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How to Turn Your Campfire Meals into Gourmet Dishes

Campfire cooking is not always synonymous with the word "delicious". Take the typical outcome of grilling a tender hot dog bun...blackened bread is not what most crave, nor is meat burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Sadly, this is what comes from not learning about campfire grills and how to make the right dishes with them.

And yet, campfire meals can end up being some of the most delicious and unforgettable of our lives. It just takes a bit of knowhow and some dependable recipes; and you'll make outdoor meal magic.

Start With the Tools

To cook delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, and special snacks over a campfire means abandoning all of the gadgets and one-button conveniences of so many modern kitchens.

In fact, it means giving up even our traditional pots and pans. This is because the uneven heat of open wood fires and even glowing embers can only be managed by the dependable behavior of cast iron. The heaviness of the metal allows for the heat to be distributed evenly, and this is how you create the most delicious dishes.

Think one-pot dishes, the best grilling meats, and creative combinations of foods wrapped in foil, and you're on the way to campfire cooking mastery. So, to get you started on the road to campfire grill magic, let's just consider what tools and gadgets you will need:

  • Cast iron cookware - A skillet is a must, and you may also want a crock with a lid and a vessel to boil water.
  • Grill - A sturdy grate to place over the fire is another "must have" item. Not only is this a level cooking surface but it also allows you to maximize the fire by using several pots, pans or areas at one time. The best are made of cast iron and have sturdy legs that ensure the safest performance.
  • Aluminum foil - Buy the heaviest duty and the widest rolls available. Though it is essential for classic "hobo" packets (which are the campfire version of tiny crock-pots), it is something you find handy in many other ways.
  • Enamel bowls and plates - These are classics and can usually withstand the direct heat of a campfire.
  • Knife and cutting board - A good knife is one that can serve a few purposes, so choose one that is acceptable for chopping as well as peeling.

Using the Campfire Grill

Of course, even with the best tools you can still struggle to make delicious meals when you are unsure about campfire construction. While the most experienced campers will tell you that there are a few different types of fire, it tends to come down to the smaller "teepee" fire or the longer cooking fire.

For most campers, the teepee fire can do the trick. This one is built in a traditional fire pit encircled by a ring of stones. The fire is created with a "teepee" of twigs in the center. This is built over a small amount of tinder or kindling. Dry leaves and pine needles are ideal, but if you have old newspaper balls on hand, they work well too. This creates a fire in seconds and it can be kept going by slowly feeding it more twigs.

This is the sort of fire that can boil water, cook bacon, or make a small meal. If you need a longer fire, or intend to cook on it for a day or more, build a larger cooking fire. It starts with the same "teepee" structure, but its base is larger and longer. This can accommodate more tinder and even logs, and when you are done cooking, you can just remove your grill and build the fire up to a nice comfortable level for stories, marshmallow toasting and more.

Getting the Most Out of a Campfire Grill

To enjoy the best results from the campfire grill, make sure that you choose recipes that work best with the tools on hand, and the environment. Naturally, a nice bacon aroma drifting through your camp is sure to please, but you don't have to live on bacon and eggs while camping.

There are "hobo packs" that can contain "steamed" vegetables, roasted potatoes, and even fruits that serve as desert. You can make skillet breads, grilled sausages cooked directly on the grill, and all kinds of desserts. One of the simplest is:

Roasted Strawberry Mallows

Wash and clean strawberries. Skewer two to four on a roasting stick. Spread large dollops of marshmallow fluff on the berries. Wave over the flames or hot grill until the fluff is dark brown. Enjoy!

As you can see, it is not challenging to make delicious foods over a campfire grill. It is simply a matter of rethinking your approach to cooking. Forget the dishes that require a modern kitchen and have fun experimenting with more durable foods that appreciate the challenges of cooking over open flames.

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Find more about the author: Kristen Breedlove