Outdoor cooking is no mystery and it can be easy and fun, especially for youngsters. Involving children in the camp cooking chores is a great family activity and builds an appreciation for the basics of outdoor living.
I don't know why, but some foods simply taste better when they are prepared outdoors.Getting Organized
Outdoor cooks save themselves time, money and hassle if they do a little planning before a trip. When in the outdoors, I don't want to be in camp cooking all the time. I want to enjoy nature and activities. So I've developed camp cooking techniques that allow me to prepare quick and simple meals.
Planning a menu of meals before leaving home will save time and some money. Meals need not be fancy. Bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast are just fine, but you need to think about how much of each item you will need to feed the people in your camp. The amount of food necessary for a small group of Girl Scouts on an overnight outing is different from the amount needed for a camp with several adults who will be fishing or hunting for several days.
Making a shopping list from the ingredients in your basic menu will help prevent discovering that you are missing an important item when far from home. Organizing your meals in advance is also less of a hassle than grabbing items off the shelves and trying to decide what to cook in camp later.Styles of Cooking
I divide outdoor cooking into four basic types:
Portable grill cooking
Camp stove cooking
Each has its advantages and requires a slightly different set of skills. With a little practice, you can master them all and win mealtime compliments.Portable Grills
Portable grills have become popular in recent years. New technology and designs have developed small, lightweight grills that are functional and dependable. Newer
Some grills use charcoal; others are fueled with propane. When cooking with propane, controlling a grill's temperature is so simple and precise that even a novice cook rarely burns or scorches a meal.
If your camp includes more than one or two people, look for a grill that has at least two burners. When preparing several dishes, a single burner might take too long for a group of tired and hungry campers who are looking over your shoulder. Having enough burners to prepare food quickly makes for happy campers. If I am cooking for six or more people, I routinely use two grills.Here is a simple, easy and filling breakfast recipe that can be prepared quickly on a portable grill:
1 dozen eggs
1 pound of shredded cheddar cheese
a large bottle of bacon bits
a package of ham cold cuts
Cut the ham into small cubes. Whip the eggs in a large bowl. Blend the shredded cheese, ham and bacon bits into the eggs. Scramble the mixture in a large, nonstick frying pan over low heat. Salt and pepper to taste. If you like a little punch at breakfast, season the dish with a bit of Tabasco sauce. This recipe will feed four hungry campers and is guaranteed to win compliments.
Camp stoves have been standard outdoor equipment for decades. Mention camp cooking, and many people have a mental image of the classic green stove with a pot of coffee perking on a burner.
Most camp stoves use liquid fuel that is poured into a reservoir, pressurized with a pump and delivered to the burners. Two- and three-burner designs are the most common. I recommend a three-burner arrangement when cooking for five or more people.
Camp stoves are versatile, and because they have been so popular many cooking accessories have been made for them. One of my favorites is an oven box that sits on a burner and allows a cook to make nontraditional camp meals such as pizza, baked breads, pies or cakes in the field.
One of my favorite dinners to prepare with a camp stove and oven box is chili and cornbread. The cornbread is prepared exactly as you would in your kitchen. After you have mixed the ingredients according to the directions on the box, pour the batter into a greased bread pan and place it in the oven box that has reached 300 degrees. It will take about 20 minutes to bake.While the cornbread is baking, whip up a kettle of Texas Red Sweet Chili.
It is quick and easy. Here's what you need.
1 pound of ground meat (beef, elk or deer)
1 30-ounce bottle of picante sauce
1 29-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can of tomato paste
2 cups of brown sugar
Brown the meat in the bottom of a kettle. When thoroughly cooked, add the picante sauce (I like medium hot style with this recipe), tomato sauce, tomato paste and brown sugar. If you prefer, you can also add a can of pinto beans. Warm the mixture, then simmer over low heat until the cornbread is done. This is a fantastic meal for a fall or winter camp.
Dutch-oven cooking is one of my favorite camp activities. Cast-iron pots have been used in outdoor cooking for more than 300 years in this country. They are probably best known from the paintings and drawings made of wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. The pot hanging below the rear axle of a covered wagon was often a Dutch oven.
Stews and roasts are easily prepared in Dutch ovens. A cook can serve a lot of food with a minimum of effort using a covered cast-iron oven.
Put a small roast in a Dutch oven, add a few potatoes and carrots, open two packets of onion soup mix and sprinkle over the meat, then add water to cover everything. Bury the covered oven in the ground in hot coals, and go explore, fish or hunt for the day. When you return, dinner will be ready.Here's another favorite recipe called Dirt Simple Camp Stew.
2 pounds of cubed beef or stew meat
1 large bag of mixed frozen vegetables (I like the Japanese mix)
1 large can V-8 cocktail juice
Put the Dutch oven on eight-to-ten burning charcoal briquettes to brown the meat. Drain any liquid fat from the meat, then add the veggies and V-8 juice. Let the stew simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Dinner is ready. It's that simple.
Campfire cooking is the most common form of outdoor cooking. It's fun, especially if children are in camp. There is definitely more to campfire cooking than just roasting marshmallows and making s'mores.
Youngsters love being around a campfire and are drawn to it, so caution is essential. Only build open fires in protected spots and where permitted.One campfire recipe for five or six people is Deep Dish Tortilla Pie.
2-3 pounds of ground meat (beef, venison, elk, pronghorn)
1 pound of shredded cheddar cheese
1 large white onion
1 small container of sour cream
1 bag of 10-inch tortillas
Heat a 10-inch Dutch oven on coals and brown the ground meat thoroughly. While the meat is cooking, chop the onion into half-inch pieces. Using gloves or pot holders to hold the Dutch oven, pour excess fat from the meat. Remove most of the meat from the oven, but leave a one-inch layer at the bottom.
Add an inch layer of shredded cheese, sprinkle a layer of onion. Pour a thin layer of picante sauce and cover with two tortillas. Repeat the layers until the Dutch oven is full, then scoop the sour cream into the middle and sprinkle the top with more cheese.
Put the Dutch oven on a bed of coals, and put some coals on top of the lid. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with a large spoon and with corn chips on the side. Your guests will think you are a cook with a magical touch.Stick bread is a great recipe for youngsters to try over a campfire.
1 pop-open can of biscuits
Cut several sticks about four feet long. Strip the bark at one end and hold it over the fire to boil away any sap. Scrape off any
Once the bread dough is wrapped around the end of the stick, arrange each stick so the bread dough is 16 to 20 inches above the flames or coals. Keep a close eye on the dough, and turn the stick when the dough begins to brown.
The dough cooks in 10 minutes or less. The bread can be carefully unwound from the stick or broken off in sections. Dip the bread in butter and eat it with a meal, or brush with melted butter and roll in powdered sugar for a camp treat.