Ok, before we get started there is one thing that needs saying: this Entry involves fire and very hot objects, so don't stick your hands in anywhere hot, for too long.
What You Need
When you get started you're going to need a number of things:
- More wood
- The food
- The utensils you're going to cook with, eg pots, pans, spoons
- Some water (yes, this is needed)
- Patience (in truck loads)
- A good area to set up in
How to Make Your Fire
Without a good fire you cannot cook well, make delicious Scintillating Jewelled Scuttling Crabs nor make it in the world of cooking.
Your fire needs to be well built, preferably circular-shaped, and be burning well; the tepee method of lighting works well here. While you might be tempted to use any number of inflammable materials such as petroleum-based products to light your fire, or stoke it up, do not do it. Not only is it dangerous to do so, it will ruin the flavour of your food. Next you should build the fire up; you don't want it too big as you will need to reach the centre so you will be able to keep your food cooking properly. Once the fire is burning well, leave it. Just sit by it and gaze into it thinking about the wonders of the universe. After you've done that for a while prepare your food, in whatever campfire cooking method you would like to use.
As mentioned, a very successful fire structure is the tepee fire; this involves having an easy lighting substance inside the tepee bit, eg newspaper, and then stacking some reasonably smallish bits of wood around it, in a tepee shape. Then, light the paper all around to let the wood catch light and then slowly add bigger bits of dry wood to increase fire size (do not do this all at once as the fire either goes out, or blows a 'hot raspberry' at you). Also make sure the newspaper isn't tightly scrunched up nor the wood stacked really close together as this stops oxygen getting around and can kill your fire! Air is important to a fire.
It's Time to Cook
Let the fire burn down to the glowing red-hot embers. Once the embers are there you're in business, as these are the hot parts. Now choose the section of the fire with the most ember activity and depending on your cooking method either place your items directly in the embers or suspend them over using some ridiculous-looking contraption that will fall over if you sneeze too hard. Then just leave it to cook for however long it needs. You will have to use your own judgement here.
The Tinfoil Method
This is dead simple. Just assemble your meal and then wrap it completely in a tinfoil parcel. Place it on the embers and leave till cooked. Best for meals like jacket potatoes or banana and chocolate. You might want to turn the parcel over occasionally. Be careful taking the parcel out of the fire, and be extremely careful when opening the package as the steam will be scalding.
The Billycan Method
This is best used for meals like stew. It's perfect for boiling meals, or those that have a lot of liquid. Merely bung all the ingredients into the billycan, then place carefully onto or over the fire. Stir as needed.
This is really the simplest way of campfire cooking which is commonly used for meats and bread twists. To start with you need a knife and a stick – kids will need adult help. Remove all the bark from the tip of one end of the stick; once this is done, sterilise the stick in the fire. Then skewer your food on the stick, or wrap it round the de-barked section. After this, all you need to do is hold the food over the embers, slowly rotating it all the time until it is cooked and you feel like you're a cowboy.
Foods You Could Cook
Some suggested food you could cook for each method:
- chunks of meat1
- bread twists (mix self-raising flour and water together, knead into a dough and wrap around stick)
- marshmallows, the popular campfire treat (simpy dip the marshmallow in any optional extras eg chocolate, then heat and slightly char over the fire)
After the Party
After you've finished cooking, you can do one of three things:
- Let the fire go out
- Pour water over it to make it go out
- Or build it back up and have a campfire
Things to Bear in Mind
Now while this is all huge fun, it is also potentially very dangerous2, so the following are things you need to know.
Always have water near by (if your fire grows too big you'll need this.)
Build your fire somewhere sensible, don't put it near tents as they can catch fire so fast that anyone inside will have a tough time getting out. Keep the fire away from areas of vegetation, grass or woodland as these may also catch fire easily from sparks. The best place is an area of mud, preferably dry.
Control the size of the fire. Too small and you won't be able to cook, too large and you will lose control, so always be mindful.
Don't put anything on the fire you don't intend or need to burn. (The story of someone being burned with the hot end of a stick comes to mind.) This also includes live creatures; check very carefully that animals haven't used the wood store to hide in!
Clean up after yourself; you don't want foxes, badgers or what else coming for your leftovers – so burn them or bin them.
Make sure the fire is properly out before going away and leaving it. Cover it in water to make sure.
Never set up a campfire on peat moors. These may look safe but they are far from it. The peat can catch fire underground, so avoid this completely!