Camping Meals- The Basics

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When I’m out camping I love a good, hearty meal. But I definitely don’t want to spend several hours preparing the meal, cooking it and then cleaning up afterwards. I want to enjoy a tasty meal that will keep me fueled for my outdoor activities with as little hassle as possible.

Many people approach this problem by bringing up the case of cup of the noodles. Or perhaps they live through the weekend on nothing but granola bars. But this is not my idea of a tasty meal nor is it full of the calories and nutrients that you’re going to need in the great outdoors.

My easy camping meal solution is something I like to call “Camp Pockets”. Camp Pockets are meals that I prepare ahead of time at home. You can make some very good meals in the comfort of your own home, out of the weather, and have them prepared and ready for a great meal by the camp fire. Camp Pockets are wrapped in aluminum foil and then frozen to keep them good and fresh.

Freezing these meals and putting them into the cooler helps cool the rest of the food, too. I also freeze water bottles and put them in as well. On a long camping trip, they will help to keep things cool and are refreshing when they thaw.  With the entire menu frozen at the start of the camping trip, my food can easily last a week in the campground, without having to get more ice for the cooler.

I’ve come up with a number of recipes that work well for this type of meal, which I’ll share later. First I’d like to talk about the basic idea of how to wrap your Camp Pockets properly.

Camp Pockets

Put your food into the center of a 12 inch by 12 inch sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil.  The idea is to be able to fold both sides of the aluminum foil up the middle.  Then compress that seam and fold it over itself at least three times.  This way you’ll have a single layer of aluminum foil around your entire meal, so it cooks evenly and quickly.  A very common mistake I see is that the meal is wrapped in multiple layers of foil.  This actually creates a thermal barrier between these two sheets of aluminum foil which stops much of the campfire heat from getting to your food.  Once you have one seam prepared snugly against your food, repeat the same folding technique on both ends.  Fold each corner in at a 45° angle.  Then fold it flat until it fits snugly against your food.  Doing this to both sides ensures a tight and sealed package for your food. This seal keeps all the good stuff in and helps to cook you meal. If you have holes or leaks in the pocket meal, the moisture will leak out and the food may burn or be undercooked.

It’s best to make your food as flat as possible.  If the meal is thick,  it will take longer to cook and the center of the meal may end up undercooked. When you are ready for your meal,  just place your meal on the grill over a nice cooking fire or stove on medium and cook each side for 10 minutes.  This should be plenty to cook most any meal that you prepare and this way.

Now it’s time for some recipes. Feel free to experiment with ingredients and with different meals, but keep in mind, your biggest enemy is too much moisture.

Camping Breakfast – Breakfast Burrito

My favorite pocket meal is my breakfast burrito. My camping buddies request these from me! They are just ground sausage, bacon, potatoes, cheese and eggs all wrapped in a large flour tortilla and pressed flat.  It’s a full course breakfast meal without the hassle and mess of cooking any of these things individually.  Toss it on the fire while you make your coffee, and flip it while you’re enjoying your first cup and when you’re done (or ready for your second cup), pull it out of the fire.  A lot of people like to have salsa in their breakfast burrito, but I’d advise against any sauce in the burrito itself, as it will turn the insides to mush after a few days. You should store your sauce separately.

  • 1/2 cup Frozen Cooked Potatoes
  • 1/3 Cup Cooked Sausage (cooled)
  • 1/3 Cup Scrambled Egg (cooled)
  • TBSP Bacon Pieces
  • 1/3 Cup Cheese
  • 1 Large Tortilla

Lunch – Hot or Cold Sandwich

For my lunch I usually make a simple ham and cheese sandwich on a hoagie roll. You can use any meat and cheese for this. I lightly butter both sides of the bread to act as a moisture barrier from the ham. It keeps the bread from getting soggy.  I place cheese on the bottom and top of the bread and put a generous layer of ham between the cheese slices.  Then I wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil.  Then I can have a hot ham and cheese at the campfire or stove or I can throw it into a backpack and take it with me on the trail or down by the lake.  It’s best to avoid mayo or mustard and any vegetables. I freeze these sandwiches with the rest of my food, and vegetables and sauces will not turn out well.

  • 1 Long and Flat Hoagie Roll
  • 4 Slices of Cheese
  • 1/4 lb Lunch Meat
  • 2 tsp Butter

The Campers Dinner – Steak and Potatoes

I’ve experimented with different dinners, and I’ll post those recipes later. My favorite meal so far is a steak and potatoes dinner.  Take some cube steak and a tablespoon of butter and mix the two together really well.  You want to try to seal in as much of the moisture from the meat as possible. Lay out your aluminum foil and put down a layer of the frozen oven roasted seasoned potatoes.  Then add your buttered steak.  Sprinkle in some broccoli and corn or any other vegetables of your choice.  I also enjoy a generous dusting of cheese and some garlic salt.  This adds some good flavor to the final cooked meal.  Fold your aluminum foil up around this meal and place it in the freezer with the rest of your food.  When you’re ready to eat, 10 minutes a side sitting directly on the coals and you’ll have a steak and potatoes meal at the camp fire with no mess.

  • 1 Cup Oven Roasted Frozen Potatoes
  • 1 Cup Cubed Steak
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Vegetables
  • 1/2 Cup Cheese
  • 1 tsp Garlic Salt

I like to use grilling baskets to protect your hands from the heat, and it makes putting your meals into the fire nice, easy and safe.  To eat these meals you should put the hot pocket meal seam-down onto a paper plate, and then cut an X across the entire top of the meal. Fold the edges back and enjoy!

These meals have become a staple on all of my camping trips. I’ll take a package of hot dogs, some cup of noodles or some canned beef stew, but I rarely ever open these up.  They are just my backup food should I need more or accidently ruin a pocket meal. It’s always good to have a little extra food.

If for some reason you do not or cannot have a fire, you can cook these in the oven for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.  You can also take a large pot and set the package on a small rack or cup within it.  Make sure to cover the top of your impromptu oven.

I hope this helps you to create some very good meals for the campfire. Eating these kinds of meals probably saves me an hour every day out on vacation that I used to spend cooking and cleaning. Of course, this leaves more time for hiking, fishing or just enjoying the company of my fellow campers.  Keep checking back for more recipes for meals and giving you some more specific pointers about eating and camping.

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