When you’re camping, you want always to be sure that you properly cook your food. Not only does cook time and temperature affect how your meal turns out, but the material in which your pan is made of will have a significant impact on how your food turns out.
If you’re cooking over an open fire, stainless steel or aluminum will work to prepare your meal. Although you can use these types of metals, always be sure of the pot that you’re using, and be sure that the fire is suitable for cooking!
Once you finish this article, we have another one that you will love- Find Out What Skillets to Use On A Campfire And How To Use Them
Here’s what we will cover to get you cooking in no time.
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Cooking Over a Fire with Aluminum
Cooking with aluminum over an open fire is a bit of a tricky situation. In one sense, a fire can reach temperatures that can actually melt the metal of the pan; in another sense, a strategically built fire can be perfect for using aluminum.
If you plan to cook over an open fire with aluminum, you want to make sure that your pot or pan is not directly in the fire. Campfires can reach up to 2,012 degrees Fahrenheit; aluminum can melt at 1,221 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes issues if you plan to put your pot or pan directly on coals or directly in the flame.
To cook with aluminum on an open fire, you’ll want to find a way to elevate the pot or pan about six to eight inches above the fire. This method allows the pot or pan to get hot, but not reach the max temperature of the campfire.
As long as you follow one of the methods (listed below) for cooking with aluminum, you will have no issues with your cookware. In addition to the methods below, be sure to use some type of cooking oil, as aluminum is not usually non-stick!
Cooking Over a Fire with Stainless Steel
Cooking over an open fire is a very rewarding way to prepare your meal. Whether you’re cooking meat or merely making a grilled cheese sandwich, there’s something about open fire cooked foods that tastes fantastic. Cooking things like hot dogs and hamburgers have a nice grilled taste when you cook over an open fire.
Similar to aluminum, an improper fire or direct heat can actually melt stainless steel. While the melting point of stainless steel is more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit higher than aluminum, it is still lower than the temperature of the campfire.
When building your campfire, you’ll want to find a way to elevate the pot or pan above the fire. Placing a pot or pan directly in the fire or on top of the coals can cause damage to the pot, as well as ruin your food.
As with aluminum, most stainless steel pans are not non-stick, so be sure to use cooking oil when using the pot or pan. Many stainless steel pans can be seasoned, which creates a non-stick coating to the pan!
Types of Campfires That Work With Aluminum or Stainless Steel
As already mentioned, you must find a way to elevate your pot or pan above the fire to avoid melting or damaging your cookware. There are products that you can purchase that will help you achieve this, but there are also fire building methods that will help!
The cabin method is an excellent way to build a campfire that is suitable for cooking. This fire is created by crossing branches or sticks in a box shape. The more you stack, the structure begins to look like a log cabin.
Once you have established the cabin structure, you will pile small leaves and twigs in the center of the structure. As this small fire begins to burn, the outside wood of the structure will start to burn.
Once your fire has gotten hot, you can add large branches to the top of the fire that will help suspend your pot or pan above the fire. These two branches will allow the pot or pan to be directly over the fire, without letting the cookware touch the coals. It is the radiating heat from the fire that cooks the food, not the fire itself!
The teepee method is the most common method used for building a campfire. To build this fire, you will stand sticks straight up and lean them against another stick. Keep repeating this process until you have what looks like a teepee made of sticks.
Once you’ve built the teepee structure, similar to the cabin method, you will start a fire in the middle of the structure with leaves and small twigs. This method will create a large fire much quicker than the cabin method, but it will take longer to create a surface in which you can place your pot or pan.
Once the fire has burned down to a flatter structure, you can place two large branches over the fire to create a place to put your pan out of the direct flame. Add small sticks as needed to keep the fire burning.
Flat Rock Method
The flat rock method works with either the teepee method or the cabin method when building your fire. To create this cooking surface, you’ll need a large rock that’s no more than one to two inches thick. If you’re camping near a creek or river, this won’t be hard to find.
Once you’ve found a suitable rock, place it in your fire pit and build the fire around it. Once the fire has burned down most of the way, the rock will have absorbed much of the heat that the fire has created.
Place your pot or pan on the rock, and the heat from the rock will be enough to cook your food! This is a tricky method, but once you have mastered it, it is very effective. Keep your fire burning around the rock if you need to cook something that will take a while. Keeping the fire around the rock will help retain heat in the rock, creating a more consistent cooking surface!
While we’ve been over the methods for suspending your pot over the fire, you can also purchase stands that are designed to suspend your pot or pan over the campfire. These stands are usually inexpensive and work very well.
If you’re backpacking, building something to suspend your pot or pan is the best, as that will require you to carry less gear. If you’re RV or car camping, a stand may be the most effective option for you!
Things to Avoid When Using Stainless or Aluminum on A Campfire
- Never use a pot or pan that has a non-stick coating. This type of cookware is not intended for use on an open fire, and the non-stick coating and break down and end up in your food. This can cause both health issues and poor-tasting meals.
- Never place your aluminum or stainless steel cookware directly in a fire. These types of metal have a melting point that is much less than the temperature that a campfire can reach.
- Always be sure to use a pot or pan that has a metal handle. Plastic or rubber coated handles can melt when used over an open fire. Non-coated handles and a pot holder are the most ideal types of pots and pans for cooking on an open fire.
No matter which way you choose to cook over a campfire, there are many different options. Aluminum and stainless steel are both suitable for cooking over a campfire, but cast iron is the best option.
When cooking over a campfire, always pay close attention, as it is easy to get burned. Use a pot holder to grab your pot or pan from the fire. When cooking over an open fire, it is much easier to get burned than when cooking on a stove, as the heat source is much larger than a stove.
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