Outdoor cooking differs substantially from kitchen-based cooking, the most obvious difference being lack of an easily defined kitchen area. As a result, campers and backpackershave developed a significant body of techniques and specialized equipment for preparing food in outdoors environments. Such techniques have traditionally been associated with nomadiccultures such as the Berbers of North Africa, the Arab Beduins, the Plains Indians and pioneers of North America, and have been carried down to and refined in modern times for use during recreational outdoors pursuits.

Direct heat

The most traditional method for outdoor cooking (and indeed the oldest form of cooking known to humanity) is by means of a campfire. Campfires can be used for cooking food by a number of techniques. The techniques for cooking on a campfire are no different from those used for everyday cooking before the invention of stoves or where stoves are still not available.


In backpacking particularly, boiling water is the most common kitchen operation undertaken on the trail, used for cooking or reconstituting food, making hot beverages, cleaning up, and even sanitizing drinking water.


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. 


Grills are simple to use and food being grilled tends to 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. Hand-held grills, aka broiler that clamp over the food may be used for various tasks like warming food, grilling burgers or sausages or making toast. In cases where open fires are not allowed, lightweight charcoal grills (sometimes considered a type of hibachi) are sometimes used for direct grilling of food.


Camp frying pans often lack handles for easy packing, with the camp cook using a clamp-like device to pick up and move the pan. Camp frying pans are generally made out of very thin metal (though some campers do use cast iron pans for this purpose as well), so extra care must be taken to evenly cook the food, especially over the small-diameter flame of a portable stove.


Putting a baking sheet pan over a furnace can allow for baking, which is in turn derived from the concept of the masonry oven. Ovens can be made from cast iron, sheet metal or aluminum foil covered cardboard box. Reflector ovens are metal containers designed to surround an article of food being baked over an open flame and reflect the heat back towards the food.

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