If you are looking for the best time-tested tips on how to cook while camping then you found the right article.
Below I am sharing my favorite tips for cooking while camping, that I have collected and tested in my 20+ years of camping life. I am pretty sure, that these will make your cooking while camping easier.
Simply choose and click on the tips from the below table of contents for more details or scroll through to read the entire thing.
My best how to cook while camping tips (click for details)
- Create a meal plan for your whole stay
- Keep the meal plan simple
- Prepare the ingredients in advance
- Bring a cooler or portable fridge
- Don’t forget the dishes
- Are you cooking on coal, wood, or gas?
- Choose the right cooking gear for you
- Camping cooking methods
- Dedicate an area just for cooking
- Follow safety rules
Create a meal plan for your whole stay
We say that failing to plan is planning to fail, and nowhere is this more true than when cooking while camping. Before you leave on your trip, take time to plan out all the meals you’ll need.
This means considering the number of days you’ll be gone, how many people you’re cooking for, and any dietary restrictions.
Once you have a plan, make a shopping list of ingredients. A simple calculation error can leave you without enough food, so be sure to double-check your list before heading to the store.
To make sure you don’t forget anything, it’s best to create a packing list of everything you’ll need for cooking while camping.
If you will be camping with your kids, be sure to include them in the meal planning and packing process. This will not only be a fun bonding experience for you, but it will also teach them valuable skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.
The internet is full of inspirations for camping meal plans, here is a simple example I have found, that I like very much.
Keep the meal plan simple
One thing you should know about camping is that you are not going to be spending a lot of time cooking. So you want to make sure that the meals you cook are simple and easy to make.
Stick to a meal that you know how to cook and that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. For the first few trips, consider hot dogs, pancakes, scrambled eggs, pasta, burgers, and mac and cheese. These are all meals you can cook without thinking too much about it. And they’re also meals that everyone will enjoy.
Moreover, you don’t want to have to spend a lot of time cooking when you could be spending time exploring the great outdoors. So keep the meal plan simple.
A meal with the least ingredients is always going to be the best option when camping. This makes packing for your trip a lot easier too.
Prepare the ingredients in advance
If you asked an experienced camper, they would tell you that one of the most important things to do before going on a camping trip is to prepare your ingredients in advance.
This means prepping anything possible to be prepared, diced, peeled, seasoned, or marinated. Some of the ingredients that can be prepared in advance are meats, vegetables, and fruits.
By doing this, you will be able to save time lots of valuable time when it matters the most – while you’re out there camping.
One great tip is to store the prepped ingredients in a zip lock bag or airtight food container. This will help to keep the food fresh and prevent it from spoiling.
Another great tip is to pre-pack all of the ingredients needed for each recipe as per your meal plan into a ziplock or airtight food container. This will save you time when the time for cooking the given recipe comes.
Bring a cooler or portable fridge
A cooler is a must-have to keep your food cold while camping. If you don’t have one, your food will spoil quickly and you’ll be stuck with cooking instant foods.
Here are a few tips to help you maximize the cooling effect of your coolers:
- Keep the cooler away from the sunlight. The sun will cause the temperature inside the cooler to rise, which can lead to food getting spoiled
- Keep the cooler in shadow instead. This will help to keep the temperature down
- Cover the cooler with a damp towel. This will help to keep the temperature down and will also prevent evaporation
- Save space in the cooler by replacing ice with frozen foods or water bottles. What I mean by frozen foods, are things like cheese, bacon, ham, vegetables, bread, and more. These items will help to keep the cooler cold and will also save you space
- Once you’ve packed your cooler, be sure to keep it closed as much as possible. Every time you open it, you’re letting warm air in and cold air out. If you can, try to minimize the number of times you open the cooler
Choose a cooler that will fit all of your food and drinks. If you’re bringing a lot of food, consider getting two coolers. That way you can keep the food cooler and colder, plus everything will fit easier.
When packing your cooler, start with a layer of ice at the bottom. Then, add your food items. Be sure to pack the items that will spoil first, on top. That way, if the ice melts, you can still eat the food that is on top.
Or if you are using my trick with frozen food or water bottles, just stack them on top of each other. But still, put the food that will spoil first on the top.
Parked In Paradise has published a practical comparison between cooler and portable freezer, you can check it out here.
Don’t forget the dishes
Until now we talked about the food only, but let’s not forget the dishes. They are at least as important as the food itself.
You have two options here, either use the reusable dishes or disposable ones. Now I presume since you are a camping enthusiast you love nature too, so I am going to suggest you use the reusable dishes if at all possible.
The pros of using reusable dishes are obvious: you will help reduce waste and you will save money in the long term.
The cons of using reusable dishes are higher purchasing costs and higher transport weight if not using plastic ones.
Are you cooking on coal, wood, or gas?
When it comes to cooking while camping, there are a few different options available to you. Namely coal, wood, and gas.
Coal and wood fires have been used for centuries, and offer a unique flavor to food that can’t be replicated with gas stoves. However, they can be more difficult to control and require more effort to set up and maintain.
Gas stoves are much easier to use, but they can be more expensive and don’t offer the same flavor (without extra gear).
So, which is the best option for you? It depends on your personal preferences and needs.
If you’re looking for simplicity and ease of use, gas is the way to go. But if you’re looking for a more authentic camping experience, or want to try your hand at cooking over an open fire, coal or wood is the way to go.
Choose the right cooking gear for you
Nowadays, there are all sorts of different materials that pots and pans can be made out of. It can be confusing trying to figure out which one is the best for your needs. Here is a quick rundown of the most popular materials, to help you make a decision.
- Aluminum is lightweight and conducts heat well, making it a popular choice for camping cookware. However, it is not as durable as some other materials and can be easily damaged.
- Hard-anodized aluminum is a more durable option than regular aluminum, but it is also more expensive.
- Stainless steel is a good all-around choice, as it is durable and conducts heat well. However, it is heavier than aluminum and can be more difficult to clean.
- Titanium is a lightweight and strong option, but it is also one of the more expensive materials.
- Cast iron is a good choice for cooking over a campfire, as it is very durable. However, it is heavy and can be difficult to clean.
The size of your pot or pan is important to consider when cooking while camping. A small pot may be fine for boiling water, but if you’re trying to cook a meal for four people, you’ll need a larger pot.
Also, consider whether or not you need a lid for your pot or pan. Lids can help keep the heat in and prevent splatters, but they can also be a nuisance if you’re trying to cook over an open fire.
Camping cooking methods
How you cook while camping is largely dependent on the equipment you have with you. If you’re car camping, then you have more options than if you were backpacking and had to carry everything on your back.
Here are some popular methods for cooking while camping:
- Boiling water is the simplest method and can be done over a campfire or with a portable stove. This method is good for making coffee, tea, oatmeal, ramen noodles, omelet, and other similar dishes.
- Grilling is a popular method for cooking meat and vegetables. You can use a portable grill or build a campfire and use a grate. Grilling adds a smoky flavor to food and is a quick way to cook.
- A cast-iron pan can be used for cooking over a campfire or on a portable stove. Cast iron holds heat well and can be used for frying, sauteing, or baking.
- Tinfoil can be used to create a makeshift oven or to make campfire Tamales. To make an oven, place food on a large sheet of tin foil, then seal the edges. Place the foil packet on hot coals and let it cook for a few minutes.
- You can also cook food on a stick by skewering it and holding it over the fire. This method is good for hot dogs, marshmallows, and other small food.
Dedicate an area just for cooking
If at all possible, try to find a spot that’s already set up for cooking. Otherwise, clear a space big enough to fit all your gear. If you’re using a campfire, make sure it’s in a safe location away from your tent, any trees or brush.
Follow safety rules
When you’re cooking while camping, there are a few safety tips you should always follow.
- Make sure you have a clear area around your campfire. Remove dry grass, leaves, etc.
- Never use gasoline or other flammables
- Never leave your fire unattended
- Watch children while the fire is on
- If you’re using a gas stove, be sure to turn it off when you’re finished cooking
- Always keep a fire extinguisher of sorts (water, sand, or actual fire extinguisher) handy in case of an emergency
In case of minor burns, always apply cool (not cold) water to the area for at least three minutes. Don’t break blisters. You can treat your small burns with a topical ointment, aloe vera, or a cold compress. If you have a more serious burn, seek medical attention immediately.
What to do next…
Now that you read my best tips on how to cook while camping, you might want to learn more about camping. If so, you can check out some of my other camping guides here.