I’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.
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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.