by Heidi van der Wielen
Dancing flames, gently cracking logs, and a handful of people you love gathered around in the warm, orange light. We all love a good campfire, but what if we told you that the best part of this camping staple is severely under-utilized, yet so easy to do? Not to worry, we’re here to fill you in on the seasoned campfire chef’s best kept secrets…
1: ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER
First and foremost, anything you can cook at home can be done better on a campfire. Camp cooking is more than just cooking: it’s roasting a hearty meal over the coals to enjoy with your loved ones after a day of active adventure; it’s infusing your dishes with that subtle wood-smoke flavour; it’s enjoying the simple pleasures of warmth, stars, and the sounds of crackling embers and crickets chirping around you. Trust us, nothing beats it.
2: KEEP IT SMALL
The best cooking fires are small and simple, where the heat can easily be adjusted to suit your every need. A large fire is great for enjoying with friends and family when dinner is ready, but keep your cooking fire small and controlled, and you’ll be sizzling up gourmet camp meals in no time!
3: COALS ARE GOLD
The trick to perfect campfire cooking is to use the coals, rather than the flames. Bury a foil-wrapped potato in the coals, nestle a camp oven amongst the glowing embers, or roast a sausage on a stick over a fire burned low. Slow and steady wins the race, and cooking with coals will have you in slow-cooker heaven!
4: CAMP OVENS
Invest in a good quality, deep, cast iron pot with a sturdy lid, and you’ll be able to roast and bake home-style cooking to your heart’s content. Simply fill your pot with your dish of choice – lasagne, roast veg, pizza – bury it in the coals, and enjoy the culinary delights of a classic camp oven.
5: LESS IS MORE
Campfire cooking means going back to basics. No more fancy utensils or complicated gas cookers; just grab a good quality cast iron pot, a large stirring spoon, a couple of knives, and you’re good to go!
6: MARSHMALLOW ROASTING 101
The secret to nailing this age-old campfire staple? Grab a toasting stick (you can use a metal toasting fork, but we recon searching your campsite for the perfect stick is more fun!) and skewer your marshmallow. Roast over the coals, rotating slowly to cook all sides of the marshmallow evenly. Pro-tip: use the straightest stick you can find for the most consistent gooey-goodness inside your marshmallow as possible.
7: FANTASTIC FOIL
Foil works just like a camp oven, but simpler. Try grabbing a potato, pricking it all over with a fork, smothering it in butter and rosemary, wrapping it in alfoil, and popping it on top of the coals for 45-60 minutes. Done right, it’ll come out golden and crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and ready to enjoy with your favourite toppings.
8: TRY A TRIPOD
Fancy a cup of tea? A hearty stew? A hot chocolate? Our favourite way to boil water on a campfire is in a billy (a small, round metal pot with a handle over the top), hung from a metal tripod with a hook. You can pick a cooking tripod up from most camping stores, or if you’re feeling handy, make one yourself!
9: COOKING WITH STICKS
Think: toast without a toaster, hot waffles with a subtle smoky flavour, or crusty croissants with butter. For possibly the simplest campfire cooking trick out there, forage your campsite for a long stick with a forked end. Balance your food for toasting on the forked end of the stick, and hold it over the coals to toast, turning over occasionally. Your toasted goodies are best enjoyed with a cup of tea boiled on the cooking tripod.
10: SPREAD THE LOVE
Campfire cooking is best shared under the stars with your closest family and friends, while reminiscing over the day’s adventures. Head on in to Woodhouse for the perfect backdrop to this timeless camping experience.
Stay tuned for some campfire recipes that will give Master Chef contestants a run for their money!