How To Cook A Meal Over An Open Fire

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By Bryan Rucker •  4 min read

Whether you’re out doing some backcountry camping or you’re unable to use a traditional stove, knowing how to cook some food over an open fire is one skill that you definitely need to survive in the wilderness or during a disaster. So, this means no camp stove or charcoal grill – just a roaring open fire and you. If this sounds like a skill you want to acquire, then keep reading for our tips on becoming a skilled open-fire cook.

What You Need

While there are a lot of things that you can eat without cooking, such as canned tuna, nothing beats a hot meal – especially when the weather is cool. To successfully cook over an open fire, there’s only a few things that you need:

It is very important that you have good gloves or oven mitts to protect your hands while you’re cooking. Not only do you need to prevent burns from the fire, but your cast iron pan will be hot to the touch and can actually burn your hand.

Open Fire Cooking Steps

Now that you have all the necessary items, it’s time to put those cooking skills to the test. Before you know it, you’ll be whipping up your regular dinner time delicacies without the need of a traditional stove.

  1. Start your fire. If you have a dedicated fire pit, then use it. If you’re camping or on the move, then you need to make a campfire by making a circle of rocks for your fire pit and getting that fire started. You’ll need to let it burn for a good half hour or 45 minutes so that you end up with a good amount of hot glowing coals in your fire pit.
  2. Take four rocks that are about the size of a softball, and preferably with as flat of tops as you can find, and place them in your fire circle away from the actual roaring fire. Be sure to leave some space between them for your coals. The rocks are where you will be placing your pan for cooking, so test it out now to see how level it is. You may need to rearrange the rocks a bit.
  3. Scrape some hot coals into the center of your four large rocks with your tactical shovel or a tree limb. To cook at a high heat, bring over a lot of coals. For low heat, stick with fewer coals.
  4. Place your pan of food on top of your four rocks and your food should start cooking. Keep an eye on it while it cooks because you may need to add more coals if the heat level begins to drop before you’re done cooking.

Tips For Cooking Over An Open Fire

Keep in mind that you can also use a grill top or even cook on a spit over an open fire. Typically, this sort of cooking set up is best for people who have a more permanent fire pit that can be re-used. We don’t find this to be ideal for campers.

Also remember that you rarely want to do your cooking directly over the flames. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with burnt food most of the time! Cooking directly over the flames is best for: boiling water, grilling vegetables, and roasting meats.

One common mistake that people make when cooking over an open fire is cooking the food too long. Try to remember to remove the food from the fire just before it should be done. Why? Because of carryover cooking, which is when food continues to cook after being removed from the heat source. That hot cast iron pan will continue cooking your food after you’ve removed it from the fire and have it sitting aside to cool. So, if you’re camping and cooking meat, remember to use a digital thermometer to make sure you don’t consume any undercooked meat. But, if you don’t have access to one, try your best to cook the meat enough that no one in the camp falls ill after eating it.

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Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things wildlife. His concern grew astronomically during the previous tensions between the United States and other nations. He also has grown a substantial interest in survival and sustainability due to the current shape of the world over the years. He believes that preparation triumphs all things.