One of our 2018 camping goals was to become better camp chefs. As tent campers, our meals were functional; what could we get in our bellies quickly after a long day of adventure? We ate a lot of simple steaks, hot dogs, and one pot meals. We also tried to minimize dishes and the amount of cooking gear we brought along. With the trailer we have been able to acquire a whole new set of tools stored in the trailer and we have really started to slow down and enjoy our meals.
So in 2018 we really invested in our technique and our tools. I spent a lot of time learning about campfire cooking and thoroughly scoured Pinterest for the best recipes. If my scale is any indicator, I would say our efforts were a total success!
Initially, much of our cooking gear in the trailer was transferred straight from our tenting equipment. In the first year we supplemented with a few things from the house. In 2018, we added specialty equipment:
Cast iron cookware – We started with a Dutch oven and grabbed the skillet I never use at home. Frankly, I like to throw everything in the dishwasher at home. In the trailer, I have to hand wash everything anyway so the cast iron isn’t much more effort. So far, we have done ribs, a roast, buttermilk chicken, potatoes and a few desserts in the Dutch oven. Our consensus is that we prefer the baked goods in the Dutch oven. The meats don’t get enough of the smoky flavor we like.
Cooking grate – Some brave souls may rely on the grate attached to the fire ring. Our experience is those are often old, rusty, dirty, and frequently have slats spaced so far apart to make cooking things like vegetables and sausages nearly impossible. This grate can lie on top of most fire rings and allows for better control. Our favorite campfire meal is simple bbq chicken thighs.
Chimney and natural hardwood charcoal – This is a great shortcut that allows us to start cooking soon after we get back to camp. Campfire coals can take hours to get to cooking temps, but charcoal can be ready in about 30 minutes. Be sure to get good, natural hardwood charcoal – not just standard quick-light grocery store charcoal. Our favorite brand so far is Cowboy Charcoal.
Campfire forks – Critical for hot dogs and Joe Steak.
Our favorite things to cooks tend to be comfort food adjacent – classic favorites with a new twist mixed with the best of various ethnic cuisines. While we often adapt recipes to our tastes, time, and ingredients on hand, there have been three resources that we have come back to again and again for inspiration. This is where we start our meal planning for most of our trips out.
FreshOffTheGrid.com – This website features a couple “documenting their attempts to make healthy, nutritious meals under the constraints of a camping environment.” Sounds about perfect, right? We have particularly enjoyed:
- Camp Stove Chilaquiles – Chilaquiles are a favorite brunch item at our local Mexican place. Using canned “duck sauce” and store-bought crispy tortillas make this a fairly easy breakfast. Warning: el Pato sauce has quite a bit of heat!
- Chickpea Breakfast Hash with Summer Veggies
Sunset The Great Outdoors Cookbook – Sunset Magazine is outdoor living porn from before Instagram. I would subscribe to the magazine, but I am too bitter that all of those lovely places are days of driving away from me. The cookbook brings together some of the best recipes and adds a few new ones, as well as provides excellent tips and techniques for those new to outdoor cooking. (I will one day build that pizza oven!)
Many of the recipes in the book can be found online, but I am old-fashioned in my love of tabbing pages. A few favorites:
- Pinnacles Scramble
- Grilled Chicken with Whiskey Barbecue Sauce and Spicy Slaw
- Dutch Oven-Braised Beef and Summer Vegetables
- The Hatch Burger
The New Camp Cookbook – This is another great collection of elevated camp recipes. None are available online exactly as they appear in the book, so I highly suggest checking out a copy. Or you can google to find similar recipes.
- Dutch Oven Beer-Braised Baby Back Ribs
- Dutch Oven-Baked Buttermilk Chicken with Kale and Apple Slaw
- Tin Foil Seafood Boil – This is a classic campfire meal. Any combo of potatoes, corn, seafood, butter and Old Bay will do. Serve with a crusty bread.
- Bacon-Wrapped Potatoes with Blue Cheese – Our new favorite side! Wrap new potatoes in a half slice of bacon and cook in a skillet, dutch oven, or pie plate. Yum!
- Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pancetta Hash – This recipe has already spread through my family. Everyone who tries it gets the recipe and makes it their own.
Bonus Recipe – If you are a fan of enchiladas, I highly recommend checking out Kent Rollins. His enchilada sauce would be delicious straight out of a bowl. We make a big batch and freeze the extra to use in many different combinations of meats and tortillas.