Camping Cookware Advice
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You’re going camping and you want to bring the right cookware.
Camp cooking is a lot of fun, but it can be frustrating if you don’t have the right tools for the job.
Here are some tips to help you get started with your camp cooking adventures!
On a backpacking trip, my buddy Scott wanted to try out an alcohol stove. Alcohol stoves are nice in that they use the cheapest fuel possible - pure alcohol. He was burning Everclear.
Unfortunately, he was trying to cook steak. The stove never got hot enough to properly brown the steak.
We would have made a fire, but I got a weather alert on my phone, an unexpected severe storm was coming in. So we had to bail out from the spot and ate one of our Mountain House meals instead.
Most of y’all reading this will be car camping and not backpacking.
But whether you are car camping or backpacking, you will want to bring a gas stove. They are nearly fool-proof, and fast. It is easy to control the heat on a gas stove.
Gas stoves come in two main forms: white gas and propane/butane canister-style stoves.
White Gas Stove
White gas stoves have been around forever. They are simple, fairly rugged, and quite reliable. But the White Gas mixture is much larger and heavier. I have only seen white gas used by people going into high elevation because white gas works better.
The propane and isobutane stoves are much more common. They are easy to find, and very reliable.
Both fuels can be found at local gas stations or sporting goods stores. They are pressurized and use a butane lighter to ignite the fuel.
These stoves are very simple for beginners. The downside is that you need to make sure you have enough fuel for a trip.
You want to make sure you have a quality skillet. You want to be able to fry up bacon and eggs for breakfast, pancakes, or a frittata.
If you are campfire cooking, invest in cast iron. Cast iron is super durable and will last basically forever. Cast iron can get up to searing temperatures.
Otherwise, you can invest in aluminum for enamel-coated skillets. Aluminum is lighter and easier to transport, but it will wear out faster than cast iron.
You want to make sure you have a pot that can boil water or to make a pasta or rice dish. A pot is also handy for making soups and stews.
Also, don’t forget the lid!
Dutch Ovens For Campfire
Dutch Ovens are synonymous with campfire cooking. Dutch ovens are not really for cooking on a stove, they work best over a fire. You can buy cooking grates that raise the dutch oven up off the coals so it is easier to access hot foods.
If you want to use your dutch oven on a campfire, make sure you have something to let you put it on the fire (grid, fireplace ring, or brick). Make sure you have hot coals so the dutch oven can get up to temperature.
If you are car camping and not backpacking, I recommend a cast iron dutch oven because of its durability. If you are going backpacking, unless you’re bringing a pack animal to carry a chuck wagon, I doubt you will want to bring a dutch oven because it’s too heavy.
Percolators And French Press
Coffee is essential for most campers. While you can bring instant, you can make ground coffee at a campsite.
Two common ways to do this are percolators and French Press.
Percolators are super easy. You can either make coffee on the stovetop or over a campfire. You fill the percolator with water, put coffee grounds in the filter, place on stove (or over a fire), and wait. It takes about 20 minutes to make a pot of coffee.
Percolators have been around for decades and are simple to use. The downside is that percolators are more of an art form than a science when it comes to getting the best coffee.
For French Press, you can buy a pot that fits on your stovetop. You put the grounds in the bottom of the pot with boiling water and let them steep for a few minutes. Then you press down to make tasty coffee!
I recommend pouring the coffee from a French Press into a carafe if you have left-over after brewing otherwise the coffee may turn bitter.
Grates For Campfire
A grate is a handy tool that sits on hot coals. Place the dutch oven with whatever deliciousness you are cooking on top of it. Make sure to place enough hot coals under and around it so the whole thing gets up to temperature.
You want to make sure you have a serviceable pot holder, tongs, spatula, whisk/egg beater, and ladles if you plan on cooking. If you are backpacking or car camping, don’t forget the barbeque utensils!
When it comes to cutting boards, size isn’t everything. You don’t want to make a meal on the stove or over a fire, get it all cut up, and not have enough space for the food.
Teak cutting boards are long-lasting and look nice but they tend to be very heavy. You can find lighter plastic ones at most dollar stores or kitchen supply stores.
Keep Food In Its Own Cooler
You will want to cook with fresh meat and eggs that need to stay cold. A great way to make sure the food stays cold for the entire trip is to have a cooler for food and a cooler for drinks. Label the coolers so you don’t have to worry about which cooler holds what.
With this method, food will stay cooler longer because there are fewer openings and less room for air to get in.
While a cooler will keep food cold longer, no cooler is 100% air-tight. Bringing ice will help your coolers keep things colder longer but if you are tight on space, bring ice packs!
Don’t forget to wash the dishes after cooking. You can heat the water with a camp stove or campfire. Dispose of the water properly, meaning at least 200 feet away from any nearby stream. And at least 100 feet away from your campsite if in bear country.
Whether you’re car camping or backpacking, it’s important to pack the right gear. That said, don’t forget about what type of cooking utensils and cookware you’ll need as well! In order to make sure your camp food is up for the task, invest in a sturdy cutting board that will last through all types of meals.
If you want to learn even more about camping cooking then check out our Essential Outdoor Skills Course.