Learn how to cook over a campfire for the perfect campfire meal

Gathering around a warm, toasty wood-burning fire is a cozy way to enjoy the outdoors. No outdoor gathering around the fire pit is complete without some tasty treats fresh off the fire. 

Cooking over an outdoor fire can be a little intimidating, but with the right tools and know-how, you’ll be a campfire cook in no time at all. Check out some of our tips to ensure that you cook delicious fireside foods safely and simply.

Getting ready to cook over a campfire with a cup of coffee in the morning.

Can I Cook Food Over a Fire Pit?

Cooking over a fire pit or campfire is one of the best parts of enjoying a fire outdoors.

But before you get started, you’ll want to make sure you do the right prep work ahead of time with your food and materials. Plus, you want to make sure that you have the right tools and basic information about food safety to prevent any food-borne illness from improperly cooked food. 

Prep

A little planning and prepping can go a long way when it comes to cooking at the campsite. You don’t want to deal with the hassle of safely chopping up vegetables and meats for different dishes.

Before you head out to the campsite, chop up these ingredients ahead of time and store them in containers so that they are ready to go when it’s time to cook them.

Want to enjoy some delicious scrambled eggs over the fire? Crack the eggs and scramble them ahead of time in a container with a lid and open top. When it’s time to make breakfast, simply pour the pre-scrambled eggs onto your heated cooking surface.

Cooking scrambled eggs over a campfire

The Right Tools

Having the proper set of tools and utensils is key for successful cooking over the fire.

You certainly don’t need to have your own chef’s knife set, but the items below are some basic must-haves to cook your favorite fireside treats. 

  • Cast Iron Cookware - Cast iron is durable, heavy-duty and provides even cooking dispersal and exceptional heat retention for cooking food.

Plus, it is incredibly easy to clean, with no soap required. Simply scrub any stuck on food with a little bit of salt and oil to retain the seasoned surface.

Check out this set of pre-seasoned cast iron pans to cook a variety of different dishes over your next fireside get-together.

  • Aluminum Foil - This is a classic staple for campfire cooking. It’s great for preparing simple foil packet meals that can be placed in the coals.

Don’t have plates or bowls? Aluminum foil can also be used in a pinch as a makeshift serving dish. Check out these 21 foil-wrapped camping recipes from BuzzFeed for your next camping trip.

  • Skewers - Roasting skewers are incredibly versatile and can be used for a variety of campfire meals.

Want to cook something savory? Roasting skewers are great for cooking hot dogs or brats over the fire.

Need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Use them to roast marshmallows to make s’mores or just enjoy a sweet, melty marshmallow.

Food safety

Kampgrounds of America (KOA) recommends that you practice food safety well before you cook over a campfire.

Keep your food properly packed and stored to prevent illness. Pack any raw meat in ice to keep it cold until it is time to cook it over the fire. Bacteria will grow rapidly when food is in the temperature danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also make sure that you pack a digital meat thermometer to ensure that any meats you prepare have been cooked to a safe temperature and are not within the temperature danger zone.

Below are some safe cooking temperatures from Real Simple to keep in mind when cooking different types of meat, poultry or fish:

  • Poultry: 165° Fahrenheit

  • Beef: 160° Fahrenheit
  • Pork: 160° Fahrenheit
  • Fish with Fins: 145° Fahrenheit or until the flesh easily separates with a fork
Cooking various types of food over a campfire on a grill grate

How to Cook Over an Open Wood Fire

1. Use The Right Type of Firewood

When preparing your fire, make sure that you are using dry, seasoned wood. You want to make sure that you are building a fire that will be hot and clean-burning.

According to eartheasy.com, simply grabbing green wood from the trees in your yard or campsite will not cut it. This will only create a smoky fire that will burn poorly, certainly not creating the ambiance you want to have when enjoying time around the fire pit or campfire.

If you are at a public campground, they may be able to supply you with firewood that will get the job done. You can also check out our tips for how to season firewood if you want to bring your own.

2. Cook Over Coals for Consistent Heat

When cooking over a wood-burning fire, you are probably tempted to cook the food over the open flame. But, this will most likely result in your food getting charred on the outside without getting fully cooked on the inside.

When cooking foods, you want a source of consistent heat, which flames do not provide. Instead, wait until the coals of your fire are white-hot.

Using a fire poker, pile these coals under a cooking surface, such as a cooking grill grate or stand, to keep your cookware above the intensely hot coals.

A great tip from 50 Campfires is to create a dedicated cooking area by moving the hot coals to one side and keeping the fire going on the other side.

3. Turn Your Food Over Regularly

As previously mentioned, a campfire doesn’t provide a consistent source of heat for cooking like a stove or oven at home.

That is why it is important to turn your food more often when cooking over a campfire than you would with a grill or stove. This will lessen the chances of the food burning and also allow it to cook more evenly as well. 

4. Ensure Food is Thoroughly Cooked & Put Away

When you are done cooking and eating, ensure that you have any leftovers put away and properly stored within two hours.

If the weather is especially hot, do not leave your food out longer than an hour. 

Make sure you have a digital meat thermometer on hand to ensure any meats have been cooked to a safe temperature. 

For a quick overview on how to cook over a fire:

  • Use dry, seasoned wood for a fire

  • Cook over white-hot coals, not flames

  • Turn food more often when cooking over a fire

  • Have leftovers put away and properly stored at least within two hours

Cooking marshmallows over a campfire.

Everything’s Better Around the Campfire

With the right tools and prep work done ahead of time, you can enjoy some delicious fireside food gathered around the backyard fire pit or around the campfire.

Just follow the simple tips and tricks provided and you’ll be enjoying the unbeatable combination of an outdoor wood-burning fire and freshly grilled food.

Also, be sure to check out our tips for effective ways to put out a fire in a fire pit when you are done cooking outside.

Fire pits

About the Author

Josh House
Josh House
Josh House is a digital marketer who has a passion for video production and a soft spot for a good pun. During a cool evening, you’ll find him aspiring to build the perfect fire while strumming campfire songs on his guitar all night long.

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