Vahishta Mistry is a traveling foodie, who quit his job, sold his house and is currently backpacking and blogging his way across the US, Central and South America.
I recently spent about ten days camping in Utah, and every meal I had was on a
bonfire – so I thought I’d do a quick guest post showing off what I learned!
First off, you must realize that cooking over coals or fresh firewood improves the
taste of food like nothing I’ve ever tasted. The dried mesquite wood indigenous to
the Utah region provides a wonderful flavor even to such normally insipid items as
rice. I found myself using less salt and spices so as to properly appreciate the woody,
The best thing to make when outside and cooking on an open wood or charcoal
flame, is steak. My traveling companions and I bought some nice thick beef steaks
from a local supermarket and froze them for our camping trip. Every evening, we’d
pull out a couple and defrost them, drizzling them in olive oil, salt and pepper an
hour or so in advance.
Building up the flames is an art in itself. A good rule of thumb is to have the coals
be hot enough that placing your hand about 6 inches above the coals becomes
uncomfortable after about six seconds. That’s when you know the heat is just right.
Of course, a complete meal doesn’t consist of just meat. We cut up some broccoli,
cauliflower, beans, carrots and onions, drizzled oil, some fresh rosemary and thyme
and then stuck them in packets of aluminium foil and placed them directly onto
coals. The sizzling noise and the aroma tends to drive you a bit nuts with hunger,
especially after a good day of hiking, but the results are well worth it. Another good
option is to cut a potato in half, scoop out a bit of the inside from each hemisphere
and then spoon in some cheese and butter. Re-form the potato by putting the halves
together, then wrap in foil and place on the coals. In about 35 minutes you’ll have
the best potato meal you’ve ever eaten in your life.
The steaks themselves are an art. You want to cook them thoroughly but not burn
them or lose the juicy pink in the centres. Usually this comes down to timing and
practice but a good trick is to look for when the fat comes dripping down. Turn at
that point and you should be ok!
Finally, a point about presentation. Because you’re most likely in rustic
surroundings, even a little bit goes a long way when it comes to presentation. A
spring of parsley, some garlic sauce laced across the steak and the veggies arranged
artfully across the plate can make a huge difference in the way your meal is
Good luck with your camping cuisine and let us know how you fared (or even share
your own tips) in the comments section below!
Hope you enjoyed this post, you can also follow Vahishta’s blog on http://www.vahishta.com