Campfires to camping is like food to Italians, an analogy which is very applicable as we discuss ways in which you can cook on the campfire.
A campfire can offer so much… whether it be warmth for comfort, heat for cooking, lighting for ambience or just a visual distraction for when the conversation gets boring. By harnessing the heat that a fire produces, there are numerous pieces of cooking equipment that you can use to cook on the campfire.
We’ll be looking at five options including Cook Stands, Camp Ovens, Jaffle Irons, Forks and Hot Plates. Before we get cooking though, we need to ensure we’re equipped and ready.
A roaring campfire – is there anything better on a chilly evening? Image: Ben Trewren
No matter how you’re cooking on the campfire, you should always make sure you’re prepared by taking these steps:
- Clear the area around the fire – ensure you have an open and clear space around the campfire which allows you to move around with ease, not pose any risks of embers catching nearby fuel alight and by having space to place equipment when not on the fire.
- Make sure you have some Heat Proof Gloves – these protective gloves which are made of leather are fantastic when handling hot equipment or when managing equipment in and around campfires.
- Keep a shovel nearby – the shovel doesn’t need to be big, just big enough to help you manage the fire when it comes to shifting firewood or shovelling coals.
- Have a means of extinguishing the fire – never take chances or get complacent with campfires – no matter your experience. Whenever a fire is alight, there are always risks so ensure you have a plan and means to extinguish your fire if needed.
- Have some cooking oil and paper towel ready– these are critical items as campfire cooking equipment is often made of steel or cast iron. You’ll need to use the cooking oil and paper towel to season or cure your campfire cooking equipment to help stop food sticking whilst cooking, which will make it easier to clean after every use.
Now that we’re prepared, we can start to look at the cooking options available.
Cook Stands are usually designed around a stake that is hammered into the ground or supported via a base which is located on the edge of the fire. While designs vary, the idea is that you can add pans, pots, hooks and grills of your choice to the stake to cook from. These can then be height adjusted depending on the fire’s heat and can be swung around allowing you to manage your meal away from the flames.
To get cooking, all you need to do is get a fire burning underneath the pan, pot or grill which generates enough heat for your cooking needs. Just be mindful that the greater the fire roars, the more inconsistent the heat will be – so the more likely chance there is for ash and soot to blow up onto your food.
Cook stand combinations are very robust, often made from steel, transfer heat quickly and are relatively easy to clean (as long you prepare your cooking surface well). However, they can also be quite heavy and bulky to transport, rust easily if not maintained, and they won’t work if you can’t stabilise the stake in the ground.
Frying up some bacon for brekkie on a cookstand over a campfire. Image: Ben Trewren
Camp ovens are very well known in the camping market, and the enjoyment they bring to campers never grows old. The idea of a camp oven is to give you baking facilities while camping. Camp ovens are made from either cast iron or steel, are shaped as a pot with a lid, and come in a range of sizes depending on your needs. Trivets or racks can also be added to assist with their baking abilities.
To get cooking with a camp oven, having a good amount of hot coals is critical. Importantly, you want to avoid putting a camp oven onto direct flames as the heat is uncontrollable, resulting in inconsistent temperatures which makes baking a challenge.
The value of having a cast iron camp oven is that it heats up slower and holds heat longer making them ideal for baking. Whereas, steel options transfer heat much quicker making them a little trickier to manage. In saying that, steel is much more robust and can withstand being dropped without shattering. They are also much lighter to carry, often coming in at half the weight of cast iron ovens.
The humble, yet versatile camping oven is a must-have for those who love a good stew or roast. Image: Ben Trewren
Similar to camp ovens in that they are made from cast iron, jaffle irons are basically two concave plates that are hinged and connected to a metal rod, allowing you to create simple but easy campfire meals. Typically, bread is used to line the plates of the jaffle iron and then the choice of what’s cooked inside is up to you and your imagination!
Once loaded with food, you close the plates shut, lock them off and then use the metal rod to dangle the jaffle iron over the fire. Like with camp ovens, having hot coals provides more consistent heat, however, it’s not as precise as baking so experimentation here is worthwhile. Just don’t forget to rotate every now and again to ensure both sides cook consistently.
Jaffle Irons can be quite limiting due to their size and unique design, however, what you can achieve with them is very much up to you. There’s a great opportunity for creativity with different ingredients, and they’re a bit of fun for both kids and adults alike.
Cheese toastie anyone? A jaffle iron makes cooking dinner easy when you’ve had a long day around camp. Image: Ben Collaton
Campfire forks are just large forks, usually made of chrome steel which allows you to penetrate through food on the prongs and is then cooked while suspended over the fire. This form of cooking is commonly limited to items like marshmallows, but like the jaffle iron, there is a huge opportunity for creativity.
The only other important thing to note is that when using a fork where the food is exposed, ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with flames – otherwise you’re going to have one charred and blackened marshmallow!
Forks can come in all shapes and sizes and designs. A great portable option is from Campfire. This fork allows you to extend the fork to double its length, making cooking easier and transporting it easier due to its manageable pack size.
The trusty hotplate is a classic, and simple way to cook over a fire. and Image: Hillbilly Camping Gear
Last, but not least is the trusty hot plate. This device is typically fixed with legs and placed in the fire. It’s a very basic yet classic style of cooking – one that’s been a staple in many people’s outdoor culinary kit for many years.
Similar to using cook stands, hot plates can be used over either direct flame or coals. Most people tend to choose coals though to avoid getting too close to open flames – which can be quite a heated challenge!
Hot plates can either be purchased as pre-made units or created from scrap metal. You can argue either way for both options, but it really comes down to what is available, best value for money and easiest for you. These are available in a range of sizes and come as a solid plate or grill plate. Just remember, it’s really hard to cook eggs on a grill, so choose your plate wisely!
So there you have it, these are five easy cooking options for rustling up a meal on a campfire. Time to get cookin’!
How to you cook on your campfire? Do you do anything different? We’d love to hear about it.