12 Essential Tools For An Excellent Campfire Cooking
Cooking over a campfire is one of the most enjoyable things to do while camping. A campfire is the center place of the campsite which brings family and friends together to create wonderful memories. Adding great food to the mix just makes those moments better. Food cooked over a campfire always tastes better and making the perfect meal “the old-fashioned way” always brings a sense of pride to the chef.
To get the most out of your campfire cooking experience you will need these 12 essential tools. Let’s take a look at each of them, what they are for, why you need them and some quality examples you can buy or make today.
Long Heat Safe Leather Gloves
Long heat-safe gloves are essential for cooking over the fire to protect your hands and forearms from the intense heat. The standard gloves for this task are long leather gloves designed for welding, fireplace, or BBQ use. Always look for a highly rated pair with solid thermal protection, good stitching, and multiple layers.
The downside to these gloves is that they tend to be cumbersome and they limit your ability to manipulate fine things. The other option is to go with more modern silicone-based gloves. These provide better grip with finer manual dexterity than leather gloves. In many cases, they also provide better heat protection.
The fire poker is one of the most forgotten campfire accessories. It’s that one thing that you never think about until you actually need it. Fortunately, if you forgot one you can usually improvise with a stick you found lying around the campsite or some other metal bar or tool intended for another purpose.
These are less than ideal solutions which can lead to a variety of problems so having a dedicated fire poker is usually a good idea. A long takedown model is usually the best choice since it can be stored in a smaller space in your RV.
Swivel Grate/Grill Or Over Campfire Grate/Grill
This may be the most important piece of equipment you’ll need for campfire cooking. Without a grate or grill of some sort, you won’t be able to get your food over the fire to cook it. There are several options available for this task. Some campgrounds will have fire rings or fire pits with integrated grates.
These will usually do in a pinch, but they are usually in a fixed position with very limited height adjustment. For best cooking, you’ll want a solution that allows broad height adjustments and the ability to place the food directly over the center of the fire. The best options for that are a swivel grate or a campfire tripod.
Both systems will provide a broad range of height adjustments and allow you to place your food directly over the fire. The swivel grate has the advantage of allowing you to swivel the food of the fire, allowing you to work on it without exposing yourself to direct heat.
The major disadvantage is that all the weight is on one side of the unit which can make it unstable, especially in loose soil. There are units that have two swivel arms that can be used to counterbalance and stabilize the unit, but those add weight and complexity to the setup.
The campfire tripod is a much better solution. They are cheaper, lighter weight, more stable, have greater height adjustment, and easily collapse into a small space for storage. They are also easier to adjust the height so you can make quick adjustments as your fire changes. Finally, the grate is suspended from a chain which allows you to slowly spin the grate over the fire.
Campfires usually have hot and cold spots across them. The ability to spin the cooking grate allows you to move the food over the hot and cool areas for more even heating. The only downside to a tripod is that you can only have one grate over the fire at a time. That’s a minor limitation given the other advantages of this system.
A rotisserie is a great way to cook large items like whole chickens, turkeys, roasts, and fish over the campfire. While we usually think of these as accessories for a larger grill, oven, or toaster oven there are some great options for use over a remote campfire. One of the best options is the Grizzly Spit Rotisserie. This unit breaks down easily for compact storage in your RV and runs for many hours on D cell batteries so you can use it on off-grid campsites.
Raw Cast Iron Griddle
Cast iron griddles are great for cooking larger batches of smaller foods like pancakes, bacon, stir fry, fajitas, and more. The best units are reversible with a smooth side and a ridged side to give you those nice grill marks on any meats you cook.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens are great for cooking roasts, bread, cakes, and mountain pies over a campfire. When shopping for a Dutch oven, look for one with a concave lid. This lid style allows you to shovel hot coals onto the lid so the food can be evenly heated from all directions.
Cast Iron Frying Pan
If you have space for only one piece of cast iron cookware in your RV, the frying pan (or skillet) is the one to choose. You can’t go wrong with a standard Lodge 10 ¼” unit. It makes for a great fry pan, but can double as a griddle. If you add the 10 ¼” cast iron lid, it can also pass for a shallow Dutch oven.
A pie iron is a hinged cast-iron box attached to two long handles. The two handles pull apart to open the box. Inside the box, you put sandwiches or the components to make a hobo pie (bread and pie filling). Once full, close the box up and stick it in the fire. In a few minutes, you’ll have a wonderful hot sandwich or a tasty pie treat to enjoy.
Cast Iron Kettle
Cast iron kettles are great for making soups, boils, chili, or other foods you would normally make in a pot. These can be quite heavy and take up a lot of space in your RV. As an alternative, you can use a Dutch oven on a standard campfire tripod.
If weight is a major concern in your RV, you can substitute a clad stainless steel pot. These are much lighter and will work just as well for cooking these types of foods. This unit from All-Clad is a great choice and is great for making pasta too.
Cooking to the proper temperature is critical for food quality as well as food safety. Digital food thermometers are the best way to ensure that your food is cooked to the ideal temperature. The number one cause of dry meat (chicken, turkey, pork, beef) is overcooking, and undercooking is a leading cause of food-borne illness.
There are two types of digital food thermometers worth considering. First is a quality instant-read digital thermometer. These are great for quickly checking the internal temps of foods you will manipulate while cooking, or that cook quickly like steaks and individual pieces of chicken.
For stationary foods or foods that take a long time to cook like roasts, briskets, and whole birds, a digital probe food thermometer is the best choice. These monitor the internal temperature of the food and sound an alarm when it hits a pre-set temperature. There are even models that work with your phone so you can track the cooking process down to the finest detail.
Cooking sticks – Marshmallow, Smokies, Bacon Ends
Telescoping cooking sticks have two prongs on the end of an extendable handle for cooking things like marshmallows, hot dogs, smokies, and bacon ends over the campfire. When not in use they compress into a small size for easy storage in your RV.
Extra Long Handle Tongs, Flipper & Basting Brush
A good set of extra-long handle cooking utensils is essential for campfire cooking. The long handles will allow you to keep your distance from the heat of the fire while you work. At a minimum look for a kit with tongs, a fork, a spatula, and a basting brush. If possible, stick to all stainless steel, wood-handled utensils that won’t last as long in a harsh RV environment.