When I was growing up, we would always cook our meals over an open campfire. It was great! There’s just something about the smoky flavor in campfire food that makes it even better than normal.
I didn’t realize how much I loved cooking over a campfire until the capability to do so was taken away. With such awful fire conditions here in California, many of the places I like to go camping have fire restrictions.
But, whenever I have an opportunity to cook over an open flame, I like to turn to simple, classic campfire dishes like steak, asparagus, and pork chops.
In today’s article, I’ll share some simple recipes for these dishes as well as provide some pointers for maximizing your ability to cook over the campfire.
How to Get a Great Cooking Fire
To get the best results when cooking over a campfire, you need to ensure you build the right kind of fire in the first place.
Firstly, you need to think about the type of wood you burn as it will impact the flavor of the food you prepare. Go with a hardwood if possible (i.e., oak or maple) as it will give you super hot coals that put out nice heat over a long period of time.
Secondly, be mindful of the size of the fire you create. It needs to be large enough such that you have some good, hot coals going, but small enough that it isn’t an inferno that will burn your food to a crisp.
Lastly, the temperature needs to be consistent, which can be extremely hard to do when cooking over an open flame. Some parts of the fire will be hotter than others, so you might need to move your food around to get as even a cook as you can.
As with anything, cooking over a fire takes practice, so just keep at it and eventually you’ll find that you have the skills to be a master campfire chef!
Classic Campfire Dishes: Grilled Campfire Steak
It’s hard to beat a good steak for any dinner, but it’s especially good for dinner while camping. It’s easy to grill, too, and get a tender, juicy, and flavorful steak to chow down on as you take in the beauty of your surroundings.
Here’s a super simple grilled campfire steak recipe:
- Source four of your favorite cuts of steak, each about one inch thick.
- Combine 1 tsp. coarse sea salt, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, and 2 tsp. of your favorite steak rub in a small container. Mix thoroughly.
- Rub olive oil (or an oil of your choice) on both sides of each steak. Rub the seasoning mix on one side.
- Place the steaks on a grill placed directly above the hot coals. As shown above, using a cooking tool like the Schenk enables you to adjust how high or low the grill is above the fire, thereby enabling you to control the temperature and get a more even cook.
- Use a meat thermometer to keep tabs on the steak’s temperature. Remove it from the fire before it gets to the level of doneness that you want.
- Set the steak aside and let it rest. Give it about half the time it took to cook to rest.
Classic Campfire Dishes: Grilled Campfire Pork Chops
If steak isn’t your thing, pork chops are a great option for campfire cooking.
And the good thing is that they are just as easy to prepare as steaks, though you need to account for time to marinate the chops:
- Source 4-6 pork chops. Season both sides of each chop with salt and pepper.
- Add your favorite pork rub to both sides of the chops.
- Place the chops in a Ziploc bag and let them marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
- Remove the chops from the refrigerator and get them to room temperature. An hour should do the trick.
- Cook the chops on the grill, close to the coals as shown above on the Schenk, flipping each chop every couple of minutes to avoid overcooking or burning.
- Pull the chops off the campfire and let them rest for a few minutes.
Classic Campfire Dishes: Campfire Asparagus
A tasty (and easy) side dish for either campfire steak or pork chops is fresh grilled asparagus.
A great way to cook asparagus over a campfire is in a cast-iron skillet, as shown above. By using the Schenk, you’re able to simultaneously grill your meat and cook your side, that way you can enjoy both instead of having to eat the steak or pork while the asparagus cooks. Likewise, you can hang a cast-iron pot from the Shenk if a campfire stew is in order!
The recipe is simple:
- Season the asparagus with coarse sea salt and cracked pepper.
- Add the cast-iron skillet to the grill. Let it heat up to campfire temperature.
- Add 1 tbsp. butter to the skillet and let it melt.
- Add the asparagus to the skillet, periodically turning it to ensure even cooking.
- Cook time will vary, so check frequently by sticking a fork in the asparagus. You want it to be crunchy, but not too crunchy.
Exercise Caution When Cooking With a Campfire
With many areas in the U.S. and around the world in the midst of a drought, it’s imperative that you exercise caution when building and cooking with a campfire.
Never leave the fire unattended. Always have water and a shovel nearby to tamp down the fire if it gets out of control or sparks ignite a fire outside of the fire pit. If fire restrictions are in place, obey them! Using common sense will get you far! Using a fire reflector or shield, as shown above, will help too, as it will assist you in containing the fire, controlling the effects that wind has on the fire, and it will reflect heat back toward you if it’s a chilly evening. It’s a win-win!
Enjoy these classic campfire dishes, time with your friends, and the beautiful surroundings of your campsite!