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Cooking in the Great Outdoors
Category: How-Tos

Some of the best meals you can have are cooked right over the campfire. The most common way to cook food over a fire is by encasing food in a long-handled grill basket or by skewering and holding it over the fire. This method, though good for foods that cook quickly, is a hot and tiring task for foods that take time to cook completely.​ Make it easier on yourself by preparing your cooking station in advance. 

How to Build your Fire for Grilling:

  1. Build two columns of bricks beside the area where you will light your fire. These columns need to be close to enough each other to support the edges of your grill basket or grilling grid. 

  2. Build a log cabin-style fire beside your brick columns. To see how this is done, check out our log cabin-style fire building instructions

  3. Allow the fire to burn undisturbed for at least 10 minutes. 

  4. After about 30 more minutes, hot coals will start to form a thick layer within the fire. Rake out enough hot coals to make a 2-inch deep layer between the brick columns.

  5. Place your food-filled grilling basket or grid on top of the brick columns. 

  6. Cook your food until done, flipping it halfway through if needed. Rake additional coals under the grill basket as necessary to maintain a 2-inch deep layer.

Food Storage and Packing Tips: 
  • ​Pack your cooler with not only ice and fresh foods, but frozen foods as well. This will pull double-duty and keep your cooler’s temperature cooler longer.

  • Cover your food when cooking over the fire. It will cook faster and keep bugs and ashes out of your food.

  • Pack your cooler items in watertight bags to prevent waterlogging. Alternatively, pack your ice in watertight bags to stop water soaking your food.

  • Slice foods thinly or chop finely to speed up the cooking time.

  • Pre-make and freeze complex meals to save time and energy when camping. They’ll help keep your cooler cold too!

  • Another way to save time during camping is to pre-chop vegetables like onions, peppers, zucchini and pack them in zip-lock bags. Store them in your cooler and pull them out as necessary.

  • Put a pot of hot water over the fire when you start to eat your meal. When you’re ready to clean the dishes, the water will be nice and warm.

  • Bring shelf-stable snacks for in between meals and after activities. Your family will thank you.

  • Use a separate cooler for drinks to keep your food cooler cold.

  • Replenish your ice often on extended holidays to prevent food-borne illness.

  • Use pots as mixing bowls to save space in your camp kitchen.

  • Bring heavy-duty aluminum foil instead of the regular stuff. You’ll end up using less for your foil packets and for covering your cast iron pans.

How to Build a Log Cabin-Style Fire:

  1. The log-cabin method is the sturdiest way to light a fire. Always use dry wood that is at least 6 months old. Hard woods (like hickory, oak and maple) cause less sparks and burn more slowly than soft woods (like poplar, spruce and Douglas fir).

  2. To start your log cabin, lay two larger pieces of wood parallel to each other in your fire pit. These are going to be the floor beams for your log cabin’s floor. Place crumpled up newspaper in between the logs and lay your kindling over the paper as if it is a floor. It needs to be supported by the floor beams to allow air circulation to the paper underneath (so lay them perpendicular to the floor beams).

  3. To build your log cabin’s “walls”, lay 2 pieces of kindling perpendicular to the floor kindling, near the outer edge of the structure. Do this again, in a perpendicular fashion, then crumple up some more paper and put it into your log cabin.

  4. Lay more kindling, in similar fashion to the floor, over the entire cabin to form a roof. If you want a big fire, this can instead be a second floor and you can continue building upwards. Finish with a roof.

  5. To light the fire, ignite the newspaper underneath the floor boards. The structure will eventually cave inwards.


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Last updated on July 17, 2019