 350 and do not cover it, but when out camping, it will need the lid on it if baked on a campfire or grill.

    Once we started making this cobbler – other cobblers just don’t stand a chance! Our favorite is cherry or peach cobbler.

  27. Julie Huey says:

    I don’t like to camp due to my allergic reaction to mosquitoes (8″to 10″ itchy bumps), but I do it so that my kids will have survival skills (i.e. parental modeling, survival of the fittest passed down for our future generations). I plan on teaching my kids how to start a fire with a minimalist tool when they are a little older. It’s time-consuming to get the fire to the hot glowing embers stage for cooking, so a lot of patience is involved. For survival training, my favorite tools are marshmallow sticks (e.g. meat, veggie, potato kababs and you’ve got a meal that everyone cooks themselves). I also like showing them how to cook with long tongs and a pie pan over the embers. A new book just came out for kids called “Cooking Over A Fire: Cooking with a Stick, Cooking Hobo Style.” It’s a good place to start in terms of recipes. If I want more surface area for cooking, a tripod grill goes over the fire and take up very little space in the car. I do bring a camp stove for most of the meals, but only one which requires minimal cleanup….the Foldn’ Go Stove…http://www.amazon.com/PerfectFlow-InstaStart-Foldn-2-Burner-Stove/dp/B0055QGV52. Besides a pot and a griddle as cooking tools, I try not to forget my mitt-type potholder, tongs, spatula, and spoonula. In terms of food, every family’s diet varies. For breakfast, we typically have scrambled eggs, toast, and avocado spread. So, we do the same at camp. For lunch, our favorite is to build our own sandwiches. For dinner, our favorite is to make quesadillas on the griddle. My oldest is now old enough to help out. It’s been a great blessing.

    • Julie Huey says:

      @Julie Huey, I almost forgot. I teach them to find sticks which resembles chop sticks to use them as such. They are perfect survival eating tools when one does not have a fork.

  28. I precook a lot of my food before we leave. I then freeze it. I don’t like cooking with raw meat while camping. I also crack eggs for breakfast and put them in a jug. I then only have to pour them out when ready to cook.
    We freeze water in milk jugs for the cooler. Crushed ice poured over everything melts too quickly. Everything stays a little dryer this way, too.

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