How to Select Camping Cookware

Beata's picture 

What makes family camping memorable? Oh, the outdoors, hiking, swimming and ...eating around the campfire. Even now, when we have our trailer, we still enjoy eating outside and sitting around the campfire the most. Simply put: nothing beats al fresco experience! 

But when you take your family camping you need to take enough cookware to prepare tasty food for all the members of the family. If you are car camping, the weight of the cookware is not so much of an issue, but you still may want to keep it to the minimum and only pack what is necessary and useful. If you are backpacking on the other hand, your cookware has to be lightweight and compact, so basically you have to limit yourself to aluminum pots and mini sets such as Outdoor Cookware and Utensils from Mountains Plus.

Either way camping cookware should be durable, scratch resistant (ever cleaned a burnt pan with sand?) and fire resistant, especially if you are cooking over the campfire (no plastic handles please!). Of course you are not limited to cooking over the campfire, since there are many types of camping stoves available with propane/butane stoves being the most popular.

One burner stoves can be screwed on top of a gas bottle and are great for boiling water for your coffee, tea and preparing “instant” and dehydrated food. All you need is one small pot or a tea kettle. There are also camping coffee percolators available, if coffee is a necessity in your life. If you are pressed for time you may want to invest in Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System, which boils 2 cups of water in about 90 seconds.

 If you are planning on cooking full meals for your family, two or three burner stove, such as Coleman PerfectFlow InstaStart 2-Burner Stove, would be more useful. Portable gas grills are also a good option. Some sets geared toward the camping crowd include the grill and the pots in a nice package, such as CADAC Safari Chef Lightweight Gas BBQ. You can also pick up a Coleman Fold N Go InstaStart Portable Grill by Coleman.

And then there are pot sets made of aluminum, stainless steel and titanium. While aluminum is quite inexpensive, titanium is very expensive. All of these materials have similar pitfalls: the distribution of heat is not even, it burns food easily and does not retain heat well (your food will cool down quickly if it is windy).

So what is the best option? If weight and size is not a restraint then cast-iron skillet and a Dutch oven work wonders and are very versatile. Cast iron pan can be used for frying eggs and almost anything else, while Dutch oven is great for preparing one pot family dinners or even baking. Both can work equally well over the stove or a campfire. There is just no better material that fits necessities of camping life than cast iron. If necessary a Dutch oven may play a role of a pot, oven and its lid can be used as a skillet. Have you ever tried this? Cooking in the Dutch oven is really easy and fun!

For cleaning your dishes at the campsite remember to use only the biodegradable soap (unless you are in an RV that is hooked to the sewer system) and do not scatter food particles on the ground, since they might attract wildlife. You can even use sand, salt or baking soda for scrubbing, and then disinfect with boiling water. Actually boiling water is all you need to kill germs. Did you know that bacteria thrives and multiplies between 4-60 degrees C  (4-140 F)? , so cooking your meat so it reaches at least 65 C is necessary.

Cast iron and Dutch ovens can also be cleaned by fire: keep it on your campfire till red hot and all the food inside is baked on dry. The next morning, it can be easily cleaned off. Then you need to pre-season it again with a little bit of oil. So for the overall versatility, value and ease of cleaning cast iron Dutch oven such as Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron 4-Quart Dutch Oven with Iron Cover is the best choice ..

Another thing to remember is that unwatched food burns easily while not looked after and stirred. Especially when cooking over a campfire, your food needs to be supervised. It is an art more than a science as you can quickly learn that you should not just drop your Dutch oven in the open flames and walk away. Actually it is the best to cook over the hot coals and not the open flames!

So for your next camping trip do not forget: 
-Cooler

 -One pot for boiling water, soup, rice, pasta, potatoes etc.

-Dutch oven for one-pot meals and more

-Cast iron pan

-Dishes :plates, cutlery and cups for everyone

-Cutting board

-Camping stove or grill with extra fuel, matches

-Dishwashing soap with a sponge and a scrubber

-Dishcloths

-Utensils: tongs, ladle, knives and spatula

Bon appetite!