You Can Cook Over an Open Fire
Are you a little worried about cooking over an open flame? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Also, for the record, you’ll be cooking over coals, rather than flames. Read on to learn exactly how to get your fire going. The first thing you’ll need is a way to start your fire and some fuel. There’s really no reason to make things more difficult, so go ahead and bring along some matches. Other options include flint and steel, or a magnifying glass. However, you’ll find that matches or a lighter work just fine. Make sure to build your fire in a specified fire ring. If there isn’t one, clear the area around your fire pit for at least three or four feet. Make sure there are no overhanging branches that could catch fire and no tree roots. You can surround your fire pit with rocks if you want, to make a barrier.
Laying Your Fire
The preparation for the campfire is what determines its success. Perhaps the simplest method of starting a fire is to use the teepee technique. But first, you need to understand the elements that go into creating the perfect campfire. Tinder: This is where your fire will begin.
Tinder is light and hot and burns very easily. You can bring newspaper from home or you can use butter wrappers, dry moss, birch bark or even pocket lint. The main thing is that it catches fire easily and burns hot enough to catch the kindling on fire.
Kindling: Kindling is made up of very thin, dry twigs and sticks. You can cut larger pieces of wood into thin sticks to burn. They should be no more than a finger thickness wide so that the flames from the tinder will quickly take over the kindling. This will burn hotter and catch the firewood on fire.
Firewood: Larger chunks of wood, branches and the like are considered firewood. One piece of tree trunk can be chopped into multiple smaller pieces lengthwise. Depending on where you are camping, you may be able to find wood in the area or buy it.
Logs: If you are burning to stay warm, logs are the way to go. They burn for a long time and put out quite a bit of heat. However, they are not always the most practical idea for cooking fires, since they will take a long time to burn down to coals, which are what you need when you are cooking. Never cut down trees or branches for your fire. You don’t want to impact the ecosystem in the area. However, you can pick up dead wood that has already fallen to the ground, or bring in your own. Now that you understand the different types of wood, you need to put them to good use. The simplest method of laying a fire is to create a teepee with your materials. Start by placing your tinder in the middle of your fire ring. This could be a few pages of crumpled paper or a handful of birch bark, depending on what you are using. Use the tinder as your base and lay pieces of kindling and thin sticks around it, with one end on the ground and the other in the air so that all of the kindling pieces form a teepee-like structure, with the thinnest sticks closest to the paper. Gradually build up the thickness of the wood as you go, so that the outer layers are thicker. Stop when you get to pieces that are as big as your thumb.
Use a match or a lighter to light the tinder in several places, reaching through the kindling to do so. It should catch easily and the flames will lick upward and catch the smallest kindling on fire. If things start to die out, you can gently blow on the flames to make the fire burn hotter. As the kindling begins to burn, you can slowly add larger pieces of firewood to your fire, continuing with the teepee design. Eventually, this will collapse and you can lay pieces of wood across the fire. Make sure that there are plenty of spaces for air to get under the wood so that your fire burns nice and hot.
Campfire Tricks and Techniques
Still having troubles with your fire? If you’re just starting out, it can be tough to get that fire going nicely. You’ll want to practice at home long before you actually need a fire to stay warm and cook your food. However, there are a few little tricks that can make your fire a little easier. You can create your own long-lasting tinder by stuffing muffin tins or ice cube trays with dryer lint and then pouring melted paraffin wax over the lint. Allow it to harden and you have great little firestarters to take with you on your camping trip. Make sure your wood is very dry. Green wood will smoke horribly and probably drive you right out of camp. Wood that has been dampened by rain may dry if your fire is already hot, but try to stick to dry wood. Even after a rainfall, you can find dry sticks and twigs at the base of trees, where they have been protected by the foliage. Keep in mind that you don’t want to cook over flames. The coals are what you actually want and it can take up to an hour to get a good, hot bed of coals to cook over. Plan accordingly. If you are using a grate or grill, you can lay two logs on either side of your fire. These will burn much slower than the smaller pieces of wood and will help contain your fire. Remember that you want a small, hot fire, not a big, sprawling one. You can lay the grate across the two logs or even set a pot on them. Alternatively, use rocks around your fire to create a place to set your cooking instruments. Be very careful not to choose river rocks, as they may have water inside. When heated, the steam building up inside the rock can cause it to explode. Make sure you keep a bucket of water on hand to put out the fire if it gets out of hand. Another option is to keep a pail of sand handy. This will also effectively smother a fire by preventing oxygen from getting to it, though water is better in most cases.
Cooking Over a Campfire
If you’ve selected a camp stove to cook over, you’ll find that it is very similar to cooking on a gas stove at home. Since you probably already know how to do that, we’ll be focusing on campfires in this book. Cooking over an open fire can be a real challenge! Never cook over flames. They are unpredictable and the temperature will fluctuate too much to cook your food evenly. It’s best to wait until your fire has burned down to a nice, hot bed of coals first. You can use a stick or poker to carefully rake the coals into a pile under your pot so that the heat goes straight up and cooks your food. Fires can be very hot, so be prepared for food to cook faster than expected. You will need to move your pot or pan off the heat if it is starting to burn. The edges of the fire will be cooler, and you can test the heat by carefully moving your hand, palm down, around the fire, a good foot above the grate to see where the heat is highest. When cooking over an open fire, it’s a good idea to wear tighter or short sleeved clothing that won’t accidentally brush hot surfaces. You don’t want to catch fire while you make your dinner! Cooking food on top of the coals is one method to use. You can also cook in the coals. This requires either a Dutch oven or tinfoil. You can wrap nearly anything up in tinfoil and bury it in the coals so that it cooks all the way around. This method doesn’t require much attention. You just leave it tucked in the coals for 15-30 minutes, depending on the food, and then open the packet to eat.
How to Create an Aluminum Foil Cooking Pouch
If you are planning on making tinfoil dinners, you should know how to create a good, strong packet. You’ll need a square of aluminum foil. Place your food in the middle and then grab the two edges on opposite sides and bring them together above the food. Roll the edges toward the food, keeping them together. This will form a good seal. Now fold in the other two edges, keeping everything nice and tight. You may want to do a double packet if your food is delicate.
Cooking Tips for Campfire Success
An open fire can be somewhat unpredictable. It’s a good idea to have your fire contained, particularly if you plan to cook something fatty like steak or bacon over it. The grease can cause flames to flare up, so be very careful as you work. It’s a good idea to start your dish out on the edge of the fire, where the heat is less. As you get used to the cooking speed, you can move the pan around to get the right temperature. If you cook often at home, you’ll notice that certain areas of the fire give you the same results as high, medium and low heat on a stove. Stir your food frequently, especially if it doesn’t have a lot of liquid in it. Things can heat up pretty fast and you may end up with burnt food in no time, so keep an eye on it. It’s easier to keep your pot or pan suspended above the coals if you use a cooking grate. There are a number on the market to choose from, including those you lay across blocks or logs on either side of the fire, and others that will hold themselves up on metal legs. Most cooking pots should be kept on the grate, but a Dutch oven can be buried in the coals. It actually becomes an oven with the coals heaped on top of the lid to provide cooking heat from all sides. However, since these ovens are very heavy, few people take them on longer camping trips. Camping and cooking go hand in hand and it doesn’t have to be very difficult to create delicious, healthy meals over a fire.