What to pack on a camping trip: Cooking
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This is Part 2 of our series on Camping. Part 1 was about General supplies needed.
The meals we prepare while camping have gotten simpler over the years. Papa used to love putting roasts on a spit, but that required babysitting and turning the meat every so often. Or we’d have big family-style meals with camping friends and would organize which family would bring what. Now we aim more for quick-cook and eat type meals, although we still end up with too much food. I haven’t quite figured out how our grocery bill increases by at least $100 for 3 days of camping….
We have a couple of totes that are dedicated to camping. Over the years, we’ve picked up or allocated cooking supplies, sheets, utensils, etc. specifically for camping. That way they can stay in the totes and it’s easy to grab-and-go without hunting all over the house for supplies. All our perishable foods are stored in super-cold coolers. I can’t find a link to the ones we have – but they’re rated to last 3-4 days without adding more ice: a very important feature when it’s 90°+. Our dry goods we load into either another tote that fits nicely in one of our camper spaces, or we’ve also used a laundry basket to keep them all organized.
Before determining what cooking supplies to bring, it’s often helpful to create a menu of what you will eat. We’re not menu planners at home, but when it’s an hour or more to drive to the closest grocery store, you need to bring it all with you … or do without. Planning a menu will also determine what cooking pots, pans, or utensils you will need.
Most of the time we cook over a fire pit. Existing campground fire pit grills can be … well, gross. If nothing else, we bring a grill grate from home that we can wash up. We’ve also been known to bring our little 14″ portable grill for cooking too. Our friends have a tripod with a grill grate that they use for cooking. It’s nice because you can raise or lower the grate depending on how hot the fire is.
We also like using our camp stove for making morning coffee, heating beans or vegetables or even cooking pancakes now that we remembered we own a cast iron griddle! One small canister of propane is more than enough for a weekend trip. Papa found out he could buy an adapter for less than $10 to refill the small canisters with the large ones. That device will save us money each time we refill considering a large tank holds ~16-20 lbs for around $30 compared to the little tanks at 1 lb (16 oz) for $3-4. We always have a large tank at home anyway for our gas grill.
In addition to dishes and utensils: plates, flatware, bowls, cups or glasses, we usually bring at minimum some cast iron pans or pots (Dutch oven) and a sauce pan.
Our camping utensil container is always stocked with these items you should consider:
- oven mitt or pads – for taking hot foods off the fire
- roasting forks for s’mores, hot dogs, etc. Pudgy pie makers are fun too.
- filet knife or other sharp knife.
- cutting board
- manual can opener
- meat thermometer
- aluminium foil – for cooking packets, wrapping leftovers, etc.
- zip-top bags or containers for leftovers
- measuring cups and spoons, unless everything is pre-measured
- potato peeler
- a metal turner/flipper or tongs for moving things on the grill
- rubber spatula
- pie plate – great for prep-work, serving hot burgers, etc.
A coffee pot is a MUST for camping – at least for us :-). We’ve used granite ware metal coffee pots that cook over the fire, but we’ve also brought our electric coffee maker if we think we’ll drink that much. If you use an over-the-fire version, we recommend splurging and buying filter packs, where the coffee and filter are all in one. They may cost a bit more, but you don’t have to worry about fishing out grounds in your coffee. Leave the fishing to rods and reels 🙂 Our current non-electric coffee percolator is this cute little thing.
If we have electricity, some options for breakfast include bringing an electric griddle – for pancakes or fried/scrambled eggs and maybe a toaster. We’ve found that neither of these work as well as they do at home – usually the breeze takes away a lot of the heat, so things take longer to cook. Something to keep in mind.
I don’t bring this every year, but a large bowl has been in our camping supplies some years. I’ve brought it for mixing salads. If you bring a metal bowl it could possibly be used for cooking over the campfire too.
As I mentioned before, our meals have gotten simpler as we’ve gotten older (more experienced? Now we tend to focus more on hamburgers, grilled chicken, eggs and bacon or sausage, or pancakes.
For those early morning risers we set out cereal or granola bars, quick breads like banana, zucchini or Amish bread, and lots of fresh fruit such as grapes, cherries, peaches. Eventually when everyone is up and we’ve had a bit of coffee we’ll make our first real meal of the day. A big breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon or sausage and maybe toast (bread). Other times we’ll make French toast or we’ll bring pancake mix to make up on the griddle. With those you’ll also need butter and syrup, honey or jam.
We don’t make lunch. Instead we graze :-). We always have plenty of mid-afternoon munchies: crackers, snack mix with nuts, dried fruit, etc., dessert bars … there’s always more than we should eat!
Sometime in the late afternoon we start on supper. As I mentioned we used to do more labor-intensive meals like roasts on a spit or other meals that needed monitoring. Now we mostly do grilled chicken or hamburgers and brats or hot dogs. Don’t forget the buns and the condiments – ketchup, mustard, pickles, bbq sauce, etc. We also make sure we have seasonings like salt and pepper or any other spices.
If you plan to fish and cook what you catch, cooking oil and breading for making fried fish needs to be included. Be sure to include all other fishy-ingredients like lemon or tartar sauce in your cooler.
When camping in mid-to-late summer, we’ll sometimes bring corn on the cob. If we’re cooking a big batch for whole the camping crew, a large stock pot comes in handy – especially if your grill will be used for cooking meat. We’ll also make sure we have corn holders to protect little (and wimpy) fingers. Baked beans are my favorite to go with grilled chicken as is cole slaw or some type of green salad with lots of fresh vegetables and our favorite salad dressing. The kids always like to have chips with their meals.
This year we’re bringing back a camping favorite – “cheesy potatoes”. I don’t really have a recipe other than it’s potatoes boiled in a Dutch oven. When the potatoes are cooked, we drain off most of the water and then add cheese, cream of chicken soup (or is it mushroom?) and sour cream. Not exactly a healthy dish, but it’s soooo delicious. Our version is quite soupy – almost like a thick stew.
This picture reminded me – a friend of ours always brings Jell-O cubes. Supposedly they are for the kids, but her children are all 25+ in age … so we know who they’re really for 🙂
Close to the camping date, we will begin filling and freezing jugs of water – both for keeping the coolers cold and for drinking water. It reduces the amount of ice needed to add to the coolers. We have an automatic ice machine at home and probably could use that for the cooler but usually we’ll just go buy a bag or two of ice. We also bring along milk and sometimes juice for drinking. The latter is a treat for us because we don’t normally buy juice. Papa and I have also been known to indulge in an alcoholic beverage , something else that isn’t common in our household. Cold nights call for hot cocoa and hot days are great for iced tea. Whatever you bring, make sure you have PLENTY of fluids! I never seem to drink enough when camping.
Don’t forget to bring the makings for s’mores: graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate! Another fun combination is vanilla cookies, marshmallows and banana – it tastes like banana cream pie. Friends of ours used to do Ritz crackers, a pecan and a roasted caramel – like a turtle candy! (I’m getting hungry…)
Sandwich makers which we used to call “pudgy pie” makers are fun additions. We’ve made bread sandwiches filled with pie filling and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for a simple dessert. During the day, peanut butter-filled sandwiches can tide you over until dinner. Or make dinner itself with pizza toppings (pepperoni, sauce, cheese)!
Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear some new camping food ideas!
Next time I’ll talk about other miscellaneous items to consider bringing on your camping trip.
Want a printable version of the full list? Sign up for our newsletter for a Camping Checklist and a blank list you can fill out yourself! (Note: the Camping Checklist doesn’t contain everything listed in these posts – just a selection of ideas. I would recommend printing the blank list and coming back to read these posts make your own unique list!)