We love campfire cooking in the wild. When we head off on our adventures, we double-check our campfire cooking kit list. There’s nothing worse than realizing you forgot a crucial ingredient or a cooking tool you need. That’s why we recommend building your campfire cooking kit so that you know exactly what you need and will always bring everything along.
If you’re like us, one of the main reasons that you love camping is for the campfire cooking. It’s certainly more difficult than cooking in a modern kitchen, but that’s part of the fun.
As a Red Seal Chef, Steve is very picky about what he chooses to put in his Campfire Cooking Kit. He does his research well before something gets added to his kit.
The Best Ever Campfire Cooking Kit
In this article, we’re going to share the essential parts of a campfire cooking kit. These are all items that have a definite use and can’t be replaced. Depending on exactly what you want to cook, your list might be a little different, but we think this list is a great starting point.
Campfire Cooking Tips
Before jumping into the list, I want to let you in on some secrets of great campfire cooking that will keep you safe while making great-tasting meals.
When you’re working with fire, you’re always responsible for your safety and the safety of those around you.
First of all, whenever you build a campfire make sure that the conditions around you are safe to do so. In certain conditions, most often when there’s been hot weather without much rain, campfires represent a fire hazard that can affect large areas of a forest and even people’s properties.
The best way to check whether it’s ok to start campfire cooking is by checking for local campfire bans, which can be found on government websites. If you’re staying in a recognized campsite or national park, you can also just ask someone there whether or not there’s a fire ban.
Secondly, make sure to always have water and a shovel on hand. Water is great for emergencies because it works quickly and will usually extinguish anything that’s escaped from your fire pit.
It’s also important to have a shovel because putting dirt over a fire will extinguish it for sure because you’re cutting off oxygen to the blaze. Another reason that having a shovel on hand is a necessity is for situations where the grease from something you’re cooking catches fire. In these cases, putting water on the grease fire won’t put it out but cause it to spread.
Thirdly, I have to mention the most important rule when it comes to campfires: never leave a burning fire unattended. Even if it’s just for five minutes, you never know when or how quickly it can spread. If you have to leave, make sure to have someone else watch the fire for you.
That also means that you need to be sure your fire is completely out when you turn in for the night. It’s best to use a combination of water and shoveled dirt for this purpose, as you can know for sure that the fire is completely extinguished.
Don’t Cook Over an Open Flame
Now that we’ve taken care of the safety advisory, it’s time to get down to some cooking advice. In culinary terms, the first rule that one has to learn is not to cook over an open flame. You might think that the actual flames are the hottest part of the fire and thus the best to cook on, but you’d be wrong on both counts.
The hottest part of the fire is those glowing coals that develop as the wood burns. Not only are they the hottest, but they also provide the most even and consistent heat that you can get over a campfire. That means you can get an even char on the outside of whatever you’re grilling over the coals as well as fully cooking the inside.
When you’re cooking over a campfire, you need to give the fire some time to develop. Those large, red coals don’t appear immediately but only after the fire burns for some time. Waiting for at least half an hour, if not forty-five minutes to a full hour is the way to go for a hot and even campfire cooking environment.
All the same goes when you’re cooking in a dutch oven or cast iron pan. When you’re using one of those, there’s even less reason to try to cook over an open flame.
Learn How to Control Temperatures
There are times, however, where what you’re cooking doesn’t require too much heat. In these cases, what are you to do?
Steve’s favorite method of controlling heat involves using ashes to cover over the hot coals. When you put a shovel or two of ash into the pile of coals you’re using for cooking, their temperature will drop and leave you more able to cook delicate foods.
You can also shift around coals, making a thinner pile while moving some of the heat away from what you’re cooking.
Controlling the heat of a campfire isn’t the easiest task—there’s no temperature know like on an oven or a barbecue. There’s a fair bit of feeling involved and you have to slowly learn by trial and error.
What’s in a Campfire Cooking Kit?
1. Tin Foil
Tin Foil is an essential piece of equipment for cooking in the wilderness—no less than it is in your kitchen! Mostly, we use it to wrap food before placing it in the coals (like baked potatoes) or covering food to keep it warm after it has cooked. Laying out some aluminum foil can provide you with a clean cooking space to lay out your food before it goes on the grill or into your cast iron.
We recommend the classic ALCAN Plus because it’s very heavy-duty and difficult to tear. When you’re out in the woods, the less that can break and go wrong the better.
2. Aluminum Pans
Aluminum pans are another crucial item that might seem boring and obvious, but make your life easier. Especially when you’re cooking for a big group, it’s great to be able to serve food in large aluminum pans. Another use for them is marinating large portions of meat or fish.
This 25 pack of Aluminum pans provides you with great value, especially when you consider the lids that are included. Those can come in handy for keeping flies and other bugs out of your food.
Although in a pinch a stick can do, there’s no comparison to using a proper fire poker to take care of your fire. You can be much more precise and controlled when you’re using a proper stoker rather than a big, bulky stick.
The Walden Fire Pit Stoker Poker is a great tool for these situations. It has a beautiful wooden handle and a high carbon poking stick that retracts into the handle when it’s not in use.
Practically speaking, the standout feature of this product is the notched head of the poker, which makes a kind of hook that can break apart large logs and move coals around easily and safely.
When a poker can’t quite get the job done, another useful tool that can help you arrange your campfire just right is the grabber. Think of it as a giant mechanical arm, with fingers that close when you squeeze the trigger. Using a grabber, you’ll never end up burning your hands or fingers when trying to move a stubborn log.
We have our eyes on the Sunnydaze Log Grabber Tongs, which has a huge 36-Inch claw that’s capable of grabbing even the largest logs. Made from solid steel, these Log Grabber tongs aren’t too heavy, weighing in at 2 pounds.
With a set of heavy-duty gloves, you can feel even more secure when you’re working with fire and hot objects. They’re not only useful while you’re at the firepit, but they also come in handy while you’re gathering and breaking down wood for your fire.
The Outset F234 Leather Grill Gloves come in a pack of two, which is great value and means you always have an extra set for your co-chef. When it’s easier to just do something with your hands, you’ll feel comfortable doing it in these gloves.
Keep in mind! DO NOT grab hot cast iron or any other pots and pans directly from the fire with these gloves. They are to be used in conjunction with additional clothes and/or grabber tools.
5. Chimney Starter
Having a chimney starter makes starting a fire, sometimes one of the most challenging parts of campfire cooking, much easier. A chimney starter is essentially a small chamber with lots of airflow that helps you get a fire started, at which point you transfer it to your fire pit.
The Outset 76356 Collapsible Camping Grill and Chimney Starter does this job well, but it goes a step further: it includes a grill that clips over the top of the chimney starter. This gives you a small, compact, and easy-to-use cooking area, just about big enough to fit three burgers.
Conveniently, this Outset product is also collapsible and lightweight, meaning it won’t be a pain to bring it along.
Of course, you need skewers in your campfire cooking kit; kebabs are one of the classic campfire staples. While wooden skewers that have been soaked in water will do the job in a pinch, there’s no comparison to reusable metal skewers.
The set of ten stainless steel skewers from the MVZAWINO brand are top of the line. They’re flat, rather than round, which solves the problem of your food spinning around while you’re turning your kebabs. We also use them to let steam out of the dutch oven lid.
7. Dutch Oven
The presence of a good Dutch Oven completely transforms the types of dishes you can make while at the campfire. All of a sudden, you’re not just going to be making hot dogs and hamburgers, but can make stews, roasts, and all manner of dishes.
If you’re not familiar with what a Dutch Oven is, it’s a very deep cast iron pan with a lid on it. You can put a dutch oven directly on coals, suspend it on a tripod, or put it on top of a grill depending on how direct you want the heat to be.
The Camp Chef Dutch oven has a 12” diameter and was specifically designed for campfire cooking. It’s got a metal handle that makes it easy to suspend on a tripod and a lid that’s easy to lift off and put back on.
Usually, we make this Dutch Oven Beef Stew at home, freeze it and take it with us. But we have also made it while out in the wild in this campfire Dutch Oven.
Can’t wait to cook over a campfire again! Pls only indulge if campfires are permitted in your area.♬ Ooh Ahh (My Life Be Like) [feat. Tobymac] - Grits
8. Folding Campfire Grill
Even experienced campfire cooks often find themselves looking around with a couple of things in their hands, trying to find a clean space to put something down. In the woods, you aren’t surrounded by counter space like you are in a kitchen.
A campfire grill gives you a convenient place to set down a hot Dutch Oven, Cast Iron Pan etc..
You can also use them when cooking over a fire surrounded by rocks due to the low profile it offers, but we use it more for a place to set hot pans / dutch ovens.
9. 22″ Tongs
To barbecue properly, you need to get yourself a large set of tongs. They’re the only way you can properly move around a steak or pork chops without making a mess of them.
The Outset QB22 is a great pair of tongs that give you great control from a distance. You’re liable to burn yourself if your tongs are too short, but that’s not a problem with these. They give you 22 inches of reach, keeping your hands safe.
10. Cast Iron Skillet
When we’re camping, Steve’s cast iron pan is his best friend. You can use it to cook every meal of the day, from bacon at breakfast to sausages and onions for lunch to pan-seared fish for dinner. We have never had a camping trip without heating up this make-ahead Spaghetti with Meat Sauce in this skillet.
We are not the biggest fan of cooking eggs on this cast iron skillet, though. We keep trying to get it right, but so far, it’s the bacon pan at breakfast and eggs get the Teflon.
Be very careful with cooking things like bacon over a campfire. While we heat up our Spaghetti sauce over the fire, we tend to use our stove for things like bacon because grease splatters and fire are not a friendly couple.
You can see here we used it for cooking splatter-free Spaetzle that we served with Steve’s Paprika Chicken. (Recipes coming soon…)
Briquettes heat up and are ready for cooking exceptionally quickly. We prefer to use coals over natural wood coals for any time we cook with our campfire dutch oven. You can see them on the lid in the photo above.
Our go-to briquettes are the Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquettes, which are high quality and don’t give off any strange tastes.
Having a good tripod makes it much easier to cook meals that require long and consistent heat, but that you don’t want to burn. Being able to move a Dutch Oven up and down makes it easy to maintain the perfect temperature.
The Stansport tripod has everything that you need and even includes a small grill that you can use if you like.
We tried cooking steaks on a tripod and they turned out much better than cooking right on the grill that comes with most standard campfire cooking grills.
(Let’s take a pause for how much I love this man. This was my birthday dinner. I am the luckiest.)
13. Roasting Sticks
After your meal, with the smell of smoke still in the air, we all know that there’s one dessert you’ll be craving: marshmallows.
The 4, 5, 10, or 20 pack of retractable, stainless steel marshmallow roasting sticks will make sure that you and everyone in your campsite have what they need to roast as many marshmallows as they can eat.
14. Grilling Basket
A grilling basket is kind of like tongs that close into a spatula. We use this for roasting our hot dogs / smokies for a quick and easy meal while in the wild.
15. Double Pie Iron
Grilled cheese is my comfort food. So many variations can complete your campfire cooking menu – apples, brie, and bacon? Ham, swiss, dijon? Tomatoes, guacamole, salami, red onion, and provolone? OMG. I can go on and on.
15. Dish Soap
This is an obvious one and a necessity, though it’s sometimes forgotten. You mustn’t just bring along whatever dish soap you have at home because it may contain harmful chemicals that can damage a natural environment.
However, we find that the Sierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor Soap does a great job while being biodegradable and completely safe for the environment.
15. Camping Sink
Having convenient places to do your dishes takes some of the stress and effort out of post-meal clean-ups.
I recommend bringing two bins for doing dishes, one for washing and one for rinsing. The Wakeman Wash Collapsible Outdoors Portable Bin will do the job without taking up too much space.
16. Scraper / Brush
Cleaning our cast iron pan can cause some big grief in the wild. Burnt on food can add unpleasant tastes to your food.
Getting a good scraper/brush, like the Alpine Brush/Scraper, is the best way to clear your cast iron pans from any left over residue.
We love our Jet Boil for boiling water. But there’s something about a kettle on the fire that makes you feel like you are truly living your best ever outdoor life, right? Plus, it saves on propane.
We love campfire cooking, but only when safe to do so. So much of our outdoor adventures happen when there is a campfire ban in place so we can’t indulge in campfire cooking. We also supplement our campfire cooking with a propane stove for rice or pasta. Sure, you can do it all over an open fire, but it takes practice and patience.
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