Cooking Outdoors: How to Make Camping Food Great

Whether taking a weekend to connect with nature or hiking into the back country, there are ways to have the other campsites jealous of your cooking prowess. Learn some tips from Chef Jeremy in this Gourmet Camping Edition...

Campfire Cooking

Can gourmet cooking and camping really go together? We say yes!

Whether you are taking a weekend to connect with nature or hiking into the back country on some crazy Bear Grillz style retreat from civilization there are a ways to take your meals to the next level. These aren’t terribly hard to accomplish and will have the other campsites jealous of your prowess.

First lets talk about equipment. My best friend called me up years ago to ask if I could give him advice on what to buy for his kitchen. At the time he was all about living what is called a "Minimalist Lifestyle"- the idea being to reduce your needs down to the bare minimum. He has since abandoned this ideology but when leaving the comfort of your living room behind I think the same rules and advice apply. With a few key items, you can create 95% of whatever you want to cook while camping.

Gourmet Cooking and Camping Tip No. 1: Knives and a board

This may seem superfluous to some but trust me you don’t want to be doing prep work with the same pocket knife that you’ve been scrapping trees and flipping rocks with around your campsite. I wouldn’t suggest bringing your $250 Shun knife out into the woods with you either. I recommend a sturdy plastic handled chef's knife that you can pick up at Walmart or Target.

One brand seen often in professional kitchens is called Victorianox. These knives are very economical and hold an edge. You also will be less concerned if it goes missing in amongst your camping gear because they only cost $12-15. Pair this with a filet/flexible boning knife and you can easily clean all the fish you can pull out of the river! For a cutting board I suggest bringing a large flexible board made out of plastic. They are light and easy to travel with and since its plastic will be easy to sanitize where water might be limited.

Gourmet Cooking and Camping Tip No. 2: Cookware

Two words: Cast Iron. Many people are intimidated by cast iron cookware because of its requirements for up-keep. Nay, I say! I have, and still use on a regular basis, my grandmother's cast iron pan and cleaning it is no more of a hassle than what you might do for your regular pots and pans.

Cast iron is beloved by chefs and campers alike for its durability and even heating. The reason most people tend to avoid them is because of its propensity to rust. The iron in your cast iron pan is in the same form that it was in the moment it was thrust forth from the heart of the star it was born in, isn’t that cool? In order to keep your pan looking new and rust free, wash as normal and dry thoroughly. I put my back on direct heat in order to guarantee the complete evaporation of any water to be found lurking in or around my pan.

After letting your pan cool, take oil of some kind, preferably a high heat oil like canola, avocado, or peanut oil, and rub it on all surfaces of your pan with a paper towel or rag. This layer of oil will prevent air and water from coming in contact with your pan directly, thus stopping the oxidation process AKA rust. Follow that simple rule during cleanup and you’ll find yourself using that pan for decades to come!

Gourmet Cooking and Camping Tip No. 3: How to pick recipes

As with many things in life simplicity is key when supplying and prepping for a camping trip. Take time to consider what you will have available to cook with. Is it just the aforementioned cast iron dutch oven and campfire? Are you more of a “Glamper” and have an RV with stovetop, microwave, and mini fridge? Your menu should match your means. I love my mom’s recipe for 15 Bean Soup because it’s simple: dried beans, 1 smoked kielbasa sausage, canned tomatoes, onion, and garlic. BOOM! Quick, easy, hearty, and best enjoyed under the open sky shortly after sunset. Just remember to work smarter not harder and you will make all your outdoor meals more enjoyable.

I hope these tips help you to make happy campers out of your friends and family this summer and into the fall. If you would like to learn a few camp site perfect recipes to take into the great outdoors come see me this Saturday, July 14th at 1:30pm where I will be hosting our Gourmet Camping class, open to all!


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