Campsite Cooking: Tips and Tricks for Delicious Outdoor Meals
November 1, 2023
Cooking at the campsite can be part of all the fun of camping, or, if you're not prepared, it can be quite challenging. From mastering the camp stove to packing the right equipment, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your outdoor meals are a success. Let’s dive into some tips and tricks for campsite cooking that will help you create delicious meals while enjoying the great outdoors.
Organize your equipment
One of the most important aspects of campsite cooking is having the right equipment. Even the most experienced camper has suffered a mediocre meal because something got left at home. Even if you intend to simply cook over the fire, you’ll need some gear: an oven mitt or something to protect your hand while taking food off the hot grate, cooking utensils a good pan (cast iron is recommended for campfire cooking), and an enamel kettle for hot drinks or boiling water. Other equipment like a Dutch oven or a double pie iron can really open the possibilities of a campsite meal, making treats like breads, pizzas, and even cakes and pastries a tent-side option.
Nearly all of Arizona’s state park campgrounds provide fire rings and several also have iron grills at the campsites. When you make your reservation, look at the amenities of the site and be sure to consider your cooking needs, like grills or even electric hookups.
If you’re a beginner, don’t underestimate the challenge of learning heat distribution techniques for a successful meal over the campfire. Listen to our podcast episode on campsite cooking with Lexi from Roam Lab–she shares great advice for newbies getting the hang of heat distribution.
For many, a camp stove is a must-have. When choosing your equipment, look for items that are lightweight and durable, as well as easy to clean. You'll also want to make sure that your equipment is compatible with your fuel source, whether that's propane, butane, or another type of fuel.
Every camper has their favorite gear, but our best piece of advice is to make a “kitchen box” with all your cooking equipment. When the urge to go camping strikes, having all your gear already packed and organized will make it easier to get out the door, and greatly reduce the chances of forgetting a necessary item. At the campsite, your preparedness pays off because everything you need come mealtime will be in one place. When you get home, don’t forget to clean and reorganize your kitchen box before putting it back on the shelf. Set yourself up for success for the next trip.
Prep Before You Go
Another important step in campsite cooking is planning your meals ahead of time. This will help you make sure that you have all the ingredients you need and that you're not packing unnecessary items. Planning meals that use a lot of the same ingredients can help you save room, repurpose leftovers, and shrink your shopping list. Also consider items that are easy to prepare and cook, like one-pot meals or foil-packet dinners. Simple, shelf-stable, fast meal options are good to have as backups in case your adventure of the day takes more time and energy than you anticipated. Need some ideas for campsite meals? Click HERE to grab our our meal planner and some favorite recipes. If you have dietary restrictions, we have a handful of meal ideas for vegans and vegetarians, too!
To make campsite cooking easier, do as much prep work as possible before you leave home. Some enjoy the relaxed nature of cooking everything at camp, and if that’s your style, more power to you! For many, cooking and cleaning up after at the campsite can feel more like a chore. Lighten your load by preparing your ingredients at home. This includes chopping vegetables, pre-cooking meats, parboiling starches, and measuring out ingredients. You can also pre-mix spices and marinades to save time and space. Do you use garlic and pepper in just about every cooked meal? Then go ahead and mix your salt, pepper and garlic in the same travel container! By prepping at home, you’ll save space packing and time for more of the fun stuff on your camping trip!
Want more tips on prepping camping meals? Watch our video to see how you can take care of the work at home and focus on FUN during your next outdoor adventure!
Be Responsible and Follow Restrictions
Remember, it's important to follow any fire restrictions that may be in place at your campsite. This means that you may not be able to have an open flame, which can alter your cooking plans. For example, Catalina State Park outside Tucson, Arizona is a popular campground that does not permit campfires at any time, due to the recent Bighorn Fire of 2020 that made the landscape more vulnerable, and its close proximity to the expansive Coronado National Forest. In locations like these or during times of high wind, drought, or fire restrictions set by land managers, you may need to rely on a camp stove or other cooking equipment that doesn't require an open flame.
Before heading to a state park, check fire restrictions at azstateparks.com/fire-safety. If camping on other public or tribal lands in Arizona, see restrictions at wildlandfire.az.gov/fire-restrictions.
Lastly, be aware of safe food storage and disposal. Arizona is home to resourceful wildlife who will make a meal out of scraps, ingredients and trash you leave in the open. When animals like raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, and even coatimundi learn they can exploit human resources like food and garbage at a campsite, it puts both them and you at risk.
Let’s get cookin’!
We hope with these tips you’ll feel more confident about preparing delicious and satisfying meals for your next camping trip. With a little preparation, campsite cooking can enhance your outdoor experience and you'll be sure to have an amazing campsite cooking experience that you'll look back on fondly for years to come.
Now that you have your plan of action for food at the campsite, organize the rest of your campsite packing list, book a campsite in your favorite state park campground, and make some memories outdoors!