Outdoor Living with Jeff Samsel: Campfire cooking

I don’t know whether hot dogs roasted over a campfire truly taste better than all others, but they sure seem like it. I do know that my children love suspending a skewered hot dog in the perfect place in the flames and turning it as needed until it is “just right.”

Campfire cooking can be as complex as you want to make it and can involve various kinds of specialized cookware. For simple family fun, though, two basic techniques top all in my book: skewer roasting and foil wrap baking.

For skewer roasting, think marshmallow roasting – just not necessarily with marshmallows. We use lightweight, telescoping skewers, which my children got me for a birthday. That said, a stick with the end carved to a bit of a point works nicely. Coals from a fire that has been going for a while allow for the most even cooking, but my children don’t normally want to wait for that stage. Plus, holding food in a big flame is more fun.

Hot dogs are the simplest roasting food and probably the most universally liked by all ages. Plus, they’re already cooked, so when a little chef goes straight for the flames and proudly pulls out a dog that’s black on the outside but still cool in the middle, it’s still OK to eat.

A couple of other good meat options are shrimp or boneless chicken breast or thigh meat cut into small enough strips that they cook all the way through quickly.

Various vegetables, including mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers and onions, also lend themselves nicely to fire roasting, but I’ve yet to convince my children of those merits.

The other way we like to create campfire cuisine is to wrap ingredients in foil, place the bundle among the flames and let the campfire do its magic. This technique takes a bit of experimentation to get things cooked right. However, if you make sure your foil wrap opens at the top and has enough overlap to rewrap easily, even as crinkling makes the foil smaller, you can check on what you are cooking and put it back into the fire, if needed. Use heavy foil and double it. Also, be sure you have some big tongs or a broad, sturdy spatula for getting foil wraps out of the fire.

Hot dogs are more commonly used for campfire cooking, but shrimp is a tasty option, too.

My first foil fire food experiences go back to when I was a Boy Scout. We would make pies of sorts with apples, Bisquick, water, brown sugar and cinnamon. Today, I’m more apt to go for a meal than a dessert, usually with stew meat and asparagus or other vegetables.

Because of the cooking time and temperature unknowns, I prefer to use stuff that I like at any level of doneness. A great and super simple option that might appeal more to young taste buds includes cut up hot dogs, baked beans and bacon.

There’s no perfect recipe, though. Put whatever sounds good to you in the foil, give it plenty of time to cook and see what sort of delight the campfire yields.

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