Editor’s Note: Luann Sewell Waters of Wynnewood is a conservation and environment educator who has taught workshops and seminars on wildgame and Dutch oven cooking throughout the country.
She also teaches college credit courses in Pioneer Food History and Food Preparation and is the Leopold Education Project state coordinator for Oklahoma.
Headed to the campground this summer with your kids?
If you’re going to be making most of your meals on a campfire, there are items you will want to bring without packing your entire kitchen.
If you haven’t cooked over a campfire before, it’s a good idea to test your cast iron skills in your own backyard before you go.
Prepare as if you were going to be miles from home, but give yourself the advantage of being close to your kitchen for items you might forget.
Let your children be part of the process. It will make the experience more fun for them and, eventually, easier for you.
As you gain confidence, you might consider adding a Dutch oven to your outdoor cooking to expand your menu options. There are many workshops and demonstrations across the state where Dutch oven cooking is taught.
What to pack for the camping trip
To prepare meals on a campfire, you will want to bring a cast iron skillet and sauce pans with lids (heavier stainless or aluminum cooking kits will work, too).
Make sure you have a coffee pot or kettle not only for a cup of joe but to provide hot water for cooking, clean-up and preparation of other hot drinks. Take a grill to place over your cooking fire or coals.
For utensils, take fire starters (stormproof matches, metal match, etc.), heavy-duty aluminum foil, hot-pan holders or oven mitts, long-handled spoon, pancake turner, and hand-operated can opener.
You will also want dish washing pans (one for soapy water and another to rinse), dish soap, scrubber sponge, mixing bowls, mixing spoons, paring knives, measuring cups and spoons.
In addition, have freezer paper (to use as a clean working surface while doing food preparation) and parchment paper (makes cleanup so much easier), sealable plastic bags (for leftover food storage), and garbage bags in your supplies. You might also want to have a plastic storage tub (or two) to keep all this in to keep it clean and readily at hand.
Don’t forget unbreakable plates or bowls, silverware, unbreakable glasses or mugs for each person, salt and pepper and other seasonings.
As with any style of cooking, it's especially important to keep in mind food safety when cooking outdoors. Keep cold foods cold until time for cooking, and don't leave prepared foods sitting out for extended times.
Boil marinades to be sure there is no cross-contamination from raw meat to cooked meat. Remember to wash your hands before preparing food and also clean under your fingernails.
Twenty seconds washing time is considered the minimum amount for safety. Keep working surfaces and equipment clean; don't use a cutting board that's had raw meat on it for any other food preparation until it's been thoroughly washed.
Consider using products like Clorox wipes and Wet Ones to keep preparation surfaces and hands clean. Freezer paper (waxed on one side) is handy to use for preparing bread and cookie dough and as a table cover for picnic tables and other areas that can't be cleaned as well as you'd like.
Items that are handy for their convenience, as well as for food safety, include: egg substitutes (Heidi’s Eggs or Egg Beaters), jars or packages of precooked bacon, nonfat dry milk, and dehydrated herbs, spices or fruits (such as onions, bell peppers, garlic, apples, etc.) Remember that it takes less of a dried ingredient, compared to fresh. For example, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs equals 1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped herbs.
Consider pre-mixing all dry ingredients for recipes and placing in resealable bags that you've labeled with the recipe name.
If stored in a larger bag, it can also be used as the “mixing bowl” by adding the necessary wet ingredients when ready to cook. List these (and the amounts needed) on the bag and it saves having to take the recipe with you.
For more instruction and recipes for campfire cooking, Waters recommends these books:
•“Camper’s Guide to Outdoor Cooking — Everything from Fires to Fixin’s” by John G. Ragsdale
•“Camp Cookery — A Guide to Cooking in the Outdoors” by Jan Phillips, Missouri Conservation Department.
•“Cooking on a Stick — Campfire Recipes for Kids” by Linda White
•“Roughing it Easy — a Unique Ideabook for Camping and Cooking” by Dian Thomas