5 Tips For Outdoor Cooking
It's warm enough to be outside all the time, even overnight. It's the sign we've been waiting for to go camping! Camping takes a lot of planning, especially when it comes to food. When you're out in the middle of nowhere with no grocery store to drive to when you run out of something, good planning will keep your belly full and your campers happy. Here are 5 tips for cooking in the great outdoors.
Unlike a regular vacation, you have to pack your entire life to go camping: food, clothes, sleeping accessories, and hand towels or whatever bathroom luxuries you need from home. This means you have to be very strategic with your packing. For your outdoor kitchen, it's best to plan your meals in detail ahead of time so you know exactly what to pack. This means knowing what and how much each person will get for every meal. It helps you keep packing in perspective so you won't bring a lot of stuff you don't need. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. Quick Tip: If you need variety for every meal, plan dishes that use similar ingredients so you don't end up packing your entire spice cabinet, and you'll have a lighter load going home.
If you're planning on bringing perishables like meat or eggs on your adventure, you have to be careful about keeping it cool. Food that needs refrigeration has to be held at a temperature of 40°F or lower to keep it from spoiling. To make sure your food is properly chilled there are two things you can do to get through at least the first night without your food spoiling: 1) freeze anything you can before you go, and 2) make large blocks of ice to stick in your cooler. You can make ice by filling large freezer bags with water and freezing them, or reuse containers like 2-liter bottles as containers. It helps to plan your meals so that you use the perishables first and use the other items that don't requiring cooling after the ice melts.
When you have all of your outdoor meals planned, sealable plastic bags will become your new best friends. Try to do as much prep as you can before you leave for your camping trip. Measure and chop everything you can and store it in plastic bags so they take up little space, as well as save you time once you start cooking. Pack the ingredients for each meal together for easy access.
Packing Cooking Equipment
Pack only the items necessary for your trip, because you won't have room for anything more than that. Make your list as small as possible. Think about dishes that nest to take up less space and equipment and utensils that can be used for more than one purpose, like a pot that can be used both for cooking and serving, a paring knife you can use to cut up fruit as well as peel a potato, or a cutting board that also can be used as a serving platter. It sounds like a hassle, but when it's time for clean up and unpacking when you get home, you will be pleasantly surprised.
The campfire is no play kitchen. You can cook just about anything over a campfire if you have a grill rack or a cast iron Dutch oven. With a grill rack, you can boil water, cook oatmeal or use it as a spot to put a griddle for burgers and anything you might do on a stove stop. A Dutch oven can nestle into coals to do slow-cooked meals, like stew. You can even bake things in them! Another way you can cook on the campfire is with aluminum foil. You may remember hobo dinners from when you were a kid. They can produce excellent meals that almost make you forget you're camping.