Why campfire popcorn rocks, how to cook it, and a yummy smoky BBQ recipe.
There was a time when bagged popcorn was my absolute guilty pleasure when sitting around the campfire (or in front of the TV, or as dessert, or at any time really!). Then I started to become very aware of the unnecessary waste that comes with popping open a bag, willy-nilly. Not to mention all the unidentified ingredients that make it taste oh-so-yummy. Pleasure went out the window and all that remained was guilt.
So I started to make my own popcorn from scratch. Game-changer! Clean ingredients, experimental flavourings and zero packaging (I get my ingredients at a refill store). But it also made me realise what an exceptionally lightweight and packable snack unpopped popcorn is for backpacking and camping.
Cooking campfire popcorn draws everyone around the fire; it sounds just wonderful as it pops in time with the crackle of the fire. And it couldn’t be easier to make as a snack or dessert. Plus, the ingredients take up WAY less space in your backpack or camp cooking box than a full bag of pre-made stuff which, let’s face it, disappears in 5 minutes.
Campfire popcorn rocks and should absolutely be on the camping food menu of every camper or backpacker.
5 occasions when campfire popcorn is essential
01Outdoor movie night
Probably THE best time to pull out all the popcorn making stops is on outdoor movie nights, either at camp or in your backyard. Your campfire popcorn making pan should be as large as possible for a plentiful flow of light and crunchy yumminess. It’s also a great time to get creative with your flavours and toppings. I’m talking melted cheese, smoky BBQ (see recipe below), chocolate covered, salted caramel and good old sweet and/or salty.
02Campfire games night
Playing games and nibbling on treats is a dreamy way to while away the evening, especially when cosied up about a campfire. Put a pan of corn on the fire to draw everyone in, and then keep them there with the silliness of great campfire games.
03Quick camping dessert
If you like to follow your camping meals with something sweet, but find cooking a proper dessert one thing too many to juggle, then bust out the popcorn! Cover it with chocolate sauce and chopped nuts and you’ve got yourself one quick, easy and delicious campfire dessert.
If you’ve never been camping at Halloween then I highly recommend it! Aside from having free-reign to scare the living bejesus out of each other, Halloween camping also means campfires galore and yummy treats aplenty. Popcorn is/can be a healthy option amongst all the other sticky sweets, and the sound of it popping in the pan adds to the unpredictable and spooky atmosphere.
In the UK, Guy Fawkes Night, or bonfire night, is a big deal. And although most people go to organised fireworks displays, hosting your own backyard bonfire night is a great way to celebrate the occasion in a more gentle setting. Set up a small fire and everyone can make their own campfire popcorn in small foil packages – a great way to get the kids involved in enjoying the fire under adult supervision, instead of leaving them to play on their own! See below for foil-cooked campfire popcorn.
How to make campfire popcorn
Making campfire popcorn is pretty much the same as making it at home. But over the campfire there a couple of other ways to make the corn go pop!
The most common way to make campfire popcorn is in your camp cooking pot or saucepan. The pot must have a lid. Depending on the type of pot you are using, you can either place the pot directly onto/into the fire or place it onto a grill that sits over the fire. The latter should be done if your pot has short handles or if there is silicone or plastic on the lid.
Cooking popcorn in a Dutch oven is a very similar process to using a pan. However, Dutch ovens are much more useful if you are cooking over a fire that doesn’t have a grill to place your pot onto. You can place the Dutch oven directly on or in the fire. Be sure to use heat proof gloves if you are cooking campfire popcorn in this way.
Campfire popcorn popper
You can use a campfire popcorn popper if you like. But they are basically long handled pans with lids. If campfire popcorn is your thing and you like to get popping at every given opportunity, then sure, it’s probably worth getting yourself a campfire popcorn popper. For everyone else, however, a regular pan with a lid will do just fine!
I first came cooking campfire popcorn in a colander on a foraging course. At the end of the course we cooked our foraged fare over a campfire and nibbled on popcorn while it cooked. It’s impossibly simple: chuck the kernels in the colander, put a lid on it and place it over a fire. It’s also very healthy, as you don’t need to add any oil to pan – the holes in the colander keep air flowing through to prevent the corn from sticking to pan. Just be sure to transfer it to a holeless pan or bowl before you sprinkle over any toppings.
Using foil is probably the most convenient way to make campfire popcorn. It’s especially good if you want to get the kids involved as each person can create and cook their own package to put on the fire.
Simply place a tablespoon of corn kernels and a teaspoon of oil onto some foil, loosely wrap it up leaving some foil at the top or at one end for a handle, and place it on the edge of the campfire until the popping stops!
However, using foil is my least favourite way to cook popcorn over a campfire. Not because it’s messy or it burns the kernels. But because it’s SO darn wasteful. If you have a pan that you can use over the fire then there’s just no need to use foil.
Smoky BBQ Flavoured Campfire Popcorn
This sweet and salty recipe is ideal as a stand alone snack to replace a bag of chips pre- or post-dinner. Its smoky flavour makes it all the more suitable for munching on whilst sitting round the campfire.
Serves 1 or 2
- 2 tbs oil (coconut, sunflower, rapeseed oil)
- ½ cup of corn kernels (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Mix all the herbs and spices together and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large pan.
- Add the corn kernels and mix them around so that they are covered in oil.
- Put the lid on the pan and wait.
- Once the corn starts to pop, shake the pan a little and leave until the popping slows right down.
- Take the pan off the heat once all the corn has popped but leave the lid on for another minute just in case there’s more popping to be done!
- When ready, sprinkle the BBQ mix over the top of the corn and serve.