Camp cooking over campfire

Camp Cooking: 20 Ways to Make a Meal of It

As a bit of a lazy and impatient cook, I tend to cook almost everything on a hob at home. Mostly fried, sauteed or steamed. So when it comes to all the different camp cooking methods that I could possibly chose from, I usually end up opting for a gas stove. Terribly boring but it works for me and how I like to cook. However in the last few years I’ve started branching out a little and experimenting with some of the other options for getting creative over camp cooking. It has highlighted to me just how many options there are for turning dry uncooked ingredients into delicious camping meals. I can’t wait to try them all over the years, and hope you too will enjoy trying new ways of making a meal out of camp cooking! For loads of great camping food ideas, lists and menus, check out our Ultimate Guide to Camping Food.

Here’s a bunch of different ways to get cooking on your next camping trip:

Camp cooking methods

Method of cookingBest used forFuel used
GrillFrying and grillingCampfire
FoilLightweight campingCampfire
Pie ironCooking with kidsCampfire
RotisserieDays on the campsiteCampfire
SkewersToasting snacksCampfire
Double burnerFamily or group mealsIsobutane or propane gas
Canister gas stoveQuick meals for twoIsobutane or propane gas
Gas BBQSociable meat feastsIsobutane or propane gas
Charcoal BBQSmoky meat feastsCharcoal
Charcoal stoveFuel efficiencyCharcoal
Dutch ovenGroup casserolesCharcoal
Wood burnerWinter campingWood
Lightweight wood stoveLong distance backpackingSticks and twigs
Solar stoveSaving the worldSolar power
Portable microwaveBad cooks!Battery power
Alcohol stoveQuick one pot mealsDenatured alcohol, methanol, ethanol, gelled alcohol
Liquid fuel stoveBase camp cookingWhite gas, kerosene, unleaded auto-fuel, diesel
Solid fuel stoveQuick emergency mealsEsbit or hexamine
Can cookerHealthy group mealsGas stove or campfire
Vacuum crock potKeeping food from home hotN/A

Cooking on a campfire

Before you start dreaming of camp cooking mastery, you’ll need to make sure that your campfire ain’t no ordinary fire. It needs to be a suitable substitute for a cooker or stove and not an out of control blazing inferno. So make sure you set up your fire perfectly by learning how to build a campfire for cooking. This can take some practice. But once you’re happy with how to create and maintain the perfect campfire for cooking on, you’re good to go. Next up, you’ll have to decide which method of cooking you prefer. Here are the main methods for cooking on a fire and also some campfire cooking equipment to use:
Campfire griddle

Grill

If you’ve got a good grill, then you can cook just about anything over a campfire. Boiling can be a little slow going unless you’ve got super concentrated heat – which usually means too many flames. But frying, sauteing and heating food up is generally easily done using a campfire grill. Some setups also allow you to cook food directly on the metal of the grill – just make sure the gaps are small enough so that your food doesn’t fall into the fire.

Cooking tip: Try not to be tempted to cook over flames, but wait for them to die down into embers.

Meal suggestion: A full English breakfast

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Foil camp cooking

Foil

This is the best method of campfire cooking if you don’t want to carry heavy equipment with you, and by far the cheapest too. Ensure the pennies you do spend are on high quality aluminum foil as the cheap stuff will tear easily. Wrap your food up tightly adding a little water to the foil to prevent it from drying out or burning, and place it in the embers of a mature fire. Some of the best campfire desserts are cooked using this simple method. Just make sure you wear heat proof gloves when dealing with your steaming package of sweet stickiness!

Cooking tip: Place your food in the centre of the foil to enable you to twist the excess foil into handles. This makes it much easier when picking your food out of the fire.

Meal suggestion: Sea bass and fire roasted vegetables


Round pie iron

Pie Iron

This is brilliant way to make easy camping food that everyone will love – especially the kids. The two metal bowls at the end of the stick close together and act as the most perfect grilled cheese maker ever. But it’s not just toasted sandwiches and pies that the pie iron excel at cooking. There are loads of great recipes to choose from. Get experimental and just fill it with your favourite ingredients and you may stumble upon the next big thing in pie iron cooking! A mature fire is best, but with some practice, you can also create some fun camping recipes over the flames of a fire too.

Cooking tip: Speed up the process of cooking for groups and get yourself a double pie iron.

Meal suggestion: Stuffed hash browns 

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Chicken on a rotisserie spit

Rotisserie 

Turn back the clock with this age old slow cooking method of taking much of the day to cook your dinner. Thankfully, technology has moved on from the days when “spit boys” were employed to keep the meat turning. Instead, man has harnessed the genius of electricity to really get camping meal times moving. To avoid flame grilling (and burning) your meal, put in the time to create and nurture a mature fire with wood and/or charcoal. That way, it will keep going for hours without the need for too much attending.

Cooking tip: Only cover your meat in sauce during the last 20 minutes of cooking. This will avoid unnecessary burning.

Meal suggestion: Campfire smoked chicken 

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Skewers

Skewers

Food on a stick. Campfire cooking at it’s simplest. Meals cooked on the end of skewer certainly aren’t going to win any gourmet awards or tick any boxes for versatility. But for sociable pre or post dinner nibbles that everyone can join in on, food on a stick is right on point every time. For the full outdoor cooking experience, get your sous chefs to whittle their own skewers. Or make use of extendable skewers to prevent singed eyebrows and arm hairs!

Cooking tip: Don’t be tempted to flame grill your dinner. Instead hold your food over the hot embers at the edge of the fire and turn regularly.

Meal suggestion: Bannock bread sausage roll

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Camp cooking with gas

One of the most widely used and reliable ways to cook when camping is using gas. There are a few options available, from lightweight camping stoves that are ideal for backpacking, to heavy duty gas BBQs suitable for group catering. Whichever type of stove you go for, cooking with gas is the most familiar way of cooking for most people. If camp cooking is new to you, then this is a great place to start. Here are your options:
Coleman double gas stove

Double gas stove 

For car camping with a family or group, you will struggle to find a better way to cook your camping meals than this. A double burner allows lots of versatility when planning your camping menu and makes adapting to wilderness chef status a breeze. Speaking of wind, most double stoves also come with a shield to maximises fuel efficiency and speed up cooking times. This style of gas stove also offers excellent temperature control for simmering or flash frying. Plus, its quick setup means the kettle can be on the boil the minute you get up in the morning.

Cooking tip: Try to avoid both burners being on high at the same time. It will be less efficient and take longer. Simmering on one and boiling on the other for example, will work better.

Meal suggestion: Pan fried tuna steaks with rice and steamed vegetables

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Gas stove and pot

Canister gas stove 

Single burner canister stoves are best suited to backpackers and hikers who need to keep things light and packable. But that’s not to say there is no place for them in your car camping setup; a good stove will perform equally well, if not better than a double burner. It’s how you use it that will differ. You’ll need plenty of one pot camping meal ideas up your sleeves, and preferably be cooking for just two people. Having a limited fuel supply is also something to consider when planning your meals.

Cooking tip: Use ingredients that are quick and easy to cook so that you don’t waste too much fuel.

Meal suggestion: Camping nachos

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Weber liquid propane grill

Gas BBQ 

If you’re the type who needs little encouragement to fire up the grill at any opportunity, then camp cooking on a gas BBQ is most certainly for you. Although the initial investment is much greater than a charcoal BBQ, and you won’t get that classic smoky flavour to everything, the ease and convenience will soon make up for it. Gas BBQs really shine when cooking fresh meat and vegetables for large groups, but can also be used for reheating food, foil meals and oven roasting. Finally the chance to actually BBQ every piece of food in sight.

Cooking tip: Season your grill with a coating of cooking oil before you cook. This will help your grill to stay in good condition and prevents rusting too.

Meal suggestion: Slow and low country ribs 

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Cooking with charcoal and wood

Camp cooking with charcoal can be a bit of an art. It requires some forethought, time and preparation and is best suited to car camping trips. Cooking on a stove that is fueled by wood can also take some practice but there is less risk in wasting fuel. Providing you are camping in an area where there is plenty of wood to collect and burn, it is a the ideal solution to long term camping or lightweight backpacking.
Meat BBQ

Charcoal BBQ

Cooking on a charcoal BBQ isn’t for everyone. But that smokey flavour, ability to cook things slowly and the low cost are what keep charcoal fans coming back for more. For everyone else, going down this route can be frustrating and time consuming – often with disappointing results. As a one off meal during your camping trip they can be a fun way to cater for a group, but for general camp cooking you will need another camp cooking method at the ready.

Cooking tip: Don’t start a charcoal BBQ if you are short of time. With patience and practice your camp cooking efforts will soon get you results they deserve, but if you try to rush things, it will most likely backfire.

Meal suggestion: Halloumi and vegetable kebabs

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Envirofit charcoal stove

Charcoal stove 

Designed for optimal fuel efficiency, charcoal stoves are a super versatile way of camp cooking for groups. You’ll need to buy a couple of accessories to get the most out of them, but once you’re setup you can grill, boil, fry and even roast. Unlike charcoal BBQs they take very little time to get going, and once they do you are able to control the temperature easily. Perfect for hearty stews, soups and one pot camping meals.

Cooking tip: Light the charcoal with kerosene instead of paper if you want to heat up the stove more quickly.

Meal suggestion: Chickpea and mushroom tagine

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Dutch oven

Dutch oven 

Like charcoal BBQs, cooking with a Dutch oven can be a tricky business unless you know what you’re doing. Have a read of our guide to cooking with a Dutch oven if you are new to the idea. Then once you’ve got the right setup, you can just throw it all in the pot and leave the oven to work its magic. Dutch ovens come in various sizes and are crucial when cooking for large groups. You can cook varied meals in them from casseroles and stews, to bread, cake and pizza. But they are also an ideal cooking companion for the less culinary minded or for those who don’t want the stress of slaving over a stove for hours.

Cooking tip: Follow specific outdoor Dutch oven recipes for your first few meals to get an idea of how the process works. When you’ve got more confidence you can start getting creative.

Meal suggestion: Frontier chicken and noodle casserole 

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Wood burning stove

Wood burner 

These beauties are designed to be used inside large canvas tents with chimney vents, but work equally well outside. Once you’ve cracked how to maintain and control the heat levels, you can cook on the flat top as if you were cooking over a hob. Robust and well built, this style of wood burning stove is perfect to keep you toastie when camping in cold weather and for longer trips in the wilderness.

Cooking tip: Have a pot of water bubbling on the top of the stove at all times.

Meal suggestion: Chicken curry with chapatis 

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Solostove wood burner

Lightweight wood stove 

Carrying a wood burning stove when backpacking means you don’t need to carry fuel. A great option for long distance trips, so long as there is wood to burn. It can be tricky to maintain a good heat source due to their size, and you will need to keep feeding them with sticks. But once you have heat, even green twigs will burn well. Cook quick one pot camping meals and then enjoy their heat output as the evening air cools. A big benefit above gas stoves.

Cooking tip: If you are using stainless steel cookware, completely cover the outside of the pans in question with wash up liquid. It won’t stop the pans from blackening, but will make it a breeze to clean off the soot once cooled.

Meal suggestion: Coconut curried noodles

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Other fuel sources

Believe it or not, there are still a bunch more ingenious ways of creating great tasting camping meals out in the wild. So if any of the above ways of cooking don’t quite fit your requirements, budget or cooking style then you’re bound to find something in the below selection:
Gosun solar stove

Solar stove

You won’t be conjuring up any scenes of camping nostalgia when you bust out a solar stove on your next trip, but it will be sure to impress the taste buds. This zero fuel stove relies totally on the heat of the sun to cook your meal inside a vacuum tube. So simple, but so effective. A safe cooking option if you have unruly kids charging around, and an appealing way to save on fuel. Is this what the future holds for everyday eco-friendly cooking? I kind of hope so.

Cooking tip: If it’s a super sunny day, some things may cook quicker than normal, so keep checking to make sure you’re not over cooking.

Meal suggestion: Solariscious salmon bake

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Wayvtech portable microwave

Portable microwave

If you are disaster in the kitchen at the best of times, then minimising the potential for a camp cooking calamity should be high priority. You need a portable microwave in your life! Cook something before you leave the house to heat up at camp. Or ever lower risk, grab a pre-cooked meal from the supermarket and let the waves work their techy magic.

Cooking tip: Stir cold ingredients like tuna or tomatoes into hot pasta for an easy camping meal.

Meal suggestion: Noodle soup


Trangia alcohol stove

Alcohol stoves 

Stoves that burn alcohol have a fairly limited capacity for variation in camp cooking. You can boil and fry with no problem, but temperature control can often be an issue. However their ability to burn different types of alcohol at low cost is an appealing feature for long distance backpackers and international adventurers. The chances of picking up cheap rubbing alcohol at a store in the middle of nowhere are fairly high compared with sourcing canister gas. And if you want an ultra lightweight alcohol stove for emergencies then try making your own soda can stove.

Cooking tip: Keep things simple and don’t underestimate the effects of the wind on fuel consumption.

Meal suggestion: Peshwari porridge

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MSR dragonfly stove

Liquid fuel stove 

For longer camping trips with small groups, liquid fuel stoves are probably the next most versatile camp cooking method after a double gas burner. They are especially well suited as backpacking stoves as they are lightweight, and are often used for base camp cooking. The wide base means that large pots can be used and most have decent temperature control too. And the ability to use a variety of fuel types makes them a versatile camp cooking option for almost all camping scenarios.

Cooking tip: Learn how to prime the stove before you use it.

Meal suggestion: 10 minute omelette 

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Esbit stove

Solid fuel stoves 

Much like a soda can stove, solid fuel stoves have limited camp cooking capabilities. If you’re happy with quick boil in the bag type meals then cooking on a solid fuel stove is as easy as it gets. Many people only use these stoves and love their convenience and ease. But they are also an excellent and lightweight backup stove. Stick one in your backpack to heat up your soup on a day hike in the winter, or to provide some emergency warmth.

Cooking tip: If you don’t use a whole tablet in one go, you can blow it out and light it again later.

Meal suggestion: Boil in the bag chilli mac with beef

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Can cooker on a campfire

Can cooker 

Can cookers can be used over the campfire, on a gas stove, on the grill or even on your hob at home. By steaming the ingredients that are sealed inside, it cooks food like a slow cooker, but in a fraction of the time. A less messy, more straightforward alternative to cooking with a Dutch oven, but equally as versatile. And ideal for group car camping with lots of hungry bellies to feed.

Cooking tip: Coat the inside of the can cooker with oil before adding the ingredients.

Meal suggestion: Cowboy chilli 

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Vacuum crock pot

Vacuum crock pot 

OK, so this isn’t technically a camp cooking method. But for weekend warriors who want for nothing more than a hot meal to greet them after hours of travelling into the wild on a Friday night, this couldn’t be a better solution. Cook a hearty stew at home and this thing will keep it hot for up to 12 hours. Rock up to the campsite late and smugly enjoy every piping hot mouthful whilst your neighbours make do with a stale sandwich from the service station. The perfect way to start the weekend.

Cooking tip: Be careful when opening the lid as the hot food can create a vacuum seal. So pry open with care.

Meal suggestion: Winter chicken stew 

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It’s hard to know which method of camp cooking will suit your cooking style until you have tried a few of them. And you may find, as I have, that experimenting with new ways to cook camping meals will open up a whole new world of delicious meals. Meals that you never even knew were possible without all the bells and whistles of an indoor kitchen. The possibilities are endless. So whichever method of camp cooking you decide to try next, may your meals be delicious, hearty and healthy.

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