Two truths: You like to eat great food, and you like to go on outdoor adventures outside the city. But have you combined the two yet? If not, now's the time! Without the right gear or an idea of where to start, cooking outside can feel intimidating. You want the real skinny? Cooking at the camp site isn’t really much different from cooking at home, except that the fresh air makes the food taste WAY better. It's a proven fact, y’all. So let's get started on a basic understanding of campsite cooking and the gear you’ll need to make it happen!
For your outdoor kitchen, keeping equipment and kitchen gear to a minimum will help eliminate fuss; always erring on the side of essentials is the way to go. The following items are all you need (sans your delicious food) for storage, prep, cooking, eating and cleaning.
1-2 Coolers w/ ice
1-2 plastic storage tubs
You’ll need one cooler for food, and a second cooler for beer and beverages. Remember to fill them with ice, and perhaps carry along an extra bag if there’s room. The plastic storage tubs are used for carrying all of the items in your mobile kitchen. Keeping a few bins that are already packed with your camp cooking essentials will make your life much easier if you plan to do this a few times a year.
5 gallon jug of water
1-2 sharp knives
1-2 lightweight plastic cutting boards
1-2 lightweight medium bowls
You’ll need the water for cooking and rinsing. Spigots are generally nearby, but it’s nice to have water right on hand. The lightweight medium bowls will come in handy for holding and serving food.
Spatula and/or tongs
Slotted spoon and/or wooden spoon
1-2 cotton kitchen towels
Tinfoil (always comes in handy)
A source of light (if cooking at night), we suggest a lantern or headlamp
First of all, do not go out and buy fancy backpacking pots and pans! What you use at home will generally work just fine! If you do want to keep your indoor and outdoor kitchen gear separate, we suggest going to a local thrift store to score some stainless steel pots that are easy to clean up. As for your skillet, cast iron is nice in case you want to make something over the fire, but any pan for sautéing will do.
Matches or lighter
Lighter fluid OR chimney (a great alternative to lighter fluid!)
Wind guards (optional but sometimes necessary depending on location)
Double burner stove & propane (optional... you may prefer the BBQ + fire combo)
If you are preparing your meal using a BBQ at the campsite, then you’ll need the coals, lighter fluid, and a lighter. If you are planning on simply cooking over the fire, you’ll just need wood, kindling, and perhaps lighter fluid to get the fire going. A double burner stove is a good idea if you are camping out for a few days and enjoy the fine things in life, such as coffee in the morning in less than 30 minutes after you first wake up. Be sure to test your pots on the stove before you take off to ensure they’re not too big (i.e. can both pots fit on at once?).
EAT & DRINK
We also recommend a tablecloth for fancy atmosphere, a wine/bottle opener, and coffee fixings (French press, Italian, or drip), although all are optional. We also recommend grinding your beans beforehand, or else you’re going to be smashing your coffee beans barehanded. Not ideal.
1 medium sized Rubbermaid bin
1 sponge and/or scrub brush
2 microfiber towels for wiping and drying
This part is absolutely no fun if you don’t have the proper equipment. Collect the dirty dishes in the Rubbermaid bin, fill with water, and then rinse and scrub down. Heating water on your stove or fire and using it for cleaning is a good idea to kill bacteria on the dishes and your hands. Bringing dishwashing rubber gloves along is smart if it cools down drastically at night and/or you have sensitive skin. Also, to clean crusty pots or skillets, fill them with water first and place on the stove or fire separately. Once the dishes are dry, you can return them to their original storage spot.
SO, to recap, here is a checklist of your Outdoor Cooking Ingredients:
Double burner stove & propane
• If possible, make food ahead of time and keep it in a cooler (this could include cooking rice, quinoa, pasta, hard boiled eggs, and cookies.)
• Remember - simple food tastes good!
• Find out if your campsite has picnic tables. You’ll need surface area for your outdoor kitchen!
• Don’t leave good olive oil or salt and pepper at home... bring it with you! We suggest Other Brother's picnic kit!
• Fresh lemons, limes and herbs brighten up all kinds of meals.
• Always make sure not to leave any food out overnight. Animals get hungry too.
Enjoying the great outdoors and eating like a king CAN go together like peanut butter and jelly (speaking of which, grillin’ one of those bad boys over the campfire isn’t a bad idea)! There are various degrees of expertise to cooking outside, so start off simple and work your way up. And stay tuned as we'll be posting a few of our favorite camping recipes over the next couple of weeks!
A big thank-you to outdoor cooking aficionado Rebekah Cantor for her expertise and input for this feature!