7 Must-Know Campfire Cooking Tips. Avoid these Mistakes.

Campfire cooking is one of the joys of camping. Nothing beats spending time by the campfire with family and cooking a delicious meal. With these tips and mistakes to avoid, you’ll be a pro in no time. Let’s get started!

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Common Campfire Cooking Mistakes to Avoid

If you prefer to watch, check out the video below with all my campfire cooking tips:


Mistake #1: Not Checking for Local Fire Restrictions

It’s always important to check for any local fire restrictions before your trip.

You don’t want to plan to cook a meal over the campfire, only to get there and realize you can’t have a fire.

Whether you’re camping at a campground, on forest land, or BLM land, check for fire restrictions before you head out.

Stanley stainless steel pot used for cooking over a campfire

Mistake #2: Not Having the Right Cookware

When it comes to campfire cooking gear, in general, you want to avoid any gear that’s not safe for campfire flames and coals.

Cast iron is the best for campfire cooking!

I think every camper needs a good cast iron skillet and a grill grate to place over the fire. You can make a lot of camping meals with just these two items.

Cast iron is great for camping. It’s tough and holds heat well.

You can use it over a campfire or on your camp stove. You only need one pan for both cooking methods!

Maintaining and cleaning a cast iron pan is also very easy.

If you don’t have cast iron, stainless steel or enamel-coated steel are other options that work for the campfire.

Just make sure that the manufacturer of the product specifies that it can be used over the campfire!

I see many “reviews” recommending cooking kits for the campfire that are actually not supposed to be used over a flame.

Avoid any cookware that has plastic components, such as handles.

Invest in good gear, and it’ll last you a long time.

Here are some of my favorite items for campfire cooking:

In addition to cookware, make sure you have the appropriate gear to protect yourself from the fire!

Amanda cooking with a pie iron over the campfire

Mistake #3: Not Preparing and Organizing Before You Cook

What are you cooking? Get your ingredients ready. Prepare what you can and organize it before you start cooking.

Think through the steps before you start. It’s not fun if you’re running around the campsite frantically looking for a spatula, a pot, or an ingredient.

It’s also dangerous around a campfire.

If you haven’t already, download my free Camp Cooking Starter Kit! It’ll help you plan your camping meals and stay organized:

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Camp Cooking Starter Kit

Printable camping recipes, a gear checklist, and a camping meal planner so you can go camping with confidence (and good food!)

Next, check for anything surrounding the fire pit that could be hazardous to you. Clear away anything that can catch fire or that you can trip over.

Have your water bucket and shovel nearby.

Lastly, when you start cooking, delegate tasks to others. For example, when Nick and I cook at camp, Nick’s in charge of the grilling while I make the sides or other parts of the meal.

If you can, get some help from your fellow campers!

campfire in the desert

Mistake #4: Not Waiting for Coals to Form

You build your campfire and you’ve got some flames going. Great!

In general, you want to let your fire burn for a little while (adding wood as needed) before you start cooking on it.

Over time, as you keep adding wood to your fire and it burns down, a hot bed of coals will form. These coals are great for cooking. They’ll give you even heat from your fire.

If you cook immediately after making the fire, the heat won’t be as consistent.

Related >> How to Build a Campfire (step by step)

grilling beef burgers over the campfire on a grill grate

Mistake #5: Not Choosing the Right Type of Heat for What You’re Cooking

When cooking over a campfire, we’ve got direct heat and indirect heat.

Direct Heat

When you’re grilling a steak, for example, you’ll want your steak on a grill grate directly over the heat source. This method is good for searing and creating those grill marks we all love.

You don’t cook foods for long with this method.

Another time to use direct heat is if you want to boil water. I’d fill my pot and place it on a grill grate over the direct heat source.

Indirect Heat

The other campfire cooking option is indirect heat.

I would use indirect heat for more delicate vegetables, or anything that I want to cook low and slow.

I place these on the grill next to the flames instead of directly over them, or maybe even just over a bed of hot coals.

Getting a sense of direct and indirect heat is something you’ll get better at judging over time.

You’ll probably burn some things in the beginning, but then you know for next time.

grilling chicken over the campfire on a grill grate

Mistake #6: Not Packing a Meat Thermometer

I like to pack a small meat thermometer in my camping gear bin.

You definitely don’t want to be getting a food-related illness while you’re camping. It’s best to have a good meat thermometer on hand to test the internal temperature of any meat that you’re cooking.

Some areas of the fire might get hotter than others. For example, when I’m cooking chicken, I will check a few pieces from different areas. I do this to ensure even cooking.

I also rotate the food to different places over the fire to further avoid any spots that are too hot or too cold for long.

These ThermoPro thermometers are inexpensive, durable, and work well. Keep one in your camping food bin. Test for doneness instead of guessing!

Amanda cooking on the campfire with a cast iron pan

Mistake #7: Not Preparing to Handle Cooking Injuries

Make sure you know how to handle a cooking injury should it occur.

Of course, no one wants to get hurt, but what if an accident were to happen?

What if you accidentally cut your finger with a knife? Or an ember pops out from the fire and burns your arm?

Do you have a med kit?

Does everyone know where it’s located?

Consider taking a first aid and CPR class. When you’re in the woods, help could be a long way away.

You can also consider Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder courses. In these courses, you get training more specific to outdoor hazards.

Practice these skills, so that if the time comes, you can confidently take action.

picnic table with grilled steak fajitas camping dinner

Final Thoughts

Cooking over a campfire is fun. But, it’s crucial that you plan and prepare. This way, you won’t rush around the campfire.

Also, be mindful of your hair and clothing as you’re working around the fire.

Lastly, make sure your campfire is completely out before you leave or go to sleep for the night.

What to Cook Over the Campfire

Now that you’re ready to cook over the campfire, here are some of my top meals to print and try on your next camping trip. Enjoy!

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