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skillet smores

Ramona King

smores skillet

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These tips will help you pack for the ultimate campfire feast

When thinking of cooking over a campfire, rustic and simple often come to mind. After all, you’re likely sitting low to the ground — if not on the ground completely — surrounded by critters of various sizes and flying ability. It’s not exactly the scenario to show off your classical French saucemaking technique.

However, having to contend with campfire cooking should not mean that you’re automatically sentenced to eating hot dogs cooked on a metal skewer. (Though if that’s your thing, give this recipe a try.)

With a bit of prep at home, you can avoid schlepping excessive kitchen tools and equipment to your campsite, and instead, pack big flavors into aluminum foil parcels meant to be cooked directly in the flames.

Like any culinary endeavor, the key to campfire cooking success lies in the planning and preparation. Knowing how many meals to prepare and when they’ll be served will help you pack your cooler more efficiently, so while it seems simple and obvious, the first step is to write a menu. How many meals are you going to make? If you plan to spend multiple nights where campfire meals are required, try to prioritize cooking the most perishable items first, so it spends as little time as possible under temporary refrigeration. For example, if you want to make individual “shrimp boils” and sausage with peppers and onions as your two entrées, serve the shrimp first. This may reduce the risk of potential GI distress later in your camping excursion.

You may find the most success using ingredients that are already cooked, such as smoked sausage, instead of bringing raw ingredients to the campsite. Similarly, foods like potatoes or hamburgers benefit from advance or par-cooking at home, so you don’t have to depend on a fire for that kind of heavy lifting. Speaking of potatoes, if basic hot dogs are your preferred main dish, jazz them up by eschewing potato chips for a simple side dish, like these roasted potatoes and onions.

To avoid bringing any type of skillet or Dutch oven to your campsite, you’ll need to let heavy duty aluminum foil become your best bud. It doesn’t get much easier: your meals are individually portioned and can be tossed directly into the fire, yet they're still protected from too much direct heat. Best of all, there’s virtually no cleanup involved. You’ll want some type of plate to protect yourself from the charred foil, but beyond that, simply crumple the foil into a ball and discard it once you’ve finished eating.

When cooking foods wrapped in aluminum foil, bear in mind that the absence of a hard cooking surface may mean less caramelization. Incorporate that principle by utilizing dishes with a higher moisture content that cause the foods to steam and “braise,” such as these sausages with potatoes and sauerkraut. Cooking dishes surrounded by sauces and wet condiments, such as marinara or sauerkraut, offers the food a level of protection from the heat of the fire for an extended period of time.

Finally, just keep it simple. Enjoying the novelty of eating around a fire can elevate an otherwise ho-hum dish into something memorable that connects you to your surroundings. If Publix subs and chips are what you prefer, no worries! Perhaps you may want to try stuffing a few bananas with various toppings (chocolate chips and mini marshmallows are a perennial favorite), wrapping them in foil and tossing them at the base of your campfire. The bananas will soften and caramelize, while the toppings become gooey and delicious. Tucking into a molten, chocolate-studded banana — or even the classic s’more — outside by the fire can make anyone a fan of dining in the great outdoors.

 

Need some more ideas? Try these camping ideas on for size:
Learn how to make pigs in a blanket over a campfire
Ditch the stock pot and make prepare a Low Country Boil inside a foil pouch
Try these sausage and peppers packets over your next campfire

Make these potatoes and onions to give your campfire hot dogs a boost
Perfect for a campfire, this sausage recipe comes straight from eastern France
Want gluten-free s'mores? This recipe uses bananas instead


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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”

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