How to Master Campfire Cooking in the Winter

Many avid campers don’t store their camping gear for the winter. They embrace the cold weather and still plan epic camping trips no matter what time of year it is. Everything seems to taste better over a campfire. Part of it is the ambiance and part of the credit goes to a cook who knows their way around an open fire.

A good camp chef can work wonders over a simple fire, but the master campfire chef can cook over a campfire in the winter. With the right outdoor camping cooking gear, you can produce amazing smoky flavors that only come from skilled cooking over an outdoor campfire.

How to Start a Campfire in the Winter

Starting a fire in the winter is a little more difficult because things are usually damper, and the logs take longer to dry out.  You need three things to start a campfire––oxygen, fuel and an ignition source. It’s a good idea to gather wood as soon as you set up camp.

Split larger logs up and store the wood up off the ground so it dries faster. Matches or a firestarter are the easiest ways to start a fire in the winter. Here’s a video that shows you how. 

There’s a secret to keeping a fire going when you’re surrounded by snow. If you’re cooking food over firewood, put down one layer of medium-sized pieces of wood as the base to prevent the melting snow from extinguishing the campfire.

When using a camp stove, put an insulated pad underneath the stove to keep snow from melting beneath it. 

Different Ways to Cook Over a Campfire

There are essentially five different ways to cook food with a campfire. How you cook depends on a couple of things, such as what you’re preparing and how comfortable you feel using these specific cooking methods.  

Roasting on a Stick

There are all kinds of food you can roast on a stick over a fire, like sausages, bacon and bread. You can even get creative and cook eggs and sandwiches. Roasting things on a stick makes clean-up a breeze, and no messy pots to clean.

Source: Lindamka/Shutterstock.com

Cooking in the Coals

A common mistake people new to campfire cooking make is assuming that the hottest part of a fire is the flames themselves. Cooking directly in the flames is one of the quickest ways to burn your food. 

One of the best ways to cook on a campfire is in the coals. The first thought people have is to cook directly in the flame, but roasting things in a campfire, wrapped in foil, is simple and makes cleaning up easy.

You can also put food in a Dutch oven, which essentially turns into an outdoor oven. Using every cooking space lets you cook sides at the same time as your meat, allowing you to spend less time cooking and more time with family and friends.

Cooking Suspended Over the Fire

Another common way to cook over a campfire is suspending a pot or Dutch oven with a lid that has a handle over the open flames. To do this, you put together a metal teepee stand and then hang the pot by a chain right over the fire.

The downside is that cooking this way takes longer because the pot rests further away from the flames, and the wind can blow them, making the heat source uneven. It’s the perfect cooking method for warming up premade soups and stews.

One-Pot Camp Meals

Cooking in one pot means you only have one pan to clean and lets you put food on to simmer while you do other things around camp. Hearty soups, chili and stews are versatile and perfect for the end of your camping adventure when you’re limited on ingredients.

Plus, you can prepare many things ahead of time and toss everything in together when it’s time to cook. You can do this in a Dutch oven or pot directly on the grill––or you can suspend the Dutch oven over the flames.

Source: Delmas Lehman/Shutterstock.com

Cooking on a Grill Over the Fire

For many campers, using a grill is the most popular cooking method. Nothing tastes better than smoky hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill over a campfire. Also, it’s perfect for cooking eggs and bacon for breakfast.

All you need to do is place a grill on top of your campfire and then cook in a cast-iron skillet or pan. This campfire cooking method provides even heat, and the pans heat fast and cook quickly. You don’t need as large a bed of coals as you would when cooking in a Dutch oven with indirect heat.

Winter Campfire Cooking Gear

If you plan on camping regularly in the winter, and investing in high-quality campfire cooking gear, there are several options for pots and pans specifically made for camping. It’s suitable to cook in stainless steel or aluminum over a fire, but pans made from cast iron are the best. 

Whatever cooking gear you decide to use when you camp in the winter, just make sure you understand how to use it over a campfire. 

Other Campfire Cooking Tips

Turn Food Frequently

Cooking food over a fire is very different than your stove at home. Temperatures fluctuate, so turn your food often to avoid burning it.

Invest in High-Quality Grilling Utensils for Camping

While budgeting is important when buying camping gear, you don’t want to go too cheap picking out cooking utensils. You’ll learn the hard way that you need the right tools when you get burned grabbing food off the fire with your bare hands. Pack some oven mitts, tongs and a spatula for flipping.

Prep Ahead of Time

Make life easier by prepping in advance. You can pre-cook, cut and mix things at home and then pack them in pre-measured packets for traveling. It makes cooking on the trail easier and less messy.

Always Bring a First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen anywhere, and you’re likely not near any doctor or hospital in the backcountry. Always make sure you have the right first aid supplies to treat injuries that occur when you’re camping, including burns if you forgot to bring those cooking tongs. Learning basic first aid is a good idea, too. 

Conclusion

Now you know exactly what you need to become a master campfire chef. Cooking on the trail is always an adventure, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow these campfire cooking tips and you’ll have delicious meals and good times camping with friends and family.

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