As temperatures begin to climb and the call of the wild crescendos to fever pitch, it’s time to dust off the pans and prepare for another season of campsite cooking. Whether it’s your first foray into the flames or you’re an experienced damper slinger, here’s a tried and tested suite of tips to help you take your meals on the road to the next level.
Prep and Plan like a Boss
Sounds obvious, and it is, but the more meal planning and preparation you’re able to do before hitting the highway is without question correlated to the success and enjoyment you’ll experience when you’re out there on the tongs. Planning for essentials, conditions, and contingencies is a must. The last thing you want is to end up with all raw ingredients, in the rain, without a fire starter.
Plan your menu in as much detail as possible and shop for the correct amount of ingredients so you’re not lugging around extra for the duration. Measure out ingredients for each meal ahead of time—including spice mixes—in zip-lock bags, and label each bag accordingly. Dry veggies can be chopped ahead of time, meats can be cut, marinated, and frozen, while soups and stews can also be pre-cooked and frozen to reheat as needed. If you’re light on cooking utensils like pots and pans, skewers, pre-made salads, and sandwiches make for easy, fuss-free eats.
Don’t Forget the Essentials
Be sure to take weight and portability into account when deciding what equipment and utensils are must-haves or nice-to-haves. You won’t get very far without matches or a lighter, but that clunky camping stove might be dead weight if you only need it for one specific meal. Generally—in addition to fire-starters—a medium pot and pan, portable grate, aluminium foil, spatula, tongs, plus olive oil, vinegar and mustard will get you quite far in preparing and seasoning everything from bacon breakfasts to barbeque dinners and beyond.
Food Longevity and Safety
Keeping your food chilled and ice frozen is the number one rule of campsite cooking. Be sure to pre-chill or freeze everything that’s going in your cooler, so room temperature items don’t begin to warm up the cooler straight out of the gates. Layer the bottom of the cooler with ice, then pack the meals and ingredients you intend to use last at the bottom, another layer of ice then food, and so on. Make sure you pack every available space with ice and open the cooler as little as possible, being sure to keep it out of direct sunlight.
A separate cooler for food and drinks is essential. Filling large milk cartons or soft drink bottles with water or juice and then freezing them will help keep the cooler chilled, and provide a refreshing cold beverage as they thaw.
Pre-mixed salad dressings and sauces can be stored in disposable water bottles for easy dispensing. You’d also do well to consider packing a portable water filtration system—even ‘safe’ campground water can do with an extra run through the filter, and if you get caught in the backcountry, it will definitely come in handy.
But if all of this just seems like too much hard work, consider hiring (or winning!) a caravan with on-board kitchen facilities, just like the Lotus Trooper Caravan one lucky Cars for Cancer supporter will win in the current draw (along with a RAM 1500 DT Laramie Crew Cab!). Have you got YOUR tickets yet? Best of luck, and happy cooking!