Saturday, June 15, 2013

Camping cooking techniques

Lately, I've been noticing all sorts of camping recipes and tips getting repinned on Pinterest, and most of them are just plain silly.  My personal favorite is this bucket fastened to a milk crate to be used as a toilet.   Really?  I can't picture hauling this monstrosity to a campsite....and what does one do after someone uses it?    This blogger recommends covering in in sawdust and using it as compost! thanks.  I've camped in many kinds of places, and even the most rustic offers some kind of pit toilet, which is fancy talk for an outhouse.   It might not be enclosed, but it is a place to do what you need to do.   If there's not one available, you can dig a hole....but I guess no one wants to pin that to Pinterest.  For some reason, people think the milk crate getup is cute or something.  

There's another pin that's getting a ton of play entitled 20 camping recipes that will make your mouth water, but the blogger must not camp (or cook) very much, because most of these recipes aren't very camp friendly.  She's planning on going on a 50 day camping trip this summer....I wish her luck.   There's lots of recipes that show a picture of a cast iron frying pan.  Why is it that  people think that a cast iron frying pan is "camping equipment"?   I love my cast iron frying pans, but leave them home!  Camping is the last place to bring one.    They are heavy and they will rust if kept outside.  Perhaps people envision cooking over an open fire with one, but it is actually not a good idea.   Cast iron retains heat, and it is really easy to burn food in one.

I have a feeling that most people on Pinterest are not really roughing it - they are probably "car camping" which gives you the opportunity to camp with a cooler and more cooking gear than you would on a backpacking trip.   Most of my camping is done this way - we have a pop up camper that our family uses, and for Boy Scouts, we travel with a camping trailer that has room for lots of gear to cook for lots of people at one time.   For Girl Scouts, we tend to stay in lodges but do lots of cooking outside.  For this type of camping, there's  really only 3 ways to cook - using a camp stove, grilling or in the campfire itself.  Using a camp stove is the easiest....anything you can make at home on the stove top can be made while camping.  It's also great to use to heat up water to do the dishes - a big part of camp cooking is doing the dishes,  plan ahead for it.   Before you even start cooking anything, start heating a large pot of water for the dishes. This is the best camping cooking tip I can give anyone!

Grilling is a technique most people are familiar with, but it's important to use an actual grill to do it on.   Not one of these contraptions. 


Setting a grate over a campfire and trying to cook on it is an exercise in futility.   Things will burn on the outside and be undercooked on the inside.   Again, it's not a good idea to set a cast iron frying pan on one of these either.    Most camping areas have grills and picnic areas - use one of the camp grills with charcoal and grill out just like you'd do at home.  

My favorite way to cook while camping is in the campfire itself.  Foods wrapped in foil, such as baked potatoes, can be cooked in the hot embers of the fire (not in a flames!).  My favorite ways to cook things over the fire are pie irons and a dutch oven. 
pie iron

dutch oven

Think of a pie iron as your own personal panini press to make any kind of hot sandwich, or individual meal.   The camping dutch oven is the workhorse of all camp cookery.  You can bake in it, cook soups and stews in it, fry in it, use its lid as a griddle.    It's my favorite way to camp cook.    In upcoming blog posts this summer, I will share some of my favorite camp cookery recipes.  But if you are looking for a great camping cookbook, I can suggest a couple of my favorites:


 Happy camping!