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How Do I Cook Meals Outdoors While Camping?

How Do I Cook Meals Outdoors While Camping?

by Lauren Mason | September 10, 2020

When you’re going camping or backpacking, there are a few options for cooking hot meals in the outdoors. You can either cook over a portable stove or a campfire. In this article, we’ll examine both options in detail:

Cooking over a stove:

Pros to cooking over a stove vs a campfire

Cooking on a camping stove is more efficient and much faster. It leaves less of a trace than a campfire. It can also be less dangerous for wild fires as a stove is usually not left unattended. 

How to use a camping stove

First and foremost, to cook on a stove while camping, you'll need enough fuel, preferably propane. If you can't hear any sloshing in the canister when you shake it, it's likely almost empty.

A 100g canister of propane is generally enough for a weekend of camping. The trick to determining the amount of fuel you'll need is to plan ahead for what you want to eat and drink. Always try to bring enough to boil one liter of water per person per meal. Depending on the stove you choose, burn rates and fuel consumption will play a factor. This guide for our MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Backpacking Stove will help. 

Once you’ve ensured there’s enough propane, use the built-in fuel line or pipe connector to connect the propane to the camping stove.

Why propane is ideal a camping stove

The reason for choosing a propane-based camping stove is due to versatility since it works for small backpacking stoves or ones with two burners. Plus, this fuel isn’t hindered by icy weather, nor high altitudes, so it can be used during any season in almost all locations.

Moreover, propane can be purchased at any given hardware store or gas station, making it easy to come by.

A blend of propane and iso-butane is also great as the iso-butane provides more constant pressure as the fuel level gets low. 

How to ignite camping stoves

While some stoves require you use a lighter to ignite, something like the Jetboil HalfGen Basecamp Stove and Genesis 2 Burner Stove has an auto-ignitor. A press of a button and voila! This is more ideal because lighters can lead to mishaps. If you're stuck using one, ensure it's of the BBQ variety, with a long neck to prevent burns.

Once you’ve turned the knob to light it, you’re ready to go. It doesn’t have to take long to get your food from the pot into hungry mouths. For instance, the average boil time for the HalfGen camping stove is a titch over 3 minutes.

Meals to cook with a camping stove

With camping, you don’t want to cook food that requires a litany of ingredients. Instead, you’d prefer simple dishes that require five ingredients or less.

We’ll list a few of our preferred favorites from that list, along with the required ingredients:

Campfire Scrambled Eggs: 

  • Eggs, water, clarified butter

Elevated Hot Dog

  • 8 chopped up hot dogs, 1 small chopped onion, 8 ounces of chili, 3 tablespoons of BBQ sauce, 12 gutted hot dog buns, gutted

Beer-Battered Fried Fish Fillets

  • 1-pound fish fillets (a half-pound per person), 1 cup of buttermilk pancake mix, 1 cup of beer, 1 cup of flour, a quarter cup of cooking oil
Tips and tricks for using a camping stove

Your eating options are almost endless if you’re car camping. Don’t be afraid to experiment because you’ve got more room for supplies. Remember to bring a cooler to keep your perishables from going off.

If you’re backpacking, think about bringing dehydrated food—as it doesn’t need to be kept cold. Pasta is always a wise option since it’s already dry when you buy it. Other pre-dried options for more rugged camping trips are refried beans, hummus, instant potatoes, instant rice, stuffing mix, dried fruit, and dried vegetables, to name a few.

Don’t worry too much about a stove being challenging to transport. Even Jetboil Jetboil Genesis 2 Burner Stove, a “larger” option, is a mere 6 pounds. So, it won’t hinder your backpacking adventures. However, you’d be better off with the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Backpacking Stove if this is more of a backpacking trip.

Cooking over a campfire:

Pros to cooking over a campfire vs stove

Cooking over the open flame creates a flavor unlike any other. 

How to cook over a campfire:

Campfire cooking doesn’t have to be limited to hotdogs and s'mores. With the right equipment, it’s possible to make almost anything.

Important things to keep in mind to cook over a campfire:

  • Build a fire in a safe place
  • Use the equipment and method that best fits the food you wish to cook
  • Don’t use plastic
Tools needed to cook over a campfire:

Ideally, for the sake of being able to cook a diverse range of food, you’ll need a set of pots and pans. Namely, the MSR Alpine 4-Pot Set offers several stainless steel options. Think about bringing one of your own cast-iron pans.

There’s then the need for a quality cooking surface, as you can’t place pots and pans over an open flame. Our Wolf and Grizzly M1 Grill Kit is a stainless steel grill that sets up quick and weighs just 2 lbs 3.2 oz. It features 3 different configurations: 8 in. for larger campfires, 6 in. for charcoal grilling, and a stay-flat mode, so you can grill where it works best for you.

Beyond these suggestions, you'll also need utensils—in which standard steel BBQ tongs will do. A grill utensil set might be more helpful.

Some necessary accessories are things like steal log grabbers, to ensure you aren’t touching hot coals with your hands. And grill gloves will prevent your hands from taking the brunt of the heat.

Meals to cook over the campfire

The meals you can cook over the campfire aren’t all that different from the ones we discussed over the camping stove.

Here are a couple of delicious, easy-to-manage options:

Granola Over a Camp Fire

  • 6 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of pecans or almonds, a half-cup of vegetable oil, a half-cup of maple syrup, and 1 cup of dried cranberries.

Pepperoni Pizza Grilled Cheese

  • Bread, butter, marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni.
Tips and tricks for cooking over a campfire:

Hickory and oak are two ideal wood options because they burn evenly and slowly. If you don't want to shop for wood, ash is an excellent alternative that's easily sourced at campsites.

For safety's sake, make sure you have sand and water ready—because flames can get out of control almost instantaneously with a campfire. A spray bottle with water will also help offset flare-ups. 

The number one rule when having a campfire is to ensure that it's FULLY put out before you go to sleep. If you see embers, then they can spark and cause forest fires. 

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