Four Tips to Make Campfire Cooking With Kids Easy
You, too, will tell fireside tales of pizza, pot roast, and cobbler. Yogi, Smoky, and the gang won't believe it!
Fact: oven-fresh pizza tastes better in the wild. So does cake served out of an orange peel. And yet if you camp, you’ve probably been there, countless times, struggling to manage an outdoor cooking experience as it teeters on the brink of disaster, with burnt vegetables and burnt fingertips, trying to pry open a can of baked beans with a rock.
Campfire cuisine doesn’t need to be hard. In fact, it can be so straightforward and fun, we devoted a whole Little Sous Kitchen Academy lesson kit to kid-friendly camping recipes and cooking projects. Making a meal together in the woods is an endeavor that engages the whole family in a hands-on way, with tasks appropriate to a wide range of youthful ages—from gathering fire fuel to taking complete charge of organizing the s’mores party. (Speaking of s’mores, our Kitchen Academy action pack comes with some delightful next-level recipes, including one called the Elvis. You’ve gotta have it.)
Whether you’re an experienced camper or a rookie in the woods, you can ratchet up your camp-cooking game fairly easily. And frankly, nothing impresses kids, spouses, and camping companions like a no-big-deal feast in the wild. (Or at the state-park campground.) With these four essential tips and tricks, you’ll quickly become the envy of your camp.
1. Bring the right tools: Nobody likes improvising with sticks and stones. Do yourself a favor and start with purchased firewood, matches or a lighter, kindling, a pair of long tongs, at least one cast-iron skillet, tin foil, oven mitts, and a proper knife and cutting board. From there, imagine prepping, cooking, and cleaning up at your campsite. What else might you need? (Don’t be the one who forgot the bottle opener, or the French press for morning coffee.)
2. Hack the system: A little at-home prep goes a long way. Here are three projects that can set you up for triumphant success:
Compound butter: Blend softened butter with herbs and spices, then rechill (and keep packed in a chilly cooler) for instant seasoning over steak, baked potatoes, or pancakes.
Cake in an orange peel: Remove the top from an orange and have your little one scoop out (and eat) the innards, then fill with cake batter—a boxed mix works perfectly—and wrap in foil. At the campground, bake this packet directly over the coals for a handheld, kid-approved, orange-scented dessert.
Pizza night! Pre-mix or buy fresh pizza dough. At the campsite, roll it into that cast iron pan—you can bring a rolling pin, but a wine bottle or Thermos can work, too. Add toppings; cheese and pepperoni will seldom steer you wrong. Set the pan directly over the coals to achieve wood-fired pizza oven-level char. Instantly become the most popular person within Forest Service boundaries.
3. Prebatch mocktails:
Pre-measuring and mixing something to tote in a flask, mason jar, or Thermos is a time-honored adult camping tactic. It works just as well for kid-appropriate drinks. Recipe inspiration abounds. And a hint: a Thermos can keep warming apple cider or hot chocolate at the right temperature for a cozy nightfall toast.
4. Bake to your heart’s desire:
Camp skewers and tin foil packets are fine and good, but with a Dutch oven, the sky’s the limit. Cobblers, roasts, and even bread is possible with ingredient planning and a little careful manipulation of the fire coals. (An adult job, for sure.) Cover the Dutch oven with a lid, set directly into the coals and, using tongs, top the lid with additional hot coals to create an oven-like environment.
Also recommended: complimentary senses of adventure and humor. You’ve got this!