Outdoor Cooking Tips for Beginners
It’s that time of year again — time to break out our tents, our s’mores supplies, and take the family camping in the great outdoors. One of the most stressful things about camping is figuring out what to eat while you’re hanging out in the woods. Here’s some tips and best practices for beginners on how to plan means and cook in the great outdoors!
Plan simple, filling meals to feed all your campers — you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of nowhere with not enough food. So plan out your meals ahead of time to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients.
The first day of your camping trip can be stressful; to make things a little easier, you can bring pre-cooked meals. These will keep longer in a cooler and will be easier to prepare. To make cooking meals easier, measure and combine ingredients ahead of time and store them in labeled baggies.
Get the Right Equipment
Camping over an open fire is a great experience, but even the most avid campers can get tired of flame-charred meat after a while. Cooking in the outdoors doesn’t have to be limited to campfire meals. It make take a little more equipment than usual, but bringing your own cooking appliances and accessories can give you a gourmet outdoor cooking experience.
Propane camp stoves are the easiest to use — just make sure you get a good, sturdy one that won’t tip over while you cook. Here’s some great grills available at C-A-L Ranch for a fraction of the manufacturer’s cost.
Also be sure to bring plenty of matches and fuel so you don’t get stuck with cold food you can’t cook. Helpful hint: you can save a lot of time by getting your stove and its propane both at C-A-L Ranch. Another tip: be sure to store matches in a watertight container, like an old film canister or plastic baggie. If you’re toting a lighter, bring a backup just in case.
If you’re planning on using a campsite grill, make sure there will be one available and it’s the size you need. If not, you can bring your own grate to place over your fire. You’ll also want to bring a can opener if you plan on cooking soups or using canned ingredients. It’s also a good idea to bring a cutting board if you’re going to be slicing any meats, fruits or veggies. Don’t resort to cutting your food on a picnic table; they’re often dirty and covered in germs from past campers’ meals.
Keep the necessary ingredients in a cooler with block ice instead of cubed (it will last longer). Here’s some great coolers from Igloo and Yeti available at C-A-L Ranch.
Make sure to animal-proof all of your coolers and food storage containers. Animals have great senses of smell, and they’ll come looking for your food. If you’re in a bear-populated area, take the necessary precautions. Find more information on how to animal-proof your food storage in our article “Camping for Beginners.”
Bring a stash of plates, cups, and silverware for your trip. Don’t forget to also bring a travel bottle of dish soap and a few scrubbers, washing and drying rags, and maybe a jug for dish water; dirty dishes can attract unwanted wildlife. Another good thing to bring is potholders and oven mitts, especially if you’re cooking with a Dutch oven or grill.
Grilling Best Practices
Let your grill preheat on high for about ten minutes before you start grilling. This will give your food that golden brown, seared look instead of looking gray and unappetizing. It also helps burn off any grease that might have been sitting in the bottom of your grill. You can more thoroughly clean your grill by scrubbing it with a wire brush and running foil over it to remove any leftover bristles.
Keep your food out at room temperature for half an hour to an hour before cooking. Putting frozen food on the grill will cause it to heat unevenly. Meat rubs, sauces or marinades can add a lot of flavor to your meal. Wait to add sauce until the meat is almost done cooking, or it will likely burn.
Meat will continue to cook even after you take it off the grill, so be sure to remove it when it’s still slightly underdone. Cook steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers on high heat, but keep fish and chicken on low. You’ll also want to bring along tongs to flip more delicate meat. Be sure not to puncture meat while it’s cooking; this will cause the juices to run out and you’ll miss out on some of that great flavor.
After you take your food off the grill, leave it running for about ten minutes to burn off any left-behind food. You can use a metal brush again to remove any dinner debris that doesn’t burn off. If you’re using a propane grill, be sure to close the tank when you’re finished and store it out of the sun.
Cooking while you’re camping doesn’t have to be stressful — it can be a fun activity that brings the whole family together! If you follow these tips, your outdoor cooking will go smoothly to ensure that all your campers are happy, well-fed, and having fun.