How to Cook Safely Over an Open Fire

Sausages on sticks are frying on open fire outdoor

The Mystique of Open Fire Cooking

Food prepared over a wood flame has as a specific, mouth-watering taste and smell. Cooking over an open flame is much different than stovetop cooking at home so whether you are cooking dinner for a weekend camping trip or enjoying a summer BBQ, safety should be your top concern. If you’re a novice, seek help from someone who has successfully prepared a meal over a wood-burning fire.

Food to Cook Over an Open Fire

Contrary to popular opinion, you can make a delicious meal over an open fire. You can cook just about anything over a fire. Some favorites to try on your next camping trip include:

  • Nuts – Nuts roast beautifully over a fire.
  • Peppers – You can char these directly over the coals.
  • Steak – Pair a steak with a salad for a full meal.
  • Fruit – Pineapple and fruit make a delicious dessert.
  • Potatoes – A low maintenance ingredient, wrap in foil and stick over the fire.

Check out our Pinterest board for more open fire recipes.

Create a Fire Pit

A standard fire pit should be about 8 to 10 inches deep and 2 to 2 .5 feet in diameter. Many campsites offer a fire pit with a flat surface to grill or cook on.

If you are having a bonfire later in the night (perhaps you are making s’mores) then you might want to make it bigger. PRO TIP: Keep the dirt from the fire pit to the side. When you leave or are done cooking you can use the dirt to help extinguish the fire. Be sure to store the shovel away from walkways to avoid tripping.

Control The Heat

You need the flame to heat the coals, but for most meals you will want to utilize the heat of the charcoal to cook your food, not the direct flame. Once your coals are hot and you are ready to cook you can control the heat by adding or subtracting coals or moving your pans and pots closer or further away from the fire.

Set Fire Safety Rules

If you are cooking over a fire, you should follow some general rules, especially if children are in the general vicinity:

  • Do not put anything in the fire unless it is food.
  • Do not run around the fire.
  • Do not burn anything green (green means the plant is still living).
  • Never leave the fire unattended.
  • Always ensure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving the area or going to sleep.
  • Always know where the fire supplies are stored (wood, matches, coal).
  • Always keep a “fire bucket”, a bucket of water nearby should an emergency happen.
  • Always wear appropriate clothing (nothing baggy that can accidently catch on fire).

Use the Right Materials

A fire gives off extreme heat. Any pots and pans with rubber grips will melt and create a horrible smell over an open fire. Shiny cookware, like aluminum, will get very dirty over an open flame. It is best to cook with a cast iron pan.

It is equally important to have something that enables you to remove the pot or pan from the fire. Remember, the entire pan will be hot, including the handle. Dishtowels and rubber grips usually do the trick.

Remember, Safety comes first. If you’re not sure how to prepare, fire up or create an open fire pit, get a mentor.

There’s no reason to be stuck in the kitchen all the time. Invite friends and family over, relax and enjoy the warmth and the delicious flavor of cooking over an open fire.

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