Cooking on an open fire in a cast iron pan conjures up images of rugged old west cowboys sitting around a campfire under the starry Montana sky. Cooking on an open fire isn’t just for old west cowboys and isn’t a thing of the past! In fact, it is quite easy to do and adds an element of fun to serving up a meal when camping or even in your own backyard.
We love to cook and bake off grid in our cast iron dutch ovens (here’s how we do that if you want to learn!) Sometimes you don’t need a full size dutch oven and want to cook in a cast iron skillet. No need to pack along a camp stove, simply use your campfire! We love to cook bacon, eggs, venison steaks, chili, pretty much anything we would normally cook on our stove top in the house we can cook on an open fire.
How to Cook on an Open Fire
Cooking on an open fire requires a few basic kitchen items.
- Cast iron pan (this is the one we use the most)
- Oven mitt or thick leather glove
- long handled kitchen utensils like spoon, spatula or tongs
Since you’re cooking near a hot open flame with a hot pan, it is important to have good hand protection. We keep an oven mitt and leather gloves in our camping kitchen box so we always have them available. It is also helpful to have long handled cooking utensils. Using a dinner fork to flip bacon when cooking on an open flame can get a bit toasty! Instead we use a big pair of tongs to flip the bacon.
Step 1: Make a campfire. The fire will need to burn for at least a half hour or more to create a good amount of hot coals. We camp off the beaten path and always have makeshift rock encircled campfires. We make our campfire off to one side of the circle of rocks so the fire will continue to burn and produce more coals to use as we’re cooking.
Step 2: Find four rocks about the size of a softball with tops as flat as you can find. Sit the rocks in a square formation inside the campfire circle on the opposite side of the fire. Leave a space in the center of the rocks where the coals will be placed. Sit your pan on top of the rocks and test out how level it is. You’re in nature so it won’t be a perfect level but you want to make sure it isn’t tipped far to one side.
Step 3: With a long stick, scrape some hot coals from the fire across the fire pit to the center of the rock formation. If you want to cook on a hot/high heat, bring in a lot of coals. If you want a lower heat, only bring in a few coals.
Step 4: Sit your cast iron pan on top of the rocks and start cooking. As you continue cooking, the coals may start to cool off. If you notice the heat level starting to drop replace the coals with fresh ones. You can do this by using your long stick to scrape out the old coals and bring in new ones. (Which is why it is important to keep your campfire going while you cook!)
Learning how to cook on an open fire is a handy skill to have. Whether you’re camping, living off grid or find yourself at home without power. Making a fire and cooking on an open flame isn’t just for cowboys of the old west!