Those who grew up in the Girl Scouts, or Boy Scouts, have fond memories of cooking over an open fire.
For those of who didn’t have those experiences early on, it’s not too late to join in the fun.
Don’t be intimidated by your lack of expertise.
Here are some fundamentals to help you succeed with campfire cooking.
First, be sure to build the right fire in the right place in the right weather!
Plan your cookouts on non-windy days to avoid having sparks fly, which can easily spread and create a forest fire.
Remember: You don’t want a fire that is too hot.
Preferably, build your fire in a fire pit, at least 10 feet away from any grass, tree roots or branches that can easily catch on fire.
To get your fire started, you can use dry pine needles, dry moss from trees, dryer lint or crumpled newspaper for kindling.
Place the kindling under a teepee of similarly sized dry, seasoned oak logs that will burn steadily and longer — allowing you to sing songs around the campfire after dinner. (It’s best not to use green wood, because it creates smoke and doesn’t burn well).
After you get your fire started, continue to add one or two logs at a time to keep the fire under control.
Once the logs burn down and the coals turn gray — with little or no flames – it is time to cook.
Before you get started, be sure that you have all the right items on hand: pots/pans, aluminum foil, long-handled utensils, heavy duty gloves and hot pads.
Skewers are easy for kabobs, hot dogs and marshmallows for S’mores!
A metal grill/grate works well for steak, hamburgers, chicken under a brick, etc., and those that swing in/out of the way and are adjustable for height are really nice.
Dutch ovens work really well for stews and chili, etc.
And, in Girl Scouts, we just wrapped many things in heavy-duty aluminum foil packets and placed along the coals, edge of the fire.
Here are some safety reminders:
- Always have a bucket of sand/water or hose on hand to help keep it under control or put it out completely, when you are finished. When you finish cooking and you put out the fire, be sure there are no flames or hissing embers. Stir the ashes to be certain the fire is out.
- Always practice proper food safety: wash hands often; avoid cross-contamination between raw foods and cooked foods; use a meat thermometer; keep hot foods hot (140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) and cold foods cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower); and refrigerate leftovers promptly.
- Always watch kids and family pets around the campfire, to prevent an accident.
While it’s important to take precautions, it’s also good to remember that campfire cooking can be fun for people of all ages. Children can easily be involved with gathering sticks for kindling, wrapping food in aluminum foil, cooking under supervision and cleaning up.
With all of this in mind, here are a few recipes you may want to try.
Betsy Crisp is a Professor Emeritus, UF/IFAS Extension – Family & Consumer Sciences.
Simple Campfire Meal-in-One (“tin foil” dinner for one)
- Protein (4 ounces to 5 ounces): beef/hamburger patty, venison, chicken breast or fish
- Starchy vegetable, sliced (½ cup of one): potatoes, yams or turnips
- Vegetables, sliced (½ cup total): celery, onion, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, squash, Brussel sprouts
- Herbs and spices (to taste): salt, pepper, garlic, Italian seasoning, dill, dash of cayenne, etc.
- Liquid (2 Tablespoons): olive/canola oil/butter, broth, lemon juice, beer/wine
In the center of two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil (18-inch square, shiny side up), layer the above ingredients in same order as listed.
- Bring edges of foil together, fold down and roll over to form seal, then do same to each end to form a sealed packet.
- Place in hot coals, let cook 30 minutes to 45 minutes, until done.
Makes 1 serving.
If doing more than one, just repeat assembly process and be sure to count the number of packets that go in so that you pull the same number out of the fire (packages get charred/hide in the ashes!)
Campfire Luau Chicken
- 2 chicken breasts, split in half
- 2 Tablespoons dry onion soup mix
- 1 can (16 ounces) crushed pineapple (do not drain)
- 1 large green bell pepper, cut into strips
- 2 cups carrots, sliced
- In the center of two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil (18-inch square, shiny side up), place a split breast (four times = 4 servings/packets).
- Place ¼ sliced vegetable on top of each piece of chicken.
- In a small bowl, mix soup mix and pineapple, divide by 4 and spoon on top of vegetables.
- Bring edges of foil together, fold down and roll over to form seal, then do same to each end to form sealed packet.
- Place on grill/hot coals (seam side up), let cook 45 minutes, until done.
Makes 4 servings.
Since S’mores are already well-known as the all-time favorite campfire dessert, I have included two other simple-to-make desserts that children will love to try… something new!
Campfire Brown Bears
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 4 Tablespoons butter/margarine, melted
- 1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated biscuit/bread dough
- Mix sugar and cinnamon together until well-blended.
- Melt butter in a metal cup/small metal bowl.
- Take the biscuits apart and roll each into a snake-like rope.
- Wrap/coil each piece around a skewer.
- Cook over a campfire until evenly browned.
- Use a spoon to drizzle (or brush) melted butter over cooked dough and then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Makes 8 servings.
Campfire Banana Chocolate Chip Split
- 1 banana, well-washed (water only)
- 1 ½ Tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 Tablespoons mini-marshmallows
- With peel left on, slice banana lengthwise (do not cut all the way through).
- Spread the slit slightly open and fill with chocolate chips and marshmallows.
- Squeeze the banana closed as much as possible and wrap tightly in aluminum foil (shiny side in).
- Lay foil-wrapped banana on the campfire grill and let cook approximately 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the banana from the fire and open foil just enough to get a spoon inside.
- Eating the peel is up to you (many countries, like Asia and South America, do) – Eat & Enjoy!
Makes 1 serving.
Published July 5, 2017