Last weekend, my family and I took a trip into the Pennsylvania woods to camp and remove ourselves from society for a bit. While we have a travel trailer, we genuinely enjoy cooking over an open campfire, as it adds so much complexity and flavor to an otherwise regular dish. The smoke from the hardwood adds a great aroma to your food, as well as a relaxing aura from being by a campfire. Below I’ll share some tips and tricks to cooking with fire, and I’ll add what we cooked towards the bottom. Enjoy!
Cooking with Fire – Tips
- The first tip to achieving a great cook over the fire is to build a proper fire! Make sure to choose wood similar to how you’d select wood to smoke your meat. If you have questions on pairing meat with different wood, check out this post. Ensure that your wood is dry, and you are starting your fire in a safe place preferably in a fire pit, or a dug-out hole.
- Next, you’ll want to ensure that your fire gets nice and hot prior to placing any meat over the pit. Allowing your fire to really get going before you add food will ensure you get a great crust over the meats, and if using cast iron, you’ll get a phenomenal cook. If your fire isn’t too hot, you risk any liquid from marinades dripping into the fire and weakening it and adding a lot of smoke without a lot of heat.
- My third suggestion is to get yourself the proper gear! We stopped by Camping World before we hit the road and picked up an over-the-fire grill grate (Check it out here). For around $40, we got our money’s worth in just that one trip. Another must-have is some form of cast iron pan, as it handles the heat very well and has a ton of versatility. Questions on cast iron? Check out this post we made a few weeks ago on cast iron pans!
Flank Steak and Potatoes
Flank steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat because when cooked right (and sliced right), you can truly end up with some very tender and delicious meat. For this flank steak over the fire, I marinated it for a few days prior to our trip with a simple homemade balsamic marinade. You don’t have to marinate it for more than a few hours, although I prefer to let it really sit for a bit.
The marinade we used consisted of:
- 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil (I used Avacado Oil)
- At least 6 whole garlic cloves
- 1 Lime zested and squeezed
- Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking Steak over Fire
To cook the flank steak, I simply followed my advice above, and let the fire get nice and hot, and then placed the steak directly over the fire on the campfire grill. After a few minutes I flipped the steak, and let it cook on the other side. Normally I’d use a meat thermometer to get a perfect cook, but out in the woods, I just enjoyed being by the fire. Once the steak had an exterior crust to my liking, I moved it off of the direct heat and focused on the potatoes.
Cooking potatoes over the fire may sound crazy to some, however, it was one of the simplest ways I’ve ever cooked them. I used golden yukon potatoes, diced them up, and tossed them into my cast iron skillet with a little duck fat, avocado oil, sea salt, and black pepper, with a few fresh sprigs of rosemary from our garden. Once I had that all in the pan, I placed the skillet right over the fire and let it cook.
Cooking Shrimp on the Fire
I got the idea to try cooking shrimp on the open fire from Derek at @overthefirecooking on Instagram. While I didn’t copy his recipe to a tee, the shrimp did come out great with just a handful of fresh ingredients.
Buttery Garlic Shrimp over the Fire
- I used fairly large shrimp (16-20), deveined but in their shells
- Fresh garlic
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Fresh rosemary
To get this dish going, I just heated up our pan over the open fire, and once the pan got hot, throw that butter right in the pan. Once the butter is melted and hot, I added the remaining ingredients and let the shrimp cook until both sides had a beautiful pinkish-orange color to them, and then moved the pan to indirect heat.
To eat these shrimps, just grab some paper towels or wipes, and dig in with your hands! Peel the shells off and enjoy.
Sides over the Fire?
While I’ve mainly discussed just a few meat variations to enjoy at the campsite, there is a never-ending list of sides that can be cooked directly over the fire. Check out the list below and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!
- Potatoes! Baked potatoes or diced
- Sweet Corn (We love to throw it right on the grate in the husk and let the moisture inside steam the corn)
- Baked Beans!
- Asparagus or any other green vegetable
- Summer Squash and Zucchini
- Whatever else you’d like to try
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve learned something. Give cooking over the fire a shot if you get a chance. It’s a great way to connect with our roots as people and simply enjoy good food with family around the fire.