Cooking Over A Campfire

Photo of author
Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

Is it safe to cook over a campfire?

One of the joys of camping is being able to cook over a campfire. If you’re thinking of preparing your meals the traditional way – it is perfectly safe to do so, but it’s essential to keep these factors in mind: location, clearance, wood, and gears.

Location refers to the spot your campfire is situated. It needs to be placed in an area protected from strong winds and away from leaves and grass. As a recommendation, put your campfire in a pre-dug fire pit. 

The second factor is clearance, which refers to the distance of your campfire from trees and electric lines. It is highly recommended to consider the 10-feet clearance rule, which gives a distance allowance of 10-feet on every side of the campfire. Another tip is to surround your campfire with a perimeter using rocks to prevent the fire from spreading than where it needs to be. 

Wood is also a crucial factor to consider when cooking, primarily that it serves as the fuel that keeps the fire going. There are certain woods to avoid, such as greenwood, which is still loaded with sap and water; therefore, not dry, and driftwood, which is salt-saturated and can release harmful chemicals.

The last factor on our list is the cooking gear needed. There are different cookwares for different recipes. For instance, in grilling meat and vegetables, it is best to use a grill grate. But if you choose to fry or boil your meals, a more convenient option is to use a cast iron pot, skillet, or a Dutch oven and place it over the grill grate for an even cook.

Cast iron is the best material for cooking wares, especially during camping, since metals can effectively retain and distribute heat. These factors are crucial in keeping you safe when planning to cook over a campfire.

How to cook food over a campfire?

When cooking over a campfire, it is crucial to position it in a secure location. Utilise the appropriate cooking gear and equipment needed to prepare the dish you plan to make and always avoid using chemicals and plastics on your campfire. 

Wood

Wood is the fuel that keeps your campfire going. It is vital to pick the right kind of wood to use for a campfire. Not only will it produce more heat, but it will also burn longer. Oak, Hickory, Ash, and Cedar are the best woods to be used in a camping situation. Oak trees are known for producing a good amount of heat that steadily lasts longer than other woods.

On the other hand, Hickory is known for the amount of heat it can produce; it is hotter compared to its other hardwood competitors, including oak and maple. It is best used for cooking because of the small moisture content that makes it burn very well. 

Ashwood is also ideal when creating a campfire. It is easily burnable, has a small amount of moisture content, makes a little smoke, and of course, burns great. 

Lastly, Cedarwood is notable for its capacity to provide an excellent amount of heat. In addition, Cedar also produces a pleasant and unique aroma not present in other types of wood. 

But basically, whereever you are camping, just find the best wood you can (legally!).

Firelighters

Firelighters are now massively produced throughout the world. A firestarter comes in two forms: a matchlike variant that provides a spark to build a fire using a tinder (small dry leaves and twigs) and a coal type that you light up, which serves as the tinder when building a fire. Either way, firestarters are made so that campers can build a campfire in the wilderness easily.

There is nothing to worry about when using a firelighter; they are harmless and composed mostly of wood shavings or natural and recycled materials that are non-toxically flammable. It is safe for the environment, odorless, and non-toxic, making it a highly recommended camping fire-starting product.

Cooking gear

Cooking gear is essential when cooking over a campfire. For a hassle-free cooking experience, it is highly recommended to bring surface ware for cooking. This could include a grill grate, Rotisserie grill and spit, Dutch oven, or a cast-iron camp oven.

These pieces of equipment do not just lay you out a platform to cook meat and other food but also provide an assist or stand for cookware like frying pan or iron skillets to be placed on while cooking. 

Camping cookware usually varies depending on your use. A cast-iron grill and griddle are ideal for grilling; a cast-iron Dutch oven is perfect for cooking stews and soups. And lastly, a cast-iron skillet is excellent for frying. Cast-iron is one of the best materials for cooking due to its capability to highly retain and evenly distribute heat, aside from the fact that it is nonstick and durable.

Use fireproof cooking equipment and utensils

Cooking over a campfire can get very hot. It is best to use fireproof cooking utensils, usually made of stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and iron, and are all non-combustible. Cooking utensils to prepare when cooking over a campfire may include a knife, solid spoon, soup ladle, turner, peeler, can and bottle opener, tongs, and scissors.

Aluminum foil

Aluminum Foil is a must-have, especially when cooking over a campfire. This material is easy to pack, lightweight, disposable, and, most importantly, it doesn’t burn. You can quickly wrap a fish in aluminum foil and place it on hot coal or above the grill grate, and it will easily cook the fish for you whilst preventing it from burning. 

Check the area

When building a campfire, it is a crucial factor to consider the location. When exploring in the wilderness, fire can easily spread on your surroundings, mostly because of dry and easy-to-burn leaves, grass, and trees that surround you. Always check the area and remain cautious of any potential accidents that may happen to implement preventive measures. 

Wait for the fire to get down

It is important to remember not to place your pan or start cooking when the fire is still high. There is a great possibility of getting burnt or hurt when you do so, and it may also result in overcooked or burnt dishes. Always wait for the fire to subside before starting to cook your dishes.

Put wood on the fire if needed

On the contrary, when the fire is getting too small, it is a sign that your fuel or wood supply is also getting low. You should add fuel to your campfire to keep it going longer. Once neglected, you will be forced to start building your fire back from the start, and that can be an exhausting and frustrating task.

Prepare your shovel and water

Once you’re done cooking your meals, it is important to ensure that the fire is put out to avoid the chances of it spreading to other areas. One of the simple ways to do this is by dumping water into your campfire until you see all embers out and when the hissing sound stops.

If you have no access to water, another way to put out the fire is with a shovel. You can put out the fire by dumping dirt or sand into your fire pit to bury the fire and ember. By doing this simple step, you are preventing any spread of fire to your surroundings.

Can you bake over a campfire?

There are many ways to make use of a campfire, and it is not just limited to cooking. If you’re a fan of baking but you’re out in the woods, there are innovative ways to make this possible.

You just need to have the necessary cookware to do it; either buying a flat-pack grill– which is like a grill grate but is attached with two panels to maximize heat flow towards your dish or using a Dutch oven.

How long does it take to boil water over a campfire?

Boiling water is a method of purifying it. It will take about 3-10 minutes to boil water depending on some factors, including the boiling ware used, the altitude of the cookware from the fire, and the heat the fire produces. Boiling water through a kettle is still the best option.

What is the best pan you can use to cook over a campfire?

There are a variety of pans you can use to cook your meals over a campfire, but one of the best ones to use is the cast-iron skillet. This type of pan remarkably retains heat and evenly distributes it around its surface. It is also naturally nonstick and is made from durable materials.