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I love to cook in everyday life, and that doesn’t change when I’m camping or overlanding. I love everything about it. Well, perhaps except for the cleanup.
But, I understand that cooking isn’t for everyone. It might seem too daunting of a task. It might seem overly complex or time-consuming. Whatever the reason – I totally get it.
Cooking while camping doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful or a laborious process, though…
Use the tips below to streamline the cook and make it an experience that you and your camping buddies can enjoy!
Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
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We’ve all been there…
You get to camp, everyone’s hungry, and you realize that you forgot to pack an essential component of the meal. Either that, or you’re missing a pot or pan or the firestarter or some other necessary item for cooking while camping.
And while planning your meals ahead of time doesn’t give you 100 percent assurance that you won’t still forget something, it will go a long way in ensuring that you’re as prepared as possible.
When you plan your meals ahead, you need to do the obvious: figure out what meals you’re preparing and when, gather all the needed ingredients, pack the cookery you’ll need to prepare the food, and make sure you have flatware, dishes, bowls, and the like so you can actually enjoy the food you cook.
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Additionally, try to prepare for things that might throw you off your cooking game. For example, if you’re camping in the spring when rain might be more likely, bring a tarp to shield the fire from the rain. If you’re camping in the winter, be sure to bring dry firewood so you can actually start a fire in the first place.
This all simply comes down to taking the time to plan. Make a checklist (or use this one from REI) so you pack everything you need. And if you need some ideas for what to cook while you’re camping, this recipe for Kobe burgers is one of my favorites.
Cooking While Camping: Smart Packing Will Help
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Nothing can derail your experience of cooking at camp like not being able to find something you need when you need it. That’s why you need to consider how you pack your food for the journey to the campsite.
Though it seems like common sense to pack things in the cooler in the order that you’ll need them, sometimes time gets away from you and you just start throwing stuff in the cooler. But you’ll save more time by being purposeful when you pack rather than trying to dig through everything to find the mayo when you need it.
So, think about when you’ll be cooking each meal, and pack the items you’ll need to make those meals with the stuff you’ll need first on the top and the stuff you’ll need last on the bottom. Do the same for your spices and other goods that don’t need to be cool.
Speaking of being cool, remember that coolers are meant for keeping your food cool, not making them cool. So, don’t grab your cooler from the garage attic where it’s 140 degrees and expect your food to do well. Instead, bring the cooler inside the night before you leave to let it get to room temperature. If possible, add ice packs and let them sit overnight to bring the interior temperature of the cooler down. Your food will thank you, and you’ll have a better experience of cooking while camping.
Invest in Quality Cooking Gear
I think one of the primary barriers for people to cook while they’re camping is that it’s a long and difficult process. And while that might be true if you’re unprepared, if you equip yourself with the right cooking gear, making dinner and other meals can be a lot of fun.
For example, one of my favorite cooking implements is the Schenk from J.A. Schenk Co.
Essentially, the Schenk is a stainless steel ground rod with a foot on the bottom and an adjustable cooking ring. You can put a 306 food-grade stainless steel grill on the cooking ring for grilling burgers, steaks, chicken, or whatever suits your fancy. You can also cook up soups or stews by putting a cast-iron pot on the cooking ring. If that isn’t enough, bring your cast-iron skillet to make breakfast and your kettle to boil water over the fire for hot cocoa or coffee! Now that’s what I call cooking while camping!
So, part of the beauty of the Schenk is that it’s incredibly versatile and allows you to cook multiple things at once. Add to that the fact that the Schenk is quick and easy to set up and take down. You can get cooking quickly and can easily adjust the height of the cooking ring with the included stainless steel adjustment tool and two steel keys. And with the optional fire ring attachment (shown above), you can securely attach the Schenk to the fire ring at camp.
When investing in cooking gear for camping or overlanding, you want something that’s easy to use, but also something that’s easy to transport. J.A. Schenk has you covered there as well because the Schenk comes in a beautiful handcrafted Wannigan camp box.
So, just put the Wannigan box in the back of the car, quickly set up the Schenk when you get to camp, and you can enjoy cooking while camping!
Cooking While Camping: Make It a Group Experience
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Some of my best memories of camping when I was a kid happened at dinnertime around the fire. My dad would grill the fish we caught that day and tell me stories about his life when he was a kid. When we camped with the whole family, we played games, sang songs, and just enjoyed each other’s company.
That’s what cooking while camping is all about – coming together and enjoying the experience of preparing and eating food.
Like I said before, I know that cooking while camping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope that these few tips will make it easier for you to plan and execute your camp meals so you can make some long-lasting memories like those I have from around the campfire as a kid.