9 Best Campfire Foods

Microwaves, toaster ovens, stovetops and air fryers are all wonderful amenities that we enjoy thanks to the wonder of technology. Sometimes, though, you have to take it old-school. For the right meal, there’s nothing better than cooking over an open flame.

Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cooking_on_a_campfire_in_Sweden_01.jpg

You’ve probably been to a restaurant that specializes in wood-fired pizza or other dishes cooked using this method. Even though new methods have made for fast and efficient cooking regimes, there’s still plenty to know about cooking over a fire.

You can cook over a fire at a campsite using a simple stove or spit, or get fancy and use an oven made of brick or clay. Small changes in the type of fuel used, the heat of the fire and cooking apparatus can impact how the final product tastes. Try cooking these meals over an open flame to experiment with smoky flavors.

1. Kebabs

When you think about cooking things over a fire, meats often come to mind — hot dogs, steaks, jerk chicken. But you can one-up the occasional New York steak or dry chicken breast you accustomed yourself to. Kebabs combine the flavor of fresh veggies with your protein of choice, and you receive the added fun of skewering them up.

Equally as tasty when cooked over a backyard barbecue or with friends over an open campfire, you can customize kebabs to your liking. You can easily cook them with steak, chicken, pork or seafood. Add extra flavor by marinating your protein ahead of time, or use recipes for pre-planned fruits and veggies to achieve a nice harmony of flavors to compliment your meat. Remember to consider cooking time — less dense protein like shrimp and salmon will pair well with softer, fast-cooking company.

When you achieve true kebab mastery, you’ll find you can get creative with different veggies and proteins, even when making a quick-cooking protein like fish. The trick is to slice your denser kebab components more thinly. This will allow them to cook at the same rate as thicker cuts of less dense fruits, veggies and protein. So for example, you could do a Polynesian-inspired kebab with thinly cut steak, bell pepper slices, shrimp and thick-cut pineapple.

2. Meats of All Kinds

While we started with kebabs, you naturally can’t talk about cooking things over an open flame without talking about cooking all the meats. Steak, chicken, pork, lamb and fish also taste great when cooked effectively over an open flame. If you’re reading this, you’re probably no stranger to the delicious flavor of a rib-eye or filet cooked over a charcoal grill. Making meat over a fire is a part of any basic cooking repertoire for many, but you can get more creative.

Bacon cooked on a skewer over an open flame tastes amazing, and since it comes neatly packed in plastic, you can carry your bacon with you to a camping cookout or bonfire on the beach. There are many ways to plan a red-meat meal that diverts from the oh-so-traditional steak cooked on a barbecue. A camp stove is just a grated metal separator that you can place over an open flame to make beautifully charred meats.

3. Hot Dogs, Sausages and More

We can’t go on without discussing hot dogs. While some people look down on these tube-shaped protein-pops, hot dogs and their upper-class cousins, sausages, are wonderful when cooked over an open fire. For a more authentic flavor, avoid the health-conscious stuff like turkey dogs and go for all-beef dogs with a little more fat. Of course, toppings are a very personal decision — ketchup, mustard and sour relish comprise America’s three most popular toppings. It’s likely you’ve seen more creative toppings such as chili, mayonnaise and cheese.

If you enjoy the easy-to-eat nature of hot dogs but want a bolder flavor and a little more provenance, it’s time to go with some sausage. Artisan-made sausage can be found everywhere from your organic grocer to the butcher shop to the local farmer’s market. Flavors run the gamut from spicy Italian to classic Andouille to sweeter flavors like chicken apple. Serve ’em up on their own, sliced with vegetables and rice, or on a bun.

Don’t forget that whenever a bun is involved, you’ll enjoy your meal more by brushing it with some butter or oil and allowing it to crisp up on the grill for a couple of minutes. For extra credit, get out the pastry rolls and make some flame-grilled pigs-in-a-blanket.

4. Baked (er, Grilled) Potatoes

Cooked over an open flame, these easy-to-make spuds are a wonderful side dish for all sorts of meals. Plus, they’re easy to package and keep for a few days in foil, which means you can take pre-wrapped potatoes with you on the trail for a campfire meal that’s a lot more authentic than eating something freeze-dried out of a bag. Here’s what to do.

Prepare your potatoes ahead of time by slicing them most of the way in half. Add your seasonings — salt, pepper and any dried seasoning will keep, as will butter in all but the warmest climates. However, don’t add fresh vegetables or bacon bits unless you’ll cook these the same day. Poke holes in the potatoes for steam to escape, and then wrap in two layers of tin foil. Cook for about 10 minutes and then flip and cook for another 10 minutes before allowing them to cool.

You’ll need a small camp stove to cook them on, but otherwise these spuds are a snap. As an easy alternative to seasoning ahead of time, feel free to pack your potato toppings in separately if you don’t need to be weight-conscious.

The pre-made tinfoil pouch method is effective for a number of campfire foods and backpacking meals. Those who frequently spend nights on the trail will often use this method to avoid the weirdness and salt-heavy flavors of freeze-dried rations. Camp food doesn’t have to be boring.

5. Corn On the Cob

Here’s another easy vegetable side dish that takes on wonderful flavor when cooked over an open flame. Making corn on the cob this way is probably easier than boiling it, and much more flavorful!

Begin by removing the husks and silks from your corn. Rinse the corn and allow a little of the moisture to remain on it to steam the corn slightly while cooking. Add salt, pepper, butter and wrap in two layers of tinfoil. You can then set the wrapped ears of corn in the hot coals of the fire. You’ll want to arrange some embers so you’re not reaching right into the open flame to retrieve your corn, and we recommend using tongs not your bare hands. Don’t burn yourself and remember to use safety measures.

Once it cools, you’ll have a sweet, crunchy camp treat that goes well with all sorts of other dishes. That was easy, wasn’t it!

6. Marshmallows

Another camping classic here. Yes, the natural tendency is to think of s’mores when you talk about making marshmallows over a fire but you can find other uses for them too. Come to think of it, they’re pretty darn good just toasted off of a stick, or a more sanitary, food-grade steel skewer. Unless you’re one of those twisted people who enjoy “blackened mallow.” To each their own.

Toasted ‘mallows are of course the critical ingredient in a quality s’more, and you can find square marshmallows that are made specifically for use in this type of applications. Many variations on the standard s’more make it fun to experiment. For example, you might use an exotic type of chocolate, add peanut butter, or get truly gourmet and break out the bacon. Because who doesn’t like bacon with, well, everything?

Don’t forget to use your ‘mallows as topping for hot cocoa as well, or even as topping for a campfire berry cobbler or another dessert. They’re not just a one-trick pony!

7. Muffins

Yes, you can make muffins over an open flame. No, they won’t taste like wood fire pizza as long as you pay attention to the type of wood you use to create your fire — different woods allude to different flavorings.

Unless car camping, this recipe would be difficult to pull off when backpacking, but these muffins can still make a great treat for a backyard barbecue and put a new spin on a classic dessert or breakfast food depending on the time of day.

Starting with whole oranges, you’ll use the peels as your Muffin molds. Slice the oranges in half and scoop out the flesh. Prepare your muffin mix according to the instructions on the package and then add the mix into the orange peel muffin molds. Wrap the filled orange peels with heavy-duty foil wrapping, leaving a little space for your mix to expand on the top side of the molds.

Set the wrapped molds into a hot section of coals and allow them to bake for 6-10 minutes, occasionally checking to see how they rise. After allowing another 10 minutes or so to cool, unwrap and enjoy hot, fresh campfire muffins!

8. Pizza

For a wood-fired pizza experience that saves money and offers a much more authentic setting, skip the restaurant. You can do it with a shallow Dutch oven type stove or a pizza stone. Begin by preparing the dough or bring your dough pre-made. Note that it’s easy enough to make the dough in about 20 minutes using a pot, flour, water and rapid yeast.

To achieve the right combination of crispy and doughy texture, you need to shape your pizza dough into your cast iron skillet before putting it on heat. Add some flour so you can flip the dough when the time comes and then press the ball of dough into the shape of the skillet. Once you have a nice even coverage you can place the skillet over the heat and allow it to begin to cook.

The bottom of the dough will become the top of your pizza, so it only needs to cook a few minutes to where it is lightly browned and won’t stick to the skillet. Using a broad spatula, flip the dough and add your sauce and toppings. You should have a way to cover your pizza to cook the toppings thoroughly, but if your recipe calls for cheese it’s best to only cook the pizza part way through with the top on, otherwise you could end up with a soggy mess instead of the crisp, browned cheesy top you want.

You can remove the pizza from the heat, slice it and serve it right from the skillet. You’ll never look at overpriced wood fire pizza the same again now, will you?

9. Canned Pasta

We’re not afraid to go there. Sometimes, when you’ve been on the trail all day and don’t want to cook, it’s time to get out the beef-a-roni. Similar to other recipes we’ve covered, cooking over an open flame involves potential safety hazards. In this case, contents under extreme pressure. Do yourself a favor and use a can opener to poke some ventilation holes. Make sure they’re located at the top of the can, or your dinner will end up in the fire. Failure to do this can result in pasta explosion and potential third-degree burns.

Okay so making canned ravioli over a fire isn’t super complicated but get yourself a grill plate or a least a good stick to move your meal out of the coals when the label has burnt most of the way off. And again, please use safety measures.

Time to Get Cooking

With so many meal options for cooking over an open fire, how can you narrow the list? After you cruise through this list, seek out other open fire cooking recipes as well. You should be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to cook each of these dishes on the trail or in the backyard.

What’s your favorite open-fire dish? Leave a note in the comments!

Note: This was a guest post.

How To Utilize Trees For Survival: The Ultimate Guide To Surviving Off Of Trees

Image Credit: https://www.nps.gov/mora/learn/nature/trees.htm

Earth Day always gives us a little time to think about the trees. Planting a tree on Earth Day is a tradition in many places, namely because these life-giving plants help provide clean air and natural resources like wood, as well as habitat for other living creatures.

But trees aren’t just worthy of our appreciation on Earth Day. In fact, you can make use of them so many ways that you’ll be a generally better survivalist just by understanding their many applications. With the right knowledge, trees can provide food and water, shelter and even basic construction materials.

A Long History of Utility

Today, the construction industry is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we consider how important trees are. Lumber from all types of trees is harvested every day around the world to be used as building material, fuel for fires and pulp for paper products. But even before we were building things from trees, hunter/gatherer tribes were collecting nutritious tree nuts as a source of food. They later discovered the value of trees as one component of a farming system.

Prominent historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington revered these important crops and understood well the value they lent to the North American continent. Before the founding of the United States, indigenous peoples made use of tree-based products like nuts and sap for use in daily life. Nearly every part of a tree can be put to good use, and no one knew it better.

Knowledge of how to get the most from American icons like oak, maple and pine has been handed down for generations. You might be surprised how much there is to know!

Tree-Based Foods

You’ve probably consumed a great many tree-based foods in your life without ever even thinking about it. Tree nuts are the most obvious, with popular and time-honored examples including acorns, walnuts and pine nuts. Almonds, popular edible tree nuts revered for their health benefits, are actually not safe to eat raw in the wild because they contain natural toxins. Stick to the first three if you’re looking for a tree-based snack in the American wild.

In addition to tree nuts, many fruit-bearing trees form the backbone of the exceptional variety of fruits we enjoy nearly year-round in the United States. Apples, peaches and citrus fruit like oranges and tangerines all come from trees, although some are more common in the wilderness than others.

Mulberry trees, while lesser-known to those seeking fruit in the market, can offer a snack while you’re exploring open spaces. Cherry trees are both farmed and naturally occurring. The bright yellow honey locust tree and rare hackberry are native varieties that produce edible fruits and seeds and are less commonly farmed.

Not surprisingly, many types of food-producing trees have been put into large-scale farming operations in places like California, Florida and New York. If you’re a fan of fresh orange juice, you might know how sensitive these farming operations can be. To enjoy the great selection of exotic fruits available to us — a luxury almost no other country enjoys as well as the USA — we have to take care to keep our tree farms healthy and adapt to shifting weather patterns.

Some tree farming operations have even created new forms of hybrid fruit. Examples like the grapple and tangelo take characteristics of naturally occurring fruit and leverage genomics technology to offer an entirely new experience. This genetic experimentation has recently given us the SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples, products of work done at Cornell University. Trees are continuing to provide new sources of food today!

Water, Sap and Resin

In addition to delicious fruits and nuts, trees can provide life-sustaining water and other liquid products, including the popular sap, used for making syrup. In addition to sap, the thick, amber liquid you might think of as sap is in fact a different substance altogether called resin. Pine, fir and ceder trees, along with their relatives in the Pinaceae family, produce resin, which is typically thick and tar-like and makes a much better adhesive than thinner, watery sap.

To collect sap, whether it be for use in making syrup or just to have a drink of the high water-content liquid, bore a hole in the side of a tree and insert a tube for the sap to flow through. You can drink raw sap right from the tree as a source of water. To make the maple syrup or other sweet products requires processing. Called “sugaring,” the process of making syrup involves first setting a tap in place and then allowing enough liquid to pool in your bucket or other collection device so that you can boil off the extra water.

Sugaring rigs vary in their size and design, but a “stereotypical” rig consists of a wood-fired stove with a broad pot or pan at the top. Sap is poured into the pan and kept at a low boil for hours on end. Removing the right amount of water to make syrup and not hard candy takes a little finesse and a lot of practice. However, once it’s ready, maple syrup can be kept for many months as a stable food. It’s a great way to have a treat around and prepare some sugar for a survival situation. Not a bad gift come holiday time either!

Unlike maple syrup, pine tree resin won’t help your breakfast taste better. However, it does have some good-to-know survival uses. It can be collected around a damaged area of the tree, and it will harden when it’s exposed to sunlight. Native Americans have been known to use pine tree resin to close wounds — it’s a natural antiseptic because it keeps moisture from entering the wound, and it can be peeled from the skin once healing is far enough along. It’s also helpful treating rashes and can be made into a tea to treat a sore throat.

Aside from its medicinal uses, resin can be used to help with starting fires, as a sealant to waterproof clothes and shoes and even as glue when it’s combined with crumbled charcoal. To make your glue, heat resin until it’s thin and mix it with the charcoal powder in a ratio that’s two parts resin to one part ash. Use a stick to collect the dark-colored mixture as it cools. The cool glue won’t be good for bonding things, but you can reheat it to apply to a surface when needed.

Additional Medicinal Uses

Many survivalists find tree-based products to be useful for curing ailments along with their nutritional value. Similar to the pine resin tea we mentioned earlier, nature provides us with a slew of natural medicine available just by processing basic tree-derived items. Pine nettle tea, for example, is a famous cure for vitamin C deficiency that early frontiersmen relied on because of the prevalence of scurvy.

Many outdoorsmen still enjoy making pine nettle tea for its woody flavor, and while boiling for too long can remove some of the vitamin C from the brew, you can decide how strong to make it if you’re not in need of saving from scurvy.

Willow tree bark contains salicin, a naturally occurring compound that’s similar in makeup to aspirin. If you’re far from home and in need of pain relief, peel a hunk of bark from a nearby willow and chew it to unlock the tree’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. We’ve listed some additional herbal remedies derived from trees below:

  • The sap of the alder tree can be used to calm itching and wash wounds. Alder leaves and bark can be boiled to make a tea that will reduce a fever.
  • Apple trees provide a number of digestive remedies. Peeled apple tree root can be consumed to cure diarrhea, while stewed unpeeled apples can be used as a laxative. Apple cider with garlic and horseradish can be used to treat skin conditions.
  • Ash tree leaves can be made into a tea to reduce gout, jaundice and rheumatism, and the tea is also a laxative.
  • Tea made from the flowers and berries of the Hawthorne tree can have positive affects for cardiac health and lower blood pressure.
  • Linden and closely related basswood products can calm nerves and are effective remedies for headaches, spasms and pain.
  • Green walnut husks can be slit to produce a sap that’s effective for treating ringworm.
  • Witch hazel is a famous remedy for many conditions. It is anti-inflammatory, hemostatic and antiseptic.

Using Trees for Shelter

Up until now, we’ve been mainly focused on the ways you can use tree-based products by ingesting them. However, trees make an effective survival tool as a form of shelter too. Perhaps you’ve noticed the way a healthy redwood offers shade on a hot day. Maybe you’ve enjoyed climbing the trees in a nearby orchard as a child. Being large and stationary, trees can provide these basic benefits of coverage and a high vantage point, but they can also do a lot more in a survival situation.

If you’re in need of a calm place to set up camp while in the wilderness, a thicket of trees might be just the thing to provide shade and knock down wind that could otherwise interfere with your tent or other camp shelter. Don’t have a tent? Why not just use the trees themselves? Assuming the trees in your area provide suitably hard wood, you can collect large, fallen branches and arrange them in a lean-to to shield yourself and your belongings from animals and elements.

If you can find a large enough dead tree, you can even hunker down inside the hollowed-out trunk itself. Doing so sounds rather idyllic because it is. Finding just such a tree is rare, and if you do plan to use one as shelter, be sure to check its structural integrity. A dead tree with a hollow trunk may not endure a bout of strong wind, and you won’t want to be in it when the upper regions come crashing down. Maybe take a picture and move on.

Of course, wood is an excellent building material, and if time is on your side, you can use tree products to construct your own shelter. You can do so by planting and growing a protective shelter belt to keep wind and elements off your encampment or crops or by harvesting existing wood and constructing a small structure. Using basic tongue-in-groove construction, it’s possible to stand up a simple log building using a good set of trees, a sharp ax and perhaps a few other basic tools. Keep in mind that this undertaking is not a beginner-level project.

An Alaskan mill, a lumber-processing tool that can be built using a fallen log and metal brackets, is a handy way to produce real, right-sized cuts of lumber in the backcountry, but it takes a skilled saw-man to run. Still, in a situation that requires you to fabricate a sturdy wooden structure without help from the kinds of tools you’d find in a larger-scale construction setting, the Alaskan mill is the perennial go-to. If you’re going to look into using one of these, find someone who’s done it, and practice safely getting to know the ins and outs of this tool, as it can be very dangerous.

Man’s Other “Best Friend”

Your dog is probably a lot more fun than a tree, that’s not asking much. But when you consider all the wonderful things trees do for us — providing fresh air, healthy snacks and sustenance for wilderness adventures, handy sap and resin products, medicines and lodging and more — trees are absolutely amazing.

This guide gives you a good overview of the many ways you can benefit from trees in wilderness settings. Hopefully, what you’ve read here will prove useful. There’s so much you can do with the numerous tree-based products covered here and elsewhere. What plans do you have to make use of this new knowledge — are you going to begin brewing pine-nettle tea or harvesting maple sap for use in syrup? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: This was a guest post.

Self-Contained DIY Fire Starter Kit

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this fire starting kit is something you can purchase as a pre-made solution, but you can certainly copy the idea well enough if you’re interested in a wilderness or bug out bag fire starting kit to emulate…

Family-Sized Backpack Cookset: KingCamp Climber 3

Like he points out, you don’t tend to see too many larger cooksets available for purchase that would be able to accomodate more than a person or two.

This KingCamp Climber 3 Cookset, unlike most options out there, is definitely big enough to cook for an entire family and is perhaps the most complete backpacking cookset out there, and for a reasonable price…

25 Survival Gadgets You’re Going to Want!

I happened upon this first video and then the never-ending YouTube trail led me to find the rest. I’d say that I definitely haven’t seen at least half of the gadgets shown in the following videos–possibly more–many of which look really interesting! Hope you find them as enjoyable as I did…

Why You Should NEVER Use Paper to Start a Wood Stove

My family and I have been visiting my in-laws over the Christmas holidays. The time has been nice and mostly without incident, but the day after Christmas we had an unpleasant surprise await us when we returned from the movies… the house was full of smoke!

You see, my brother-in-law had been trying to keep the house warm with my in-laws wood stove as it’s been rather cold of late here in Missouri.

Unfortunately, he had been using paper to get the wood burning fireplace going rather than firestarter bricks which they normally use.

That, coupled with the fact that they (my in-laws) haven’t had their stove flue cleaned in probably a few years AND, equally important, the flue has two 90-degree bends in it, well… the inevitable happened and the flue clogged up just enough to continue a very slow burn yet not exhaust the smoke up the chimney. And since the smoke had nowhere to go it filled the house.

Normally, we would have quickly noticed something was wrong but, since we all went to the movies, there was nobody home to realize it!

Who knows why my brother-in-law decided to try and start a fire even though we were all leaving. I assumed he wasn’t successful and had given up when I walked out the door, but I was wrong… which brings up another great point: NEVER leave your home unattended if you have a fire going because you never know what might happen.

You see, my in-laws have a few dogs, one cat, and even our dog was trapped in the house as well. Here’s my father-in-law with all the dogs standing outside in the cold:

Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who chose not to go to the movies with us) had decided to stop by and, to her surprise, found a house full of smoke along with a handful of terrified animals. If she had been 15 or 20 minutes later, who knows if we would have had a few dead animals on our hands as well.

When she realized what was going on my sister-in-law quickly called 9-1-1, ushered out the dogs, and managed to corral the cat too. Within minutes the fire department showed up, along with an ambulance and two police cars; I’m sure it was a scene for the neighbors, to say the least.

Within an hour or so the fire department had removed the obvious smoke so we could go inside again. Regrettably, ever since then the entire house has smelled like a campfire but worse because there’s no fresh air to replace the smoky smell. The first night or two most of us had a bit of a headache and I actually slept with the window open even though it was quite cold that night.

It was so bad that we (really my wife and sister-in-law) decided to wash the walls with a vinegar/water solution and vacuumed the carpets with baking soda. Eventually, they’ll get the carpets cleaned professionally too. The cleaning has helped, though, it will probably be months before the smell complete dissipates.

Anyway, I figured I would share a personal example of a failure to be safe to get the New Year off to a running start, lol. Yes, it was a “perfect storm” of mistakes that caused the problem, but all of the mistakes could have easily been avoided had we considered our safety–and that of our pets–and bit more.

Be safe out there.

Splitz-All Log Splitter

My kid has been watching YouTube videos lately on neat, new gadgets and one that caught my eye was this Splitz-All Log Splitter. And, while I’m not quite sure it’s worth the price tag, the Splitz-All sure is an interesting way to split wood besides with an axe or hydraulic log splitter. Enjoy…

Why A Ferro Rod May NOT Be Worth Having In Your Pack

I’m really starting to like this guy a lot because he offers good, solid advice and clearly knows what he’s talking about with respect to wilderness survival. Today he’s discussing whether or not those trusty ferro rods every prepper–including me–tends to include in their packs is worth having… and stick around to the 12:00 mark to see his “trick” for fire starting.

Why A Mylar “Survival” Space Blanket Is Worth Having In Your Pack

I’m generally VERY against the cheap [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LZN0KGB” locale=”US” tag=”rethinksurviv-20″]mylar “survival” space blankets[/easyazon_link] mostly because there are better option and, honestly, people don’t use them right. I’m a much bigger fan of the [easyazon_link identifier=”B005ILFFTM” locale=”US” tag=”rethinksurviv-20″]SOL Heatsheets[/easyazon_link] (two person version) which are discussed in the following video. That said, any such blanket has limitations and must be used appropriately as shown below…