It’s not really camping until you’ve cooked up a meal over a campfire. And after a long day on the trail or a lazy day by the lake fishing, the best part of the trip oftentimes is the warm, tasty dish that comes straight off the fire.

So here are some tips to help cook like a pro on your campfire so that your meal doesn’t burn to a crisp on the outside and end up cold and raw in the middle. KOA has a great website with easy campfire recipes you can make to impress your family.

It starts with the fire. A good meal comes off a fire that’s been built specifically for cooking.

  • The wood needs to seasoned and dry. Green or fresh wood will give you more smoke than flame and it won’t burn evenly. And if you can find it, hardwood will give you the best results.
  • Instead of building a traditional fire ring, find some large rocks and build a fire “U”. The U-shaped fire mimics the shape of a stove. The large rocks need to be as similar in size as possible, which will make it easier for you to place a level metal grate or grill over the coals once your fire is going and you’re ready to cook.
  • Fill the U with kindling, laying down small and similar-sized branches in a grid. Don’t use the tee-pee method. Arranging sticks and branches in a tee-pee creates hotspots and leaves an uneven surface for placing cookware.
  • As your fire grows and you add bigger pieces of wood, try to make sure those pieces are as uniform in size as can be and that they’re distributed evenly over the fire pit. The goal is to burn it all down to white-hot coals.
  • As soon as the flames die down and the coals turn white, place the bigger coals toward the back of the pit and smaller coals to the front. This will give you the high-medium-low temperature range you’d have with a traditional stove top.
  • Place your metal grate or grill over the coals and beginning cooking. Dutch ovens can be placed directly in the coals. A fresh catch or other meats can be placed directly on the grill. A spray bottle – or even a squirt gun – can be used to spray down flare-ups or rogue flames.
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