Rustic Grilling Tips Secrets to Cowboy Cooking

Cast Iron Skillet

If you’re a big outdoors enthusiast, then you may have run into this issue during a long camping trip: what am I going to eat? Sure, hot dogs and toasted marshmallows are great for a day trip, but what if you’re going for a week and won’t have a kitchen? If you’re dying to know how to cook the fish you catch, or you love Westerns and always wanted to cook a cowboy dinner in the woods, then this is the place for you! There’s nothing like gathering around a fire outdoors with your family for a unique, delicious meal, and we want to help you experience that for yourself. To help you out, here are seven tips on how to cook a great campsite meal on an open fire. I’ve included links to several items mentioned in this article, just in case you want to stock up on them for yourself.

1. Know Food Safety

It’s absolutely crucial for you and whomever else you’re camping with that you cook your food safely. If you’re cooking meat or fish, make sure you keep it packed in ice until the moment you are ready to start grilling. Bacteria will multiply when food is between 40 and 140 degrees, so it’s imperative that you keep the food frozen until you can cook it. Once you’re done eating, put the leftovers away within 2 hours; if the food is hot, leave it out for a maximum time of one hour.

2. Do Lots of Prep Work at Home

Prepare as many of your cooking materials as you can at home when you have the convenience of cutting boards, stable surfaces, an assortment of knives, and refrigerators. Cutting vegetables out in the woods isn’t the easiest task, so you can save yourself a lot of difficulties by doing some prep work before your trip.

3. Bring Good Surfaces To Cook On

It’s best to not cook directly in a fire. Instead, you should invest in a good cooking surface. The most standard and universal of these is probably a grill grate. This creates a safe, stable surface that allows you to cook food directly over the fire, or allows you to place a pan or other surface on top of it. If you’re used to using a grill, this is probably the most comfortable thing for you. However, if you want to cook chicken or other meat rotisserie style, you can always opt for the rotisserie grill and spit combo. This combo allows you to use the grill to cook some items while also cooking your rotisserie chicken over top of it. As a side note, make sure you don’t cook things that produce a lot of grease over the grill (like bacon), since that grease can fall in the fire and intensify it.

4. Make Sure You Have Good Utensils

When you’re cooking over the fire, make sure you bring utensils that won’t melt from the heat. Those include cast iron, stainless steel, and wood. So, if you want to scramble some eggs on your trip, bring a good cast-iron skillet; also bring along some steel tongs of a length that makes you comfortable so you’re not reaching into a fire to fetch food out. There are also really useful grilling sets and 3-in-1 combo tools and you can bring that are sure to make your life simpler; one of these is the 6-in-1 folding grill tool, which features items like a grilling spatula along with a grilling fork and knife. A good grilling set will usually include items like a spatula, tongs, basting brush, and skewers. It’s usually cheaper to but these in sets than individually, so why not save your money and make things easier?

5. Control Your Fire

A lot of beginners think that big, rushing flames are the ideal thing to cook in. In reality, you want a smaller, stabler fire that’s easier to manage and that saves your firewood. If you make your fire last, you can cook your dinner, toast marshmallows for dessert, and still have enough fire to keep you warm while you tell stories and recap the day’s adventures. A big fire will burn away firewood very quickly, and it’s always good practice conservation in the woods.

6. Start Early

It’s best to go ahead and have your fire started for an hour before you actually begin cooking. This gets the coals heated up and allows the flames to die down a bit before you start cooking. Also, keep in mind that cooking over a fire is going to take longer than cooking in your kitchen. Part of this is because you will have to keep turning your food in the fire to make sure it cooks evenly, something that’s very important to open-fire cooking. With that in mind, it’s good practice to bring a cooking thermometer to take the food’s temperature and make sure it’s safe to eat.

7. Bring Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is your friend on a camping trip! As part of your home preparations, you can wrap vegetables, fish, and even dishes like cooked shrimp in aluminum foil for a quick heating over hot coals. Aluminum foil is an essential item for camping meal preps, so be sure to get the most use out of them that you can.

Bonus Tip: Olive Oil and Salt Go a Long Way

Olive oil can be used liberally in campfire cooking to bring out some extra flavor for plenty of meals you cook, but especially for meat. Likewise, a little bit of salt can bring out a burst of flavor and also be used to preserve food for a longer period of time. Bringing these along for your trip can help make your meals especially enjoyable.

In Closing

We hope this list is helpful as you prepare for your next camping trip! There are plenty of resources out there, and this list is not exhaustive, but it should give you a good idea of how to go about cooking over a campfire. If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other content as well!

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