Making s’mores and roasting a few hot dogs do not count as campfire cooking, boys. If you really want to up your campfire cooking game, here are all the skills you need to learn.
In this article:
- Fire Ring – Building
- Knowing Your Wood
- Mastery of The Different Fire-Building Techniques
- Choosing The Right Equipment
- Control Over The Heat
- Keeping The Fire Burning
- Resourcefulness In Times Of Need
- Food-Hunting Abilities
- Know What Is Edible And What Is Not
Campfire Cooking Skills Every Man Should Have
1. Fire Ring – Building
Campfire cooking is as much an art as it is a science, one that only the best of men have the patience to learn and understand. It’s an essential man skill to know how to properly cook meat over an open flame.
To do this, you need to master the skill of fire ring-building. Building a fire ring is much like building a fire pit in your backyard, just with a few tweaks.
The first thing to learn is how to choose the right location for your campfire. Preferably, the best spots are rocky, flat, and clear of bushes and low-lying tree branches.
Once you have picked out a spot, round up a few rocks. Get ones the size of a small watermelon. If that size is too hard to find, smaller rocks will have to do. You may have to gather a few more, though, so be prepared.
Now that you have those, arrange the rocks in a circle. Your fire ring should be about 18 to 24 inches across. Make sure that it rises high enough that ash doesn’t go flying around every time the wind blows a little.
If it is possible to dig a small pit, do it. This will help lower your base into a fire pit without the need for too many rocks. If you do not have the equipment though, just make sure that the rocks stand high enough.
2. Knowing Your Wood
The next skill you have to master in campfire cooking is the ability to gather the right wood. A lot of people make the mistake of just picking up whatever wood they can find. Some end up purchasing wood specifically for campfire cooking before heading out.
That is all well and good, but you should know how to make the most of what Mother Nature provides.
When gathering wood, the first thing to remember is to find the driest wood that you can. Only settle for slightly damp wood if there really is no dry wood around.
Next, you have to gather tinder, kindling, and fuel logs.
Tinder is gathered from dead twigs found on the lower branches of trees. They are about the size of a pencil and are as long as your hand. In campfire cooking, tinder is used to start the fire, as they catch fire easily but burn out fast. Use this as the base of the campfire to allow the kindling and fuel logs to catch fire later on. Gather about two handfuls of tinder for your campfire.
Next, you have to round up some kindling. These are about as thick as your thumb and as long as your forearm. Kindling is added to your fire as it burns a little slower than tinder. For campfire cooking, you have to gather a generous armload of kindling.
Finally, you have to look for fuel logs. Fuel logs keep your fire burning for the duration of your cooking. They are about as thick as your wrist and as long as your entire arm. Once kindling starts burning, these are added to the flames last. Assemble a stack as high as your knees.
3. Mastery of The Different Fire-Building Techniques
Fire-building in itself is an art. There are different ways to lay your fire, each with its own advantage. Mastery of these fire-building techniques allows you to make the most of your campfire cooking as they produce the best results for your needs.
Examples of these include the teepee, lean-to, and council fire lays.
The teepee fire lay is very easy to build. Although it requires a lot of fuel, it is useful in making small fires for quick needs like heating a can of soup. As the name suggests, you will have to build a teepee. Work your way from the smaller wood to the thicker pieces as you build.
Another common type is the lean-to fire lay. While this fire lay may not light very easily, it is ideal for windy and rainy days. To do this, find a big rock. Now, create a small teepee beside the rock. Next, lean your kindling and fuel logs onto the rock and over your small teepee. Light the teepee, and wait for the rest of the wood to catch fire.
Finally, there is the council fire. This one makes a big and long-lasting fire ideal for roasting that trout you just caught. However, it requires you to gather a lot of wood. Simply stack fuelwood in one direction at the base, and add another layer in the opposite direction. The wood should get smaller as your stack grows until the top layer is made up only of kindling. Now, build a small teepee on top. Light the teepee and when it burns, it should automatically burn downwards layer by layer.
Keep in mind that these are only some of the basic examples. There are numerous other ways to build a fire.
4. Choosing The Right Equipment
Heating up a can of soup is relatively easy. You open the can, throw the contents in a pot, and place it over the fire. However, that is about as far as basic cooking skills are going to get you. If you really want to up your campfire cooking game, you have to know your equipment.
Most of the time, the kitchenware you use at home should not be used for cooking on top of an open flame. The handles and the utensils themselves might melt, leaving you with neither your tools nor your food.
Use cast-iron cookware instead as these are more suited for the job. Your cooking utensils, like spatulas and tongs, should also be made for open-flame cooking. Try to find ones made of stainless steel.
Though these kitchenware are slightly heavier, they are a good investment in the long run. Most of the time, they are not that hard to find as they come in sets. These are usually found in stores that sell equipment for camping.
5. Control Over The Heat
People make the mistake of throwing everything into the fire, thinking that the bigger the fire, the better. You should know the value of timing and precision.
Knowing the right heat can make all the difference in the outcome of the food. If you are boiling water, you set the fire as high as you can. When you are roasting meat, control over the flames is especially important.
Most of the time, cooking over glowing coals is better than cooking over roaring flames. It gives you good control of the heat and allows your food to cook evenly without burning the outer layer. Again, this is a general rule because it depends on what you are cooking.
When boiling, you want to get lots of flames. However, make sure that your pots have lids. Stronger flames tend to have more ashes. A little wind could blow this into your food.
When grilling and roasting food, try to maintain a small continuous flame. Precision comes in handy here. Too much flame and you’ll end up burning the skin off that chicken while the insides stay raw. Too low a flame will leave you all starving for too long. So, gents, precision is key.
6. Keeping The Fire Burning
Now, you might have good control of the fire. You know how much wood to add and what kind of fire lay to use. However, being able to control the heat of what you are cooking is another skill altogether that needs to be honed.
Once you have set your fire lay up and started a fire, save some wood. Make sure to keep the coals evenly distributed once your campfire is going. This lets you measure more accurately the heat of your campfire.
When you put your hands over the fire and find that it is about 50% cooler than when you first started, add some more wood. Depending on how weak the fire is, add either some kindling or a fuel log. Remember not to add fuel logs alone because this might smother the flames that are still alive. Generally, the practice is to add 2-3 kindling logs and one fuel log every 15 minutes or so.
Unfortunately, there is no book that teaches us one rule for this. It takes experience, repetition, and sometimes a little instinct to master the skill.
7. Resourcefulness In Times Of Need
If you really want to look as manly as a mountain man, you have to play the part of one. As we all know, Mother Nature provides. It is up to us to know how to make the most of what she gives.
Resourcefulness in these times comes in handy. You should be able to come up with your own DIY campfire cooking equipment.
When campfire cooking, a lot of things could go unexpectedly. In the absence of tongs, for example, you should be able to fashion some from sticks alone. Use two long, sturdy sticks to grab your food and move them. They are the best tools to move your food around with should you have left those tongs at home.
If you also forgot to bring a fire iron, make one out of a thick and slightly damp log. This works well in case you forgot to bring iron skewers for roasting, too. You can use wood skewers instead, but make sure to soak them in water for about 10 minutes to keep them from catching fire.
You can even fry food in foil. Place oil in the middle of the foil, add in the food, fold the foil into an envelope, and you are all set. Put the foil on top of a dying bed of coals to fry your food. Though this takes more time, it is a good alternative in case you forgot to bring a pan.
8. Food-Hunting Abilities
You may have mastered how to make a fire pit and start a campfire. You might have even fashioned everything out of nothing but a Swiss knife. The real art behind this, however, comes in when you can actually prepare campfire cuisine.
Come prepared. That is the most important thing to remember here. Ideally, you should have at least a can of beans that you can easily heat.
If you want to make something that is a little more sophisticated, pack the food that you want to cook when you are ready. Going to the grocery beforehand and even prepping the food before you go camping should be fairly easy.
However, if you truly want to show that you are a Viking, you should be able to hunt for your own food.
Now, setting up traps to catch some wild game might be a little more complicated, though it is great to learn as well. For a more relaxing version, why not go fishing instead. It keeps you refreshed, it is an enjoyable experience, plus, you get to brag that you actually caught your own food.
9. Know What Is Edible And What Is Not
Hunting birds and catching fish might not be for everyone. Sometimes, you might have the skill for it, but it might not be legal. Worry not, gents, because Mother Nature always provides. It is just a matter of learning what is meant for us to safely eat.
The forest is most likely abundant in fruits and vegetables that are ripe for picking and eating. Take advantage of those as it could relieve you from having to lug around a lot of weight in packed food. Plus, it is a fun learning experience.
Edible mushrooms are abundant in the forest as well. If you are having a hard time catching fish, this could be a better alternative. Just make sure to avoid poisonous mushrooms as it could ruin the trip altogether.
Looking for easy-to-cook food for your next camping? Buzzfeed Nifty shows us 9 Easy Campfire Meals you could easily prepare:
Campfire cooking skills may come naturally to some, but to others, it takes a lot of practice. Hone these skills and master the art of cooking over an open flame like a true man. On your next camping trip, you might be able to grill a tender and juicy steak with nothing but a few sticks and stones.
Are there other tips and skills that you think we may have missed? Share them with us in the comments section below!