Campfire Cooking: A Skill to Practice Now!

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campfire cookingI’d be willing to bet that most of you reading this have at least made s’mores, perhaps even heated up a hot dog or two, around a campfire. Fun stuff, no doubt about it. But, there’s a whole lot more involved if you need to make an actual meal over an open flame.

One of the first things that goes away in a disaster is usually electricity. If you have an electric stove top, you won’t be using it for much of anything. Same goes for your microwave oven. Patio grills are great, as are camp stoves, provided you remembered to stock up on fuel.

In the last few years, patio fire pits have become all the rage. Whether it is a brick lined hole in the ground or a metal standalone model, these work quite well for cooking. In fact, if you have a grill, you can often use the grate from it when cooking over your patio fire pit. Just lay the grate over the pit and away you go. Of course, it depends upon the size of the grate and the fire pit, but more often than not, you’ll be able to make it work.

Campfire cooking skills improve with practice

Cooking over an open flame is as much art as it is science. If you haven’t done it much at all, I highly recommend you practice it from time to time. One common mistake is to try cooking directly over roaring flames. For most things, you’re far better off cooking over glowing coals. You won’t scorch the food and the temperature will be much more stable.

It is a relatively straightforward process to heat up a can of soup or stew, of course. Just dump the contents into a pot and place it over the fire. Keep in mind, though, that the standard cookware in most homes is ill-suited for open fire cooking. Plastic handles can melt and thin aluminum can warp. What you might want to do is invest in either camp cookware or a few cast iron pots and pans. I prefer the latter but will admit they are heavy and kind of pricey.

Try expanding your horizons, too, and go beyond simply heating up canned food. For example, if you have a box of “just add water” biscuit or muffin mix, you can make them without needing a working oven. One way is to use orange peels as muffin cups. Cut an orange in half and use a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving you with two nifty orange peel cups. Prepare the mix according to the directions and pour it into the peel cups, to about a half inch from the top. Cover them with aluminum foil, poke a few holes in the foil, then set them on a grate above the fire. As the dough bakes, a little bit will squeeze up through the holes in the foil. When that stuff looks done, stick a toothpick down into the muffin. If it comes out clean, they’re done.

Another method is to make a stiff dough using biscuit mix, then loop it around a clean and shaved stick. Hold the stick over the fire and turn it from time to time to cook the dough evenly. Try a Dutch oven cobbler for an amazing campfire dessert.

Take the time now to play around with campfire cooking. Try out different recipes and techniques, learn what works best for you. While a meal of fire-warmed hot dogs and s’mores might not be the worst thing in the world, you probably won’t want to eat it repeatedly.

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Jim Cobb is a disaster preparedness consultant and author. His books include Prepper's Home Defense, The Prepper's Complete Book of Disaster Readiness, and Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide.

1 thought on “Campfire Cooking: A Skill to Practice Now!”

  1. Another consideration regarding hot dogs would be that you are not going to be able to buy these after a disaster, and unless you have some canned ahead of time, that will not be one of the things you will be cooking once you cannot store them in your fridge or freezer. Also most other meat items we generally use a grill to fix.
    I have two fire pits, the first I left outside uncovered this last winter, and it is now next to useless. The other will stay in its box until needed, and I will use charcoal bar-b-q grills until then. I also have 2 or 3 inexpensive grills. One thing I learned with the fire pit, prior to allowing it to rust, was that by adding large rocks to the bottom of the fire pit, I did not need to add or use nearly as much charcoal. I had dragged it to the edge of my patio a few times when we had our rare freezes to use with firewood to protect my fruit trees and olive trees on the patio, and again the use of the rocks or bricks lessens the need for as much fuel. I am also stockpiling those fake firelogs, for use for heat, since I hear they are not safe to use for cooking food. I used them quite a bit in my fireplace this last winter and they work quite well for a heat source. Another thing that I had not considered with the fire pit I pretty well allowed to be ruined, was that I had left it under a large tree that my landlords’ peacocks roost in. Needless to say, it does not look very nice covered with peacock doo. And probably not that sanitary either. It might still be somewhat useful for a heat source for protecting vegetation, I certain do not intend to use it to cook food. I also have two good propane stoves, one which I will keep stored until needed and have a lot of the smaller propane tanks, and my landlord has told me I can refill them as needed from their rather large propane tank rather than buying replacement canisters. That also lessens my need to have a huge number of them sitting around in storage. I also have folding emergency stoves with fuel tablets, sterno stoves with sterno, which, I believe are one of the few emergency stoves that are safe to use inside one’s home. I also have a small emergency food heater for use in my car using the lighter/charger socket. It can be used to heat canned food or to cook items like hot dogs or even make grilled cheese sandwiches. I also have a couple inverters for use in the car, although they and the car would be unusual in case of an EMP. Two of my emergency power sources have built in inverters and three of them have capacity for use for 12 volt power as well as regular 120 outlets. I plan to store the largest and the smallest of these in my Faraday cages along with my small solar panels. Both of the fire pits I own came with both a grill for cooking and screens to cover them which keep embers from flying out.

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