Campfire Cooking – How-to’s, Cookware And Recipes

Campfire cooking recipes, tips, and more

campfire cooking
Camp food cooking over a campfire

Mention campfire cooking and most people think of a roaring fire and sizzling steaks or hot dogs on a stick. Or maybe a favorite Dutch oven recipe. But for those new to open-flame cooking their first thoughts might be more like; how do I do that, or, what kind of cooking equipment do I need?

From the first steps of how to build a good “cooking” fire to understanding the basic cookware needed, these resources will help get you started. Including easy campfire recipes. Experienced campfire cooks might even find a new recipe too.

How to layout and build a campfire for cooking

campfire ring

Most established camping areas now have fire rings, (like the one above), in each campsite. Fire rings like this work well for campfire cooking because they include the necessary cooking grate, and, an area for hot coals. This provides both types of cooking heat for your favorite recipes—direct open flame, and more controllable hot coals, (which are essential for a Dutch oven, and other slo-cook camping recipes).


If you have the luxury of choice, (and materials) . . .

key-hole campfire layoutu-shape campfire layout

… a keyhole or U-shaped campfire layout is best for campfire cooking. Both provide larger, more flexible cooking areas and options. But both also require you to have more of your own cooking equipment, like; cooking grates/grills, or even a campfire tripod.

Since the majority of campfire cooking is done over hot coals, instead of direct flames, these layouts provide a more flexible hot-coals area than a typical fire ring. This is where cast iron cookware excels because it can transfer that hot-coals heat more evenly than thinner home-use type cookware.

Once the main fire is blazing happily, and creating a lot of glowing coals – rake them into a layer leading off from the main fire, with the most coals, (hottest cooking area), next to the fire itself, and the least coals, (lower-temp. cooking area), farthest from the fire. Coals can be replenished, as needed, from the main fire.

Note: It is important to check firewood availability at your campsite. Because of wood insect infestations, some states and campgrounds no longer allow you to bring your own, and, (for most public campgrounds and camping areas), you can no longer take it for granted that there will be a supply of “fallen” wood for you to use.

See how to actually build a campfire using the teepee, and log cabin method.

You will need a lot of hot coals – so build a good roaring fire to start. As it settles into a steady-burning cooking fire it will quickly produce the hot coals you need.

How to cook on an open campfire:

Books could be written about just how to cook on a campfire, and of course, they have been; hundreds, (maybe thousands). But the basics of campfire cooking are pretty straightforward: You will be cooking with three types of heat; direct flame, hot coals, (radiant heat), or reflected radiant heat, (baking).

  1. Direct heat from the flames of the campfire – This is the fastest heat, but dancing flames are also the least controllable, and not suited to foods that need a steady controlled temperature.
    Typical examples:

    • Roasting hot dogs or marshmallows on a stick or roasting fork, etc.
    • Grilling on a cooking grate/grill; steaks, chicken breasts, chops, burgers, etc.
    • Frying & Searing – skillet or griddle frying; bacon, the grilling items above, etc.
    • Some types of rotisserie cooking
    • Heating thin liquids; soups, broths, boiling water, making coffee, etc.
  2. Hot coals heat – This is the most steady and controllable heat, and the type recommended for most campfire recipe items. By banking or spreading the hot coals under your cookware, you can increase or decrease the level of heat you are cooking with – almost like turning the stove flame up or down.
    • Used for any recipe item that needs to be cooked at a steady non-full blast temperature, like; skillet meals, vegetables, stews, and especially Dutch oven recipes.
    • Foil cooking; tin-foil meals, baked potatoes, and other foods that are wrapped and placed directly in the coals
  3. Reflected radiant heat, (baking) – This is usually reflected/redirected heat from hot coals used with commercial or home-made camping ovens, but some camp ovens use reflected flame heat to bake.

Most campfire recipes will tell you which cooking method to use. Just remember that camp safety is an important issue when you are using a campfire to cook.

campfire cooking GlovesTip:
A good pair of campfire gloves is almost a must-have for campfire and tin-foil cooking.
Here is a guide to some good choices for campfire cooking gloves.

Campfire Cookware and Equipment:

Outdoor camping is a lot more fun when you have the right gear, and that is especially true of campfire cooking. Starting with the bare essentials below for simple camping recipes, you can add more as your cooking experience, and range of meals grow.


Minimum essentials:

  • 1 Lg. heavy-duty skillet (cast iron is best)
  • 1 Medium-size pot (min. 2-qt.) *with a non-plastic handle
  • 1 cooking spatula, 1 lg. serving spoon or ladle, 1 lg. kitchen knife

As noted, that’s the bare minimum for most simple camping recipes and meals. But realistically, there are a few more pieces you should have.

  • a second sm. to med skillet, and a lid for the lg. skillet
  • a second pot, and pot lids
  • a pair of tongs, and a kitchen utility or paring knife, and another lg. serving spoon or ladle (whichever one you didn’t have in the essentials)
  • a campfire cooking grate/grill
  • a good pair of campfire cooking gloves

And a cast Iron Dutch oven, and a griddle, and a rotisserie, and more skillets, and more pots, and on and on, and… When you discover how good the food can be and how easy it is to do, you will find that the campfire cooking is one of the most anticipated parts of the trip. And you just have to have that next piece of campfire cookware to make that special recipe you found for the next camping trip.

Here is some more campfire cookware information:

Campfire Cooking Equipment Guides:
Campfire cooking to full roll-out camp kitchens. campfire grills to cast iron cookware, and camping knives to firewood axes.

Full Camping Cooler
Camping Coolers

How to pick the best camping cooler for your camping needs.
camping cast iron cookware
Camping Cookware

How to pick the basic cookware to start camping.
camping coffee pot
Camping Coffee Pots

Pick a coffee pot you can use on a camp stove or campfire.
Campfire Cooking Grill and Rotisserie
Campfire Cooking Grills

How to pick the best campfire cooking grill for you.
camp campfire gloves
Campfire Gloves

You need a good pair of campfire gloves for your campfire cooking.


Campfire Cooking Recipes for Easy Camping Meals

These easy campfire desserts and treat recipes will make those evenings relaxing around the campfire some of the most memorable parts of the trip. Especially if you are camping with kids.

Campfire Desserts and Treats

More Campfire Recipes for Easy Camping Meals

These easy breakfasts and dinner campfire recipes could make you famous – at least to the campers, you cook for. From tin-foil meals to complete 1-pot, (or 1-skillet), meals, and from grilled steaks to mouth-watering kabobs, your reputation as a campfire cook could have unexpected benefits.

Easy Campfire Breakfast Meals


Campfire Dinner Recipes for Easy Camping Meals

Delicious Skillet, 1-pot, and Dutch oven recipes that will showcase your campfire cooking skills, without letting them know how easy these camping meals really are to make.

Easy Campfire Dinner Meals Recipes

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Best Coleman Camping StoveCamping Stove and Cookware Starter Set:
Complete Camping Stove and Cookware Starter set, all in one package! Great for the new camper. All the basics needed for campsite cooking in one inexpensive package. – Camp Stove, Pots and Pans, Cooking and eating utensils, Plates, Cups, and more.

Here are some handy resources and pieces of camp gear you might be interested in:

Boy Scout Handbooks

Don’t laugh – think about it first, a Boy Scout Handbook can be one of the most helpful pieces of general camping gear you can have when you are camping with kids!

It is especially helpful to new campers, but can also be handy and useful to experienced campers as well.

This handbook contains easy-to-understand answers and how-tos for almost any camping question or situation. Plus, it has plant and foliage identifications, campsite activity suggestions, woodcraft project suggestions, (with instructions), knot-tying tips and instructions, (a great fill-in for bad weather situations), survival tips, and detailed primary first aid instructions.

Boy Scout Handbook

*Here are other samples of camping gear, accessories, and tools, that will help make your outdoor camping trip as fun and enjoyable as you want it to be. And you will be surprised when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.


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