Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cooking on a campfire
Campfires can be used for cooking food by a number of techniques. Cooking food using a campfire can be tricky for those not accustomed to it and campfires are illegal in many areas so many campers prefer to use a portable stove instead. The techniques for cooking on a campfire are no different than those used for everyday cooking before the invention of stoves or where stoves are still not available. Individuals who are backpacking in an area that allows the gathering of firewood may decide to cook on a campfire to avoid the need to carry extra equipment; however, most campfire cooking is done in front-country campgrounds.
Possibly the simplest method of cooking over a campfire and one of the most common is to roast food on long skewers that can be held above the flames. This is a popular technique for cooking hot dogs or roasting marshmallows for making S'mores. Another technique is to use pie irons -- a small iron mold with long handles, into which can be placed slices of bread with some form of filling -- which are placed over hot coals to cook.
Grills are also simpler to use and they tend to make the food pick up flavors from the smoke. Grills over a campfire are used in the same way as ordinary charcoal barbecues. If the food is simply placed on the grill, it may catch fire so it requires constant attention. Handleheld grills that clamp over the food may be used for various tasks like warming food, grilling burgers or sausages or making toast.
A pot hanging over the fire, although picturesque, may spill, and the rigging may be difficult to construct from found wood. Generally this is done with metal rigging, much of it identical to that historically used in home fireplaces before the invention of stoves. Two vertical iron bars with an iron cross-piece allow pots to be hung at various heights or over different temperatures of fire. Griddles, grills and skewers can also be hung over the fire. When working with wood, one may use two tripods, lashed with tripod lashings, but the rope will be liable to melt or burn. Dovetail joints are more secure, but difficult to carve.
Dutch ovens are specially designed for camping. The oven is placed in a bed of hot coals, often from a keyhole fire with additional coals placed on top of the lid, which usually has a raised rim to keep the coals from falling off. Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, and are not suitable for backpacking. Dutch ovens are convenient for cooking dishes that take a long time such as stews, joints of meat and baked goods. They are the not the only option for baking on a campout as devices for baking on portable stoves exist and clay ovens can be constructed at longer encampments.
Reflector ovens are placed on the ground next to the fire, and gather thermal radiation from it.
Other simple methods include plank grilling where food is cooked on a wooded plank set vertically next to the fire and hot stone cooking where food is placed on a heated stone next to or even in the fire or sometimes hot stones are dropped into a pot.
Another technique is the baking of food in aluminium foil packets. Food is wrapped inside a durable packet of tin or aluminum foil, crimped to seal, and placed on or under hot coals. Baked potatoes are a common food cooked this way.
Special precautions are required for camping in bear country because cooking activities and food storage attract these large and potentially dangerous animals. Food preparation and food storage must be located a safe distance from sleeping areas so a campfire near camp cannot be used for cooking.
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