Campfire Cooking

28 07 2008

The Lansing State-Journal has an article on their website this mornng about campfire cooking.  Man, does that bring back memories.  My friends and I used to “camp” every weekend.  Campfire cooked food was what I always looked forward to.  The LSJ doesn’t offer a whole lot of insight in exactly how to cook over a campfire other than to throw a commecial in there for a tuscan grill maker. 

The most important thing, make sure you’re burning a hardwood.  Softwoods not only taste bad, but they can be hazardous.  Just like on the grill, I prefer hickory.  Once you get a fire going, you have options.  Metal pokers aren’t really a good option.

Metal pokers might work for marshmallows, but are very limited when it comes to cooking a whole meal. But in a pinch, they’ll get your dogs hot enough for a bun and mustard.

You can do better than hot dogs.  The easiest way is to wrap your food in a piece of aluminum foil and throw it directly into the fire.  It will take quite a while to cook meat this way because you’re basically steaming.  This works good for vegetables.  Toss a little butter in the packet and you’ll have the best tasting veggies ever.  Be careful not to throw it directly into the fire.  Use some hot coals near the edge so it doesn’t burn.

An example of a Tuscan Grill

An example of a Tuscan Grill

If you want to grill, the best idea is to get a Tuscan Grill.  The idea here is not to put the grates directly over the flames, but again, pull a mound of coals to the side of the fire pit and put the grill over them.  This method will make you feel like you’re using a Weber Grill in your backyard, but your fuel is all wood smoke instead of charcoal and wood chunks.  You will definitely taste the difference in your food.

The third way I’ve cooked outdoors is simply with a cast iron skillet.  I don’t care how outdated you think they are, cast iron skillets should be a staple in your kitchen just like milk and eggs.  I was at my brothers house a few years ago during an ice storm and we lost power for 12 hours.  With no power, we couldn’t turn on the oven and because it was raining ice, we couldn’t fire up the grill.  He had his fireplace going to keep warm.  I found the cast iron skillet I bought him for Christmas that he never used and was able to cook steaks in the fireplace.  When cooking outdoors, you have a couple options.  If you need a screaming hot skillet, rake a mound of coals over to the side and put the skillet down directly on the coals.  Remember, the handle will be just as hot, so make sure to have a glove or a couple towels if you need to pick it up.  You can also find some bricks and and elevate the skillet over the coals.  This will work great for eggs, sausage, bacon, and even the steak you’re craving. 

Coleman Camp Cooker - Pie Iron

Coleman Camp Cooker - Pie Iron

I used to be a real big fan of those grilled cheese makers you can buy in the camping section at Wal-Mart.  It’s basically two cast iron plates that close together and attached to a long stick.  Instead of grilled cheese, we made sandwiches we called “pudgy pies.”  I have no idea where the name came from.  We would butter the outside of the bread and put one slice on each plate just like you would for grilled cheese.  We’d then take shredded mozzerella and pizza sauce and fill the sandwich.  It was basically a little grilled pizza.  I’ve tried making this at home on the stove top and it never turns out the same.  This was one sandwich where the wood smoke made the meal.

Campfire cooking doesn’t mean your stuck with hot dogs and marshmallows.  You can cook a great meal at the campsite.  A meal that will probably taste better than one you cook at home.  Don’t forget the spices and plan ahead a little and meal time will be the best part of your camping trip.  Anything you make at home, you can make over an open fire.

Update:  I totally forgot about Dutch Ovens.  I don’t have much experience with these cooking vessels.  I’ve seen it done, but never tried it myself.  Really, my only exposure has been on E!’s The Soup.  Thank you Joel McHale!




2 responses

28 07 2008

Sooo meaty!

29 07 2008

We used to make something called a Hobo Stew over the campfire where we would just have a beer keg with a hole in it and we’d throw tons of veggies and some broth in there and everyone would show up with some meat and throw it in, pork chops, all kinds of different cuts of beef, sausage, etc… Let it cook up for a few hours and that is some good eating!

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