How to master the art of camp cooking

There’s plenty to love about camping. The smell of melted marshmallows around the campfire, the escape from the city, and, of course, the taste of campfire cooking.

Here’s our guide for how to master camp cooking on your next outdoor adventure. Heading out soon? Our range of camp cooking essentials will set you up for your next trip away. 

Determine your heat source

For a traditional experience, it's hard to go past a campfire. But it’s how you start the fire (and keep it going) that counts. A water-resistant flint stick is ideal for all weather conditions, ensuring you can not only cook but keep warm when camping through the cooler months.

Four people around a fire at night

When you can't light a fire

A campfire might be out of your reach if you’re camping where there’s:

  • A total fire ban
  • Rain
  • Limited access to fire pits or BBQs

To avoid cereal and sandwiches every day, come prepared with a gas cooker. Lightweight, and no fuss, a gas cooker can be relied upon to fry your eggs and boil the morning coffee.

Heat on the go

If you're camping and hiking, there are now super lightweight, portable gas cookers that will fit in your pack. They're easy to use and just as reliable as your usual gas cooker, so you can easily tuck into those rehydrated meals on the go.

Tip: If you're cooking with a flame during total fire bans in your area, ensure your appliance is approved by a local authority, you're in a picnic area and have a reliable extinguisher nearby. If you're not sure, don't start one.

An image of a couple preparing their camp cooking area
Set up your camp cooking space to work with your environment

Prepare a meal plan

Spend a little time online and research recipes you know you can easily prepare for the duration of your trip.

A lot of your home recipes might not translate to a campfire, and you'll have limited access to heat if you're using gas. Not sure where to begin? Pinterest is an absolute goldmine for camping recipes.

Once you're ready, create your shopping list and print out the recipes. Pop these into plastic sleeves for protection against the elements. You can also save these in your phone if you're confident you’ll get reception and you've got access to a reliable powerbank.

A few recipe tips

If you're using a gas cooker with one burner, one pot recipes are your friend. Think stir-fries, basic curries, and bacon and eggs. Also:

  • Plan your recipes based on use and shelf-life
  • Try to incorporate an ingredient more than once – cook extra sweet potatoes at night and use the leftovers in a fry up in the morning
  • If you have a fire, use it for cooking. Baked potatoes in foil, damper and baked fish are great staples. A traditional cooking technique for many Indigenous Australian groups is to dig a large hole next to the fire, where the ground is hot, place your ingredients in the hole and cover with some coals from the fire. 
  • Plan to eat your most perishable items first.
  • Choose meals that are quick for campfire cooking (i.e. less gas). Powdered potato with dehydrated vegetables is super quick and easy. 

Don't rely on complicated recipes every night, especially if you're not familiar with the variety of cooking heat. If you're new to camp cooking, experiment with the easy, fun stuff first – like foil packet recipes and anything on a stick.

That said, it's always a great idea to have some dry goods as a backup. Pasta, bottled sauce and maybe some packets of noodles, just in case.

Choose the right camp cookware

If there are quite a few of you and you've got enough room for the full kit and caboodle, it's a good idea to include a fry pan and a solid Dutch oven.

The oven should preferably be cast iron and definitely preseasoned to allow for easy release. Look out for styles with easy-pour spouts, as this can be helpful with stews, soups and sauces.

If you’re spending hours away from the campsite and are looking for a quick meal, an oven will quickly reheat anything you’ve prepared ahead of time. Consider making a simple chilli con carne and keeping it in a cooler until you’re ready.

However if there are just a few of you, consider a lightweight camp cooking set instead. Look for something non-stick and easy to clean, and your meal times will become far less of a hassle.

Lightweight, foldable cook sets are a must if you're overnight hiking. After a long day on your feet, a hot, rehydrated meal goes down well.

An image of a couple sitting outside their tent drinking tea or coffee
Choose the cookware that will work best with your group

Cook in the daylight

With sunrise and sunset dictated by timing and location, try and avoid darkness come dinnertime. It can be tricky trying to cook in the dark, especially if you've got any small children with you.

To help dodge potential mishaps:

  • Make the most of the ample daylight
  • Do your prep earlier in the day.

If that’s not a possibility, a compact and wearable head torch won’t impede on your cooking prowess but will allow you to see what you’re working with.

Lessen your footprint

In the interest of leaving no trace, remember that what you waste is just as important as what you consume. Keep your trash separated too. You should have a bag for general rubbish, a bag for recycling and a bag for fruit and vegetable waste that can go into your compost bin when you return home.

Avoid overusing plastic bags and cling wrap by keeping leftovers in reusable containers.

Going camping with kids? The Lorrimers packed up their belongings (and their kids!) in 2015 and started travelling around Australia. Check out their tips for camping with kids.