Make a meal as good as one from your home kitchen.

Devon O'Brien
July 24, 2020
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Eric Wolfinger

Summer is the perfect time to break out your tent and go camping. Whether you hike to a gorgeous view or have a staycation in your backyard, camping is always a good time. The only downside? Camping is often associated with bland, dehydrated foods—that is, until now. We’ve created this helpful cheat sheet so you can make a delicious campfire feast. From your grocery shopping list to key cooking tips, we have you covered.

How to Make a Campfire Feast

The Menu

Shopping List

Planning to make all of these recipes on your trip? Here’s what you’ll need.

  • One 8-oz. package corn muffin mix, such as Jiffy
  • 1 pint low-fat milk
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • ½ dozen large eggs
  • 5 ears corn
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 loaf brioche or challah
  • 2 medium apples
  • 4 ripe peaches
  • One 8-oz. tub mascarpone
  • 3 medium red onions
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 loaf crusty sourdough bread
  • 1lb. Tomatoes plus 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 4 slices serrano ham or prosciutto
  • 1 bone-in “tomahawk” rib-eye steak (about 3lb.)
  • 1 ¼ lb. skin-on salmon fillet
  • 1 lb. sweet mini bell peppers
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley

Check your pantry for these staples.

  • Coconut oil
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Vanilla extract
  • Honey
  • Red-wine vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dried oregano
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Piloncillo or brown sugar
  • Coarsely ground coffee
  • Crushed red pepper

How to Pack a Perfect Cooler

  1. Start with a layer of ice or ice packs on the bottom of the cooler (you can add more ice as you add items). If your cooler will accommodate it, place a wire rack on top of the ice to keep foods out of any water that collects from melting ice.
  2. Put raw meat and seafood (store them airtight) on the rack. Then if any juices escape they won’t drip on and contaminate the rest of your goods.
  3. Next, add the most perishable foods (like dairy) and things you plan to use later in your trip. The bottom of your cooler tends to be the coolest, plus it will make it easier to access the items you will be using first. 
  4. Add more cooling racks as needed to create layers to your cooler. You can even use them to organize your ingredients by recipe or day to make it easier to find things. 
  5. Leave out things like apples, peaches and tomatoes, which can hang out in a separate bag. 
  6. If you have two coolers, use one for food and the other for drinks. The latter will likely be opened more frequently, so you can preserve the cold air in your food cooler.

Gear You’ll Need

  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Nesting mixing bowls
  • Large cast-iron skillet
  • Medium or large cooking pot
  • Box grater
  • Plates, cups, bowls, flatware
  • Shallow dish
  • Chef’s knife and paring knife with covers or cases
  • Rubber spatula
  • Metal spatula
  • Large and small cutting board
  • Hot pads
  • Sponge and biodegradable dish soap
  • 2 plastic wash basins; beach towel or dish towels
  • Reusable food containers for saving leftovers
  • Trash, recycling and compost bags
  • Heavy-duty foil
  • Paper towels
Eric Wolfinger

How to Prep for Success

Take care of these tasks at home to save yourself stress and mess at your campsite.

Brioche French Toast with Griddled Apples

Mix up the custard in a medium container with a lid and pack it in your cooler. Give it a quick stir before dipping your bread.

Café Vaquero

If you buy whole-bean coffee, don’t forget to grind it before you go! Prep the piloncillo (if using), too—this solid sugar needs to be grated first.

Chimichurri Sauce

This sauce will just get tastier as it rests, so make it ahead and stash it in a jar.

Grilled Bread with Tomato (Pan con Tomate)

Precut bread means one less thing to worry about in the wilderness. P.S. The French toast uses 1-inch-thick slices too.

Grilled Peaches with Honey Mascarpone

Whisk up the topping at home and package it in a jar or other lidded container. Stir or shake to recombine, if needed, before drizzling over the grilled peaches.

Grilled Salmon with Sweet Peppers

Cut the onions and portion your salmon before packing them.

Johnnycakes

Mix the milk, egg and grated corn in a lidded container large enough to ac- commodate the cornbread mix, then add the mix the morning you make the cakes. While it’s tempting to add the mix at home, doing so will jump-start its leaveners, rendering them inactive by the time you cook, for less-than-fluffy results. 

Panzanella with Tomatoes & Grilled Corn

You’re all set for bread (see Grilled Bread with Tomato). Combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar. Dice up the tomatoes before you go too.

Eric Wolfinger

Tips to Make Cooking Without a Stove and Sink Easier

Chopping Order

Prep all of your produce before moving on to raw meat or seafood. You’ll save yourself a midcooking dishwashing session of your knives and cutting board that way.

Clean as You Go

Set up an assembly line to get the dishes done right after each meal. Set two wash bins on your picnic table—one filled with hot soapy water for washing and the other with hot water for rinsing—then lay a beach towel over one end of the table for drying.

Too Hot to Handle

Keep a set of hot pads handy (but not too close to the fire!) while cooking. The handles on your pots and pans will get too hot to touch when cooking over fiery coals. 

Turn Up the Heat

Just like your grill has hot and cool spots, so will your coals. You may need to rotate the food (or your pan) around the grill grate often for even cooking. Stirring and spreading the coals or fanning them a bit helps too when the ones on top start to cool.

Keep a Watchful Eye

Unlike cooking at home, we don’t advise setting a timer and just walking away. Campfire cooking requires plenty of supervision.

Smoke Control

It may seem like overkill, but if you’re going to stand near the fire cooking for a while, put on some sort of eye protection. Even a pair of shades will reduce the amount of smoke in your eyes.

Go for Nonstick

If you’re cooking food directly on grill grates, oil the grill rack. It’s the key to ensuring your food doesn’t stick. Saturate a folded paper towel with oil. Hold the paper towel with tongs and rub it across the grill grates until they have a nice sheen.

This story originally appeared in EatingWell Magazine June 2020.