Get fired up
Campfire cooking can be both simple and scrumptious
By Jennifer Kornegay | Photos by Michael Cornelison
Food cooked over an open flame has remained popular long past the era when it was the only option. Making meals outside is no longer a necessity, but a treat, in part, because a flickering fire’s intense heat sears quickly and seals in ingredients’ moisture and inherent goodness. Its smoke slithers into veggies and sinks into meat, leaving its flavor and fragrance behind. But these aren’t the only reasons we do it.
There’s something exciting about taming a raw element and bending it to our purpose. Something instinctive and thrilling about the crackle, pop and sizzle of food being transformed by a red-orange blaze, something that goes beyond the thermodynamics and chemistry of cooking and into the realm of magic. And the purest form of this experience is even more primitive than lighting up the patio grill: cooking over a campfire.
If you’re planning on doing some camping this fall, choose a few of this month’s reader-submitted recipes and stow them in your backpack. They’re easy and tasty and will help you take your campfire cooking beyond the basics.
– Jennifer Kornegay
Cook of the Month
Kassie Luster, Central Alabama EC
Kassie and her family enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, often pitching camp at Lake Mitchell and at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. She and her daughters, ages 8 and 12, especially like preparing meals on a campfire. “We love cooking together and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but we also love cooking outside,” Kassie said. The Campfire Hash recipe is one the three have been working and is now part of their homemade “camp cookbook.” We’ve been adding things to our personal campfire recipe book, and we’ve not even had a chance to try them all out yet, but we’ll keep camping, so we’ll get through them all eventually!” Kassie said.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 pound smoked kielbasa, halved and sliced
- 1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
- 1 can (15 1/4 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
In a large skillet, cook and stir onion in oil until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add potatoes and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Add kielbasa; cook and stir until meat and potatoes are tender and browned, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in chilies and corn; heat through then serve.
Grandma’s Campfire Beans
- 4 to 6 cans (14 to 16 ounces each) pork and beans
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 clove garlic, minced fine
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- In large pan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain, and crumble. In same pan, sauté onions and garlic until golden. Drain off most of grease then add to pan, the rest of the ingredients. Stir and cook until bubbly, then simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Mary Ann Gove, Cottonwood, Ariz.
Ingredients needed per person:
- 1 sweet Vidalia onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire or steak sauce
Peel and slice the ends off each onion and carefully core out a cavity. Tuck a bouillon cube into the cavity, follow with butter and finish with sauce. Pull the foil up and around the onion, twisting the top to close (like a Hershey’s kiss). Set in fire 10-15 minutes.
Janie Whelton, Baldwin EMC
Dutch Oven Blueberry Pie
- Blueberry pie filling
- Small can crushed pineapple
- Butter or margarine
- Box cake mix
- Dutch oven with sunken lid
Start with a mound of charcoal that is burning well. Butter the bottom and inside of the Dutch oven with butter or margarine. Put in the blueberry pie filling and the crushed pineapple. Sprinkle cake mix on top of the filling and pineapple mixture. Cut up the rest of the butter or margarine and scatter it over the cake mix. Sprinkle with white sugar. Set the Dutch oven on the charcoal, placing several pieces of charcoal on top of the oven. Let it cook until done.
Edward Armstrong, Joppa
- 2 slices of bread
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
- 5 slices of pepperoni
- 2 tablespoons of pizza sauce
- Square Pie Iron
Heat up the pie iron in the fire for about 5 minutes; while that is heating, butter both pieces of bread. Take out and open up the pie iron, placing a piece of bread on each side, butter side facing the iron. Spread the pizza sauce, add the cheese, & top with pepperoni on one side or you could put it on both sides. Carefully close the pie iron together and place in the fire for about 5-7 minutes.
(Considering you probably won’t take your measuring cups camping, you can always add as much of each ingredient that you want to better fit your taste. Also add veggies to make a Supreme Mountain Pie!)
Autumn Miller, Wiregrass EC
Adam’s Swamp Brunswick Stew
- 2 cans chicken broth
- 1 can water
- 2 cups cooked chicken (I use the frozen Southwestern Tyson strips)
- 1 16-ounce carton Lloyd’s Barbecue Pork
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen gumbo vegetable mix
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen green baby lima beans
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen whole kernel corn
- 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped fine
- 1 cup ketchup
- ½ cup barbecue sauce
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a Dutch oven. Bring to boil, then turn heat down, cover and let simmer 45 minutes. Serve with hot corn bread.
Jackie Skelton-Vice, Black Warrior EMC
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 6 baking potatoes
- 3 Vidalia onions
- 1 campfire
Make 6 patties from ground beef. Slice baking potatoes in half. Slice onion. In 6 separate foil sheets, place 1 patty, 1 slice of onion and 2 slices of potato and wrap. Place on grate on campfire or grill. Cook for 30-45 minutes. Remove carefully and enjoy!
Gail Cole, Baldwin EMC
Campfire Sweet Potato Halos
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 medium red onions, thinly sliced
- 1/8 cup fresh parsley, shredded
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 sticks of butter, cut into small pieces
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup feta cheese
In an iron skillet, arrange the sweet potatoes around the edge if the skillet to form the halo. Place onion slices in between every few sweet potato slices. Top with olive oil and butter and cook on the hot fire coals for 1 hour, basting with the melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and feta cheese.
Kirk Vantrease, Cullman EC
Send us your recipes!
Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.
Share a story about your recipe! Whether it’s your grandmother’s best cake or your uncle’s camp stew, every recipe has a story behind it. We’ll pay $50 for the best recipe-related story each month.
Recipe Themes and Deadlines:
Dec. Christmas Cookies Oct. 8
Jan. Comfort Food Nov. 8
Feb. Cooking for Two Dec. 8
Campfire cooking tips
Use these bits of wisdom to easily and efficiently prepare your campfire meals.
- • Start by finding a flat, level spot for your fire. Keep at least a10-foot radius between your fire and supplies, tents and chairs, and steer clear of low-hanging branches or brush. Then, create a spot for your fire by getting rid of leaves and other debris and digging a small pit. Next, circle your area in rocks or stones.
- • Gather both small sticks and large ones, and remember that dry wood works best. Form a tepee of smaller sticks over a bundle of leaves, dry grass and tiny twigs. Light the bundle and blow on it gently to help the flame catch the tepee sticks. Once the fire is going, slowly build it up with larger sticks stacked against your tepee.
- • Always have some water near by to extinguish a fire that gets out of hand, and never leave your fire unattended.
- If you’ve got a full day of hiking and other activities planned before you start dinner, help keep your meat at a safe temperature by freezing it before adding it to your cooler. And use a meat thermometer to ensure that chicken or other poultry is done before you take it off the fire.
- • Chop, prep and measure as many ingredients as you can at home, before you set off to the campsite.
- • Remember to pack paper towels, a cutting board, one large knife and long-handled tongs for removing food from the fire.
And when you are ready to leave your campsite, follow the guidelines set forth by the Leave No Trace organization, including burning all wood and coals to ash, putting out campfires completely and scattering cool ashes. More information is available at https://lnt.org.