Campfire cooking not just for camping

posted July 11, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Janelle Thomas

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We are now officially in the thick of summer, and for some families, that means sneaking some time in their schedule for camping trips. While there are a few things I don’t particularly enjoy about living in the great outdoors, I absolutely love camping food. For me camping food is anything prepared at a picnic table and cooked over an open fire in a Dutch oven or on a grill.

Our poor camper sits lonely in the backyard these days, but the grill on our deck and the addition of a brick fire pit and surrounding patio to our yard means camping food is still a fun option when it comes to meal time. It also means we can sleep in our own beds and have hot showers.

One versatile cooking method for outdoor cooking is foil packets. These are easy to prepare, easy to clean up and can be customized for each person. They can be cooked on the grill, over a fire or even in an oven, and almost any meat or vegetable or combination thereof will make a delicious foil packet meal.

The only trick to foil packet cooking is to prepare ingredients so they cook in about the same length of time. Keeping pieces of similar size is key, but also note that chunks of carrots may not cook as fast as a similar-sized piece of beef, so consider slicing the carrot very thin or julienning it.

To make the foil packet, use heavy-duty aluminum foil in a double layer. Use a minimum of 12-inch sheets. Do not short yourself because each packet needs to puff up during cooking to create steam to cook the packet filling. To ensure even cooking, be careful not to put too much food in each packet. Pile the selected ingredients for one serving in the middle of each foil sheet, season and add two to three tablespoons of liquid, such as stock, wine, soy sauce, your favorite marinade or butter, and carefully close and crimp the edges together to seal the aluminum foil around the ingredients, creating a packet. Be sure it is sealed tightly so the steam stays in the packet.

Cook the packets in a 350 degree oven, over indirect heat on the grill or over a campfire. Cook for about 30 minutes. They may take a bit more or a little less time depending on ingredients. Use tongs and hot pads to check one packet to make sure the food is cooked well. A little practice will quickly tell you how long certain kinds of meat and vegetables take. Let the packets cool a bit before serving with rice, beans, pasta or fresh fruit.

For meats, consider beef, fish fillets, chicken breasts, pork, shrimp or scallops. Carrots, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, green beans, snow peas and chopped tomatoes are some great vegetable options. Great seasonings include salt, pepper, lemongrass, lemon slices, herbs and ginger.

Even if camping isn’t on your bucket list this summer, don’t miss out on the delicious food that can be made right in your backyard.

Thomas can be reached at