Tips for Outdoor Cooking and One Simple Recipe
Cooking meals while camping can be overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be. I've been cooking outdoors for years and have picked up some simple tricks along the way that make it a whole lot easier to create a meal while away from the comfort of your kitchen.
The first and best tip for outdoor cooking is to pack for the kind of camping you will be doing; car or backpacking. There is no sense bringing a cast iron skillet if you are going to be in the backcountry with a pocket stove, and similarly if you are going to be close to your car and cooking over a fire a larger skillet might be more practical than a small pan.
Make a List
Plan out your meals for the entirety of your trip, make note of all the ingredients you will be using and any special utensils you may need. Check everything off your list as you pack it into your cooler or backpack before you go. You can usually get by if you forget a few things but no one wants to be known as the person who forgot a main ingredient for a campfire dinner.
Prep at Home
I will admit that there is something satisfying about cooking a whole meal from scratch on the picnic table of a campground. So if shortcuts are not you're thing and you insist on using only fresh ingredients try to prep as much as you can in your own kitchen. In the comfort of your own home take a look at the necessary ingredients for your meals. Do they call for something like chopped onions or even something more complex like pulled pork for sandwiches? If so these are things you can do at home and bag or freeze and then just throw them in a cooler. When it comes time to make dinner, all you'll have to do is reheat!
Shortcuts Are Fine
You may consider yourself a five star chef in the kitchen at home, using only the freshest organic ingredients, but it is okay to throw those notions out the window when cooking outdoors. With so many variables such as time, weather, space and keeping things cold it's okay to take a few shortcuts. A prime example of how to do this is to use canned goods when you need to. Beans, vegetables, salsa and even chicken can be found in a can. When you're trying to feed a group of hungry campers after a long day of hiking they are probably not going to care if you pop open a jar of salsa rather than use the homemade recipe they are used to.
Practice Before You Go
While you can cook pretty much anything you would on a home stove over a campfire, the same can not be said about using most small camp stoves. The main thing these portable stoves lack is real control over heat output which can make cooking up a meal quite tricky sometimes. The best way to combat this is to try out a few recipes at home before you're out on the trail. See what works and what doesn't, simple things like boiling water for pasta will never be an issue but searing that steak to perfection is probably not going to happen.
Fish and Shrimp Taco Recipe
3 tilapia fillets
1 cup of pre-cooked shrimp
1/2 cup of chopped onions
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 green pepper
1 can of black beans
Camping on the beach calls for seafood! We chose a simple fish taco recipe for this meal as it contains only a few ingredients and can be whipped up fairly quickly. We opted for those cheap frozen tilapia fillets and frozen shrimp. One, because I already had some in my freezer. Two, if you throw some in a cooler in the morning with ice by the time you're ready to cook dinner they'll be thawed out (unless of course you have one of those fancy Yeti coolers that actually keeps things cold).
Get your fire going about forty five minutes before you want to start cooking as you'll want some hot coals ready when it comes time to cook the fish. As that's burning you can chop your onions, put the beans in a pot and cut the pepper.
Once you have some good coals place a grill grate over them and grease up your pan. Allow it to heat up for a few minutes. Then put the tilapia, shrimp, onions and spices in the pan. We also put the black beans and pepper on the fire at this point.
As the fish begins to cook you can break it into smaller pieces, this will help with the cooking time, and the end product is going to be flaky anyway. Continue to stir the fish and black beans as it heats up.
The fish is done when it becomes an opaque white and can easily be shredded just by pulling at it, about ten minutes for us, but times could vary a bit based on the strength of your fire and how close you place the pan to it. Place the fish in a tortilla and top with black beans, cheese, crema and avocado!