As city-dwellers, we seriously appreciate a bit of time outside the concrete jungle and in the real jungle (well, nature of some kind, anyway). After one of our amazing customers shared pictures of cooking Plated meals on a recent camping trip, we got inspired. Eating al fresco (or, um, al forest-o) doesn’t have to mean sacrificing beautiful, delicious meals in favor of canned beans and hot dogs—quite the opposite! Here are some of our favorite tips for cooking and eating well while camping.
1. Get the Right Tools
If you’re a frequent—or aspiring—camper who loves cooking, consider purchasing some slightly more heavy duty equipment. While cooking over a fire is enjoyable, it can be pretty challenging to build, not to mention unreliable in terms of heat. A camping stove is a worthy investment: not only is it portable, it ensures easier, and more even cooking on the ‘site. While a camping stove is more of an optional (but super helpful) purchase, a cooler is an absolute necessity, as are grilling utensils and a good set of sturdy pots and pans.
2. Pick Dishes with Minimal Prep
Just because you’re cooking and eating in the wilderness, there’s no need to dumb down your food preferences and menu selections. However, with the limited workspace available and a lack of dish-washing facilities, paring down your prep work is a must. A camping trip is not the time to try out your favorite garnish-heavy pho recipe or heat-sensitive chocolate mousse cake. Go for hearty, non-fussy meals, like our customer Kat, who prepared our Cheesy Beef Burritos or Grilled Chicken Cobb on her camping trip—tasty, filling, and outdoor-friendly.
3. Mason Jars (and Prepping Ahead) Are Your Friend
Kat, our trusty camp-cooking guide, swears by Mason jars for her frequent outdoor adventures, using them to organize her utensils onsite, and for pre-prepped ingredients: “Plated compliments my breakfast cooking routine where I usually crack my eggs into a mason jar and season them ahead of time” she says. If she’s feeling particularly “lazy” (her words, not ours—we think it’s ingenious!), she preps her coffee in Mason jars ahead of time, too! That got us thinking, why not pre-batch cocktails in Mason jars too?
4. Reinvent the Vessel
Unlike eating at home, digging in around a campfire is a more minimal experience with less utensils, less space, and less options. So, think outside the bowl, and create streamlined yet delicious meals that are easily prepared with fewer items. Foil-wrapped dishes like veggie packets flavored with herbs or smoky corn are simple crowd-pleasers that can be placed straight on the fire and require minimal cleanup. Also, wrap ingredients in other ones: consider stuffing hearty vegetables like squash and potatoes with fillings, then cooking them directly over the fire for a flavorful dish that’s easy to prep and clean. When it comes to dessert, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits make great vessels for other ingredients, and there are few things as tasty as a banana stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate, roasted over a fire until perfectly gooey.