People think that cooking outdoors is the same thing as grilling in the backyard: it’s not.
There’s no fridge nearby, no running water, and you have to get crafty with everything.
That’s why we’ve thrown together this guide on some of the best recipes for easy outdoor cooking, but also the tips and tricks you’ll need to master it like an art.
From prep to cleanup and everything in between, this will prepare you for the thick of it.
11 Camp Cooking Tips
1. Heavy Duty Aluminum is Your Friend
Whether you’re wrapping prepped food in it or simply using it to prevent flare-ups on the grill, heavy duty aluminum should be your go-to material across the board.
It’s great for storing food, cooking baked potatoes, and mitigating cleanup.
2. Freeze Your Meat Before Packing
You can cook frozen meat, but you can’t cook spoiled meat. Or at least, it’s not a good idea.
For more than a one-night trip, freezing your meat not only prevents it from dipping into the danger zone of food temperatures, but it also insulates other food in your cooler and prevents it from spoiling.
On average, you can keep your meats in the proper temperature range for an additional forty-eight hours.
3. Cook Perishables First
One of the golden rules of camping is to bring non perishable foods, or at least packaged, processed foods with long expiration dates.
When you’re only heading out for two or three days as part of a family trip, you’re likely to bring along fresh produce from a nearby supermarket, or bring your own.
Either way, plan out your recipes, and use the foods that are most likely to perish early, such as fruits and vegetables in your earlier recipes.
This saves food spoilage, and doesn’t leave you with a missing element to an otherwise dazzling dish.
4. Cherry Pick Your Cookware
Camping cookware sets are usually fairly good about only including what’s necessary, but if you’re not cooking pasta, then don’t bring along the strainer.
Cherry pick your cookware, and make sure you’re bringing specifically what you need to cook in the great outdoors.
Anything else is just avoiding the effective minimalist mindset. If you’re bringing an RV or a fifth wheel, then it’s just clutter that you don’t need.
5. Prep Before You Exit
Why bring the knife, cutting board and additional measures to clean them off, when you can just prep everything at the start?
This coincides with our third tip, because effectively preparing your meal before you go means that you’ll be able to minimize containers, storage, and the time spent actually cooking.
You’ve got beers around an open fire and good friends. You want to serve them quality food, but time spent does not equal quality.
Save yourself the hassle and prepare everything before you hit the road.
6. Heat Your Cleaning Water While You Cook
Consider this a continuation of the previous tip, all in the mindset of minimizing cooking time so you can enjoy your camping trip.
Start heating up the water that you’ll be doing the dishes with, during the meal.
By the time you’re done eating, you’ll have hot water to clean the dishes with, effectively cutting your cleanup time in half.
7. Only Bring Disposable Food Containers
So you’re prepping your own food, which is good, but sometimes we can forget about something or the conditions will be a bit hotter than we expected.
Food goes bad from time to time, even with careful planning, and you don’t want to be the person bringing back an expensive container with rotting food in it.
Keep everything in disposable containers that you won’t miss if you have to chuck them, just be certain to dispose of spoiled food in the proper areas.
Campgrounds have restrictions on what can go in what barrels to avoid disturbing or attracting wildlife.
8. Always Keep Your Food Covered
Speaking of wildlife, let’s avoid bringing those little buggers onto the campsite.
Keep your food covered to avoid attracting bears and coyotes, but also to keep it safe.
There’s dust, falling pollen and scraps of nature whirling around you at all times: keep the food covered, and it’ll keep it safe for consumption.
9. Bring a Food Thermometer
If you like your steak blood-red rare, that’s totally cool. You do you.
But pork and chicken can’t be served al dente, or you could end up with food poisoning and serious illness.
Chicken in particular is very finicky, because it can appear done, but still be three to four degrees off of the lowest safe range.
We’ve all gotten caught cooking at night over the fire with nothing but moonlight and lantern light around us; the thermometer means you’re trusting science, not just your eyes when determining if food is done or not.
10. Block Ice, Not Cubes
Stayed at a hotel last night?
Don’t fill up the Igloo cooler with the second floor ice machine and those miniature crescent cubes.
Block ice stays solid for longer, whereas cubes ice melts quickly, and the water temperature actually speeds up the rate of the ice melting.
If you’re going out for a two or three-day trip, block ice is going to be your best bet.
11. Soap Coat
Coat the outside of your pans in soap before bringing them out. The sides, that is.
This makes cleanup a ton easier, and you don’t have to deal with a spilled soap packet or the wrapper from those one-and-done cleaning detergent packs.
This is simple, but once you do it once, you won’t be able to pack for the campsite without repeating it.
1. Veggie and Steak Kebabs
Never had a kebab?
This is your ultimate go-to food out on the campsite, and if you have kids, it’s the best way to ensure they’re not making a mess with their food.
The great thing about this recipe is that a lot of it is up to interpretation.
This is what we use to make some stellar steak and veggie kebabs, but you’re welcome to substitute with other types of meats, vegetables and marinades. This recipe is simple to pick up and inexpensive.
- 2 lbs of stewing meat
- 1 green pepper
- 1 tomato
- 1 zucchini
- 1 can of chunked pineapples (optional)
- 8 oz of teriyaki marinade
- 1 pack of wooden kebab skewers
Everyone likes their meat a different way, but if you marinade it in teriyaki, it maintains a juiciness that is often lost over an open flame.
Chunk all of your vegetables, strain your canned chunked pineapples if you like a bit of an added bite, and get ready to follow a pattern.
Skewer one piece of meat, followed by one chunked pepper, tomato, zucchini and pineapple, then repeat two more times per skewer. You can average about two-dozen kebabs.
2. Tin Foil Baked Potatoes
This is a personal favorite, partially because it’s so simple.
You’re going to go a little bit beyond a normal baked potato, and you can pep it all at home, so long as you keep these refrigerated. You don’t need much.
- 10 sq ft of heavy duty aluminum foil
- 3 lbs of russet potatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp preferred herb
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup sour cream
At home, cut a triangle-shaped hole on one side of each potato, right down to the core. Take a spoon and carve out a little bit of the center.
That’s where you’re going to inject this fantastic blend of flavor. In a bowl, mix your spices and butter, then microwave it for thirty seconds until everything melts together.
Whisk it, add your sour cream, and mix until it’s finished. Add a hefty amount to the center of each potato, then replace that triangle chunk of potato, wrap it tightly in tin foil, and cook it over the fire.
3. Sausage and Bean Hash
A simple camping recipe that might even have some nostalgia for you.
This is super simple to whip together before you hit the road, and doesn’t require much.
In our recipe, we add a bit of egg to bind everything together and make a complete breakfast recipe.
- 1 egg
- 3 cut-up Italian sausage
- 1 lb diced russet potatoes
- ¼ cup cut-up onion
- One 14 oz can of kidney beans
- 1 tsp paprika
Do all of this prep at home. Dice your potatoes, drizzle some olive oil over them, then roast them on a pan in the oven on 400 F for about twenty-five minutes.
Next, cup up your Italian sausage into chunks, and begin pan frying it. Toss in the onion to caramelize in the sausage natural juices, then add your spices.
At the end when everything is fully cooked, whisk up an egg and toss it in. Scramble everything together, add your potatoes out of the oven, and simply reheat over a campfire with a frying pan.
4. Potato Pancakes
There’s nothing like potato pancakes on Sunday morning.
Simple to put together and filling as can be, this is something that will keep you awake and alert out on the campground.
- 1 ½ lbs of russet potatoes
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup of flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 3 tsp garlic powder
There’s a simple way to do this with a blender or food processor. Chunk the potatoes and toss them into your blender with everything else we’ve listed here, and simply process until you get a puree.
This is going to act as your batter, so you want a medium consistency. Store this for up to 72 hours before needing to toss it, and just drop it in a little bit of olive oil on a hot pan over the campfire. Easy as can be.
5. Pre-Frozen Beef Stew
We talked about freezing items before leaving the house, and beef stew is one of the best meals to pull out of the freezer literal minutes before you hit the road.
It keeps other perishables cold, and keeps your stew at a perfect consistency.
- ½ lb of russet potatoes
- 1 lb stewing meat
- ¼ lb of carrots
- ¼ lb of peas
- ¼ lb of onions
- ½ cup of flour
- 4 tbsp of beef boullion
- ⅓ cup of olive oil
- 1 ½ cup of water
There’s a lot to this one, but it’s super simple to make. You can get frozen carrots, canned peas, and chop up an onion alongside the potatoes.
Do this, toss them all in a crock-pot and prep this at home. Add in your oil, water, spices and flour, then the stewing meat. Stir, leave on a low heat for four to six hours, and you’re good to go.
Mix occasionally, but this will be a complete dish in no time. Freeze it in small batches, and keep in mind that this makes a little over two pounds after the veggies cook down, averaging 2-4 servings per batch.
6. One-Pot Beef Stroganoff
Who doesn’t love beef stroganoff?
This recipe is quick, and if you bring the prepared ingredients, you can make it fresh at the campsite.
- ¼ lb of onions
- ¼ lb of mushrooms
- ½ lb of ground beef
- 1 bag of egg noodles
- ½ cup of sour cream
- ½ cup of beef stock
Brown the ground beef while you boil the egg noodles. When the beef is completely cooked, toss in your onions and mushrooms and fry these up for about three to five minutes.
When the egg noodles are done, simply add them into the pan with the beef, pour in your stock, sour cream, and simmer this for about twenty minutes.
You’ll get a creamy beef stroganoff that you’ll end up making the minute you get home as well.
7. Sloppy Apple Pancake Bites
This is more of a fun, mini dessert that you can enjoy with your little ones, but it will certainly get them talking about the next camping trip (if you make this an exclusive campground treat).
- Any complete apple muffin boxed mix
- ⅓ cup of powdered sugar
- ⅛ cup of maple syrup
That’s not bad, right? Minimal packing for this one. Make the batter and stash it for the road. Get your pan piping hot, then drop three ¼ cup-sized bits of batter and fry it up for one minute on each side.
These flatten out a bit, but the batter should fluff up just enough to make them look like mini pancakes. Mix that powdered sugar and maple syrup together, and put all the finished products in a bowl.
Add the custom glaze, the pancake bites, mix it up, and use a fork to eat these.
8. Tortilla Pan Pizzas
This might be the camp favorite among the little ones, and it’s certainly easy enough to manage even over the campfire.
- 1 pack of preferred brand tortillas
- 1 can of tomato sauce
- Grated mozzarella cheese (other cheeses won’t work)
- Dried basil spice
Put a touch of olive oil in the pan, and start frying up the tortilla. Drop in a spoonful of sauce and move it around, then your cheese, and lastly put a bit of dried basil on top.
Personally, I like to spice this with a touch of salt and pepper. Keep this on here until the cheese melts, but be sure to move it around so it doesn’t stick.
9. Peach Cobbler
Another classic dessert that everyone will be flipping for.
This can get a bit dodgy if you’re going over the fire instead of actually using a grill. Get a cast iron pan ready.
- 3 cups of sliced peaches
- 1 cup of milk
- ½ cup of butter
- Two cups of sugar
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- A dash of lemon juice
Slice up those peaches and put them to the side. Mix together your flour, milk, butter, sugar, baking powder and lemon juice, and start dropping it into a piping hot pan that’s been glazed with butter.
Drop in about half the batter, then layer the peaches in the center, keeping them about 1” away from the edges.
When all the peaches are present, pour the rest of the batter on top. Pop a knife in there to check if it’s done after 15 minutes with the grill top down.
10. Stuffed Bell Peppers
Stuffed peppers are one of those dishes that you totally forgot about, but your next camping trip is bringing them back.
This quick recipe can be fully prepped at home, and cooked on the campground.
- 6 green bell peppers
- ¼ cup of onion
- ½ cup of tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 lb of ground beef
- 1 lb of white rice
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 3 tsp parsley
- ½ cup of mozzarella cheese
Get the rice cooking, and in a separate pan, start browning your ground beef. Once that’s cooked, throw all of your vegetables in at once so you can absorb the flavor in the pan.
Add your spices, and when the rice is done, meld everything together in one pot.
Stuff the peppers, but leave about a half-inch of room to top it off with mozzarella cheese. Wrap them individually in tin foil, and pack them for the campground.
11. One-Pot Mac and Cheese
The ultimate comfort food, but now, out on the campsite. You’ll need a bit more gear to cook this, but it’s the perfect dish to end a long day of hiking with.
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup butter
While the pasta is boiling, you’re going to make a super simple cheddar cheese sauce.
Using as low a heat as possible, put the cheddar, spices, milk and butter into a separate pan, stirring every 1-2 minutes until it melds together.
You don’t want any cooked coloration on the cheese. When the pasta is done, strain it, mix it together, and enjoy: it really is that simple.
Gearing You Up for a Successful Camping Trip
It’s time to make some memorable meals that everyone will be raving about long after the weekend is over.
Whether it’s a trip with friends, your wife and kids, or those in-laws that you’re just looking to impress, you’ll have more working knowledge of outdoor cooking and cleanup than anybody else in your party.