Outdoorsman - Outdoor Cooking


Cooking and eating are an adventure. Eating is fun and so is fixing food to eat. There are so many activities that offer an opportunity to cook and eat. There is just something about camp cooking that is special. Cooking outdoors requires a different set of rules and equipment. Take time to plan some activities that will include food preparation, whether it is brought in a paper sack or food that will be prepared by the boys. Even cooking a hot dog or marshmallow can be a real challenge - having it cook just right and not burnt. Cooking is a skill and cooking outdoors with charcoal, wood or a buddy burner will take some skill. Take time to talk about what you plan to cook, discuss safety and practice fire building.

It is fun to beat eggs, mix pancakes, make a milkshake or cherry cobbler. It can be lots of fun as long as you know what you are doing. Don't be too ambitious to start with, remember the age of boys you are working with. Do simple recipes and progress as their skills develop. Outdoor food does not have to be cooked. A good lunch can be part of the day without having to take time out to cook. Maybe the first venture could be an after school snack.


Start out by getting yourself ready to cook.

  • Protect your clothes from spills by putting on an apron; then wash your hands.
  • Read the entire recipe carefully.
  • Organize the bowls, spoons, pans and other equipment that you will need.
  • Read and know about making fires and fire safety.
  • Have all the ingredients for the recipe. Measure ingredients accurately. Follow the recipe mixing the ingredients.
  • While the product is cooking, put things away and clean up your work area.
  • Stay near your food. If you forget them, they will cook too long and burn.
  • Turn pot handles away from the edge so no one will bump the handle and cause pot to spill.
  • Always use potholders when handling hot pans. Keep all towels, pot holders, clothes and hair away from the flames.
  • Learn how to use a knife.


  • Pack charcoal in a paper egg carton and tie shut. When ready to use, just light the carton.
  • For a wood fire, use candle pieces wrapped (like candy) in wax paper. Light the paper and the wax will keep it going long enough to ignite your kindling.
  • Handy fire starters (never-fail) can be made by placing one charcoal briquette in each section of an egg carton (paper kind). Cover with melted wax. Tear apart and use.
  • Handy fire starter. Save lint out of lint filter in clothes dryer.
  • Place lint under kindling and use as tinder.
  • Put a burger fresh from the grill into the bun and place in a plastic bag for about a minute. The bun will be steamed warm.
  • Let a pan or bucket of water heat on the fire while you eat and your dish water will be ready when you are.
  • Melted paraffin, applied inside and outside a cooler leak will seal it.
  • A bar of soap will stay clean on a cookout if kept in the end of an old stocking and hung in a tree.
  • For safety, always keep a bucket of water nearby when cooking outside.
  • When camping, choose foods that keep well with little or no refrigeration. Check out instant and dehydrated foods.
  • Cool the ice chest before you fill it. The ice will last much longer.
  • Cans of frozen juice can help keep other foods cold when packing your ice chest.
  • Freeze fresh meat before putting in cooler. It will last longer and also help keep other foods cold. Even make hamburger patties and freeze with double paper between each.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to start a fire and wait for wood or briquettes to be ready.
  • Brush grates of a grill with oil to prevent meat from sticking.
  • Don't forget to rub the outside of metal pans with liquid detergent - it sure helps when it comes time to clean up.


You won't want to spend your whole day cooking while in camp. In the beginning, cooking will take up a lot of your time, but soon you'll learn a number of tricks that will get you out of the "kitchen" quickly.

One of the most important tricks in camp cookery is to have exactly the right kind of fire ready for the job on hand when you start cooking- quick flames if you have boiling to do, low flames for stewing, a bed of glowing coals for frying and broiling.

In the kitchen at home, your oven can be set for the exact temperature called for in a recipe. When camping, you can come close to determining correct temperature by learning the trick of counting seconds while holding your palm in at place where food will go.

A cookbook will call for specific measurements by the teaspoon, tablespoon, or cup. In camp, your fingers and palm will do. The measurements on the next page are for the average hand. Find out how they fit your hand by testing them at home against a measuring spoon and cup.

As you pick up other cooking tricks, make a note of them. You will find that they will come in handy sooner or later.


Before you cook outdoors you must have a fire. Remember that the fire makes the success of the cooking. Learn when to have a quick hot fire, when to have good coals, when to plan for a fire that burns for a long while. Firebuilding and cooking go hand in hand.

Building a fire is a big responsibility. Build a fire only where and if you have permission. You need a grown up around when building a fire. Care of the fire and fire prevention becomes the responsibilities of the person who lights the match. A good camper knows not only how to light a fire, but also how to put it out. When he is finished, he makes sure every ember is out and cleans up the fire site.

Wood Fires

Have and safe and suitable place for your fire. It could be built in a park, a campsite or a driveway. Clear away anything that can burn - leaves, grass, paper,etc.

Have a bucket of water ready to put out the fire.

Collect your equipment before you start.

For a fire to burn three things are required:

  • FUEL - material that will burn.
  • HEAT - enough heat to bring fuel to ignition.
  • AIR - to provide oxygen for burning process.

When one of the three things is removed, the fire stops burning. Water cools fuel below ignition point, dirt cuts off the oxygen supply.

A fire needs three different kinds of fire material - tinder, kindling and fuel. The match lights the tender, the tender lights the kindling, and the kindling starts the fuel burning.

  • TINDER - should start to burn as soon as it is touched with a lighted match. Use thin twigs, tops of dried weeds, wood shavings, dryer lint, etc.
  • KINDLING - is little sticks and can be as small as a pencil or as thick as your thumb.
  • FUEL - is the larger wood that keeps your fire going. Do not use green or freshly cut wood, it does not burn well.

Stack the wood in three separate piles far enough away from the fire, so that no sparks can fly into stacks.

Building Your Fire

Using larger pieces of wood, form an "A" on the ground. Get your tinder and kindling. You will need two handfuls of kindling. Put the tinder on the "A" instead of the ground. This way the tinder has air underneath it and there is space for your match.

Light the match. Kneel near the fire and strike the match away from you. Tip the match down so that the flame catches on the match stick. On a windy day, kneel with your back to the wind and cup your hands around the match.

Now light the tinder. Carefully add more tinder. You may need to blow at the base of the fire.

Add kindling. When the tinder has started to burn, add kindling. Start with small pieces. Remember to keep close together but allow space for air.

Types of Fire

  • TEPEE FIRE: This a good fire for quick cooking since the heat is concentrated on one spot. It looks like a tepee. Stack the fuel over the foundation fire. The foundation fire will start the fuel burning. Add fuel as you need it.
  • CRISSCROSS FIRE: This type is long lasting and makes good coals. It is good for a campfire. To make this, lay fuel over the foundation fire in a crisscross pattern. Be sure to leave room for air. Add fuel as needed.
  • REFLECTOR BAKING: This type of fire is built against a high back of rocks or logs; a wire screening over coals is good for roasting corn.

After you are finished with your fire make sure it is out by:

  • Scattering ashes or embers
  • Sprinkling with water
  • Drenching charred logs
  • Covering with dirt or sand

When you can hold your hand on the spot where the fire was and not feel any warmth, your fire is out.

Cooking With Charcoal

To start charcoal fires make and use fire starters or a starter can. Charcoal starts slowly. Allow at least 30 minutes before fire is ready to use. To start charcoal use one of the following methods:

  • Place small twigs or fire starters close together as a base. Leave an air space beneath starters. Place charcoal on top of this. Light the fire starters, and gradually add a few more briquets, one at a time.
  • Use a starter can.

Charcoal will be grey-white in the daylight and red at night when ready.


Cut both ends from a one gallon can, or large juice can. Make vent holes with a pop can opener around one end of the large can. To use, place can inside grill or on a pan or tray, crumple three full size sheets of newspaper into balls. Place newspaper in bottom of starter can or fill it half way with twigs. Cover with charcoal. Light the newspaper rough the vent holes. When charcoal is glowing, remove can with a pair of pliers. One charcoal briquette equals 40 degrees of temperature.


You need:

  • Tin can (#10 or larger)
  • Roll-type can opener
  • Punch opener
  • Wire for handle
  • Three pieces sturdy wire screen

1. Remove top of can with roll-type can opener. Punch airholes with punch opener around top and bottom of can.

2. Stick ends of wire through two of the holes at top and twist to make a handle.

3. Push wire screen half way down into can to make a grate. This holds charcoal near top for cooking and keeps air under charcoal. To keep screen from lipping, cul second piece of screen into a coil, and put between grate screen and bottom of stove.

  1. Make a stove top out of the third piece of wire screen. This supports your hamburger or the cook pot.


Set the stove on cleared ground and put tinder on the grate. When tinder is burning briskly, drop charcoal into fire. Swing the stove by the handle now and then to keep the charcoal burning.


You need:

  • #10 tin can
  • Pair of tin snips
  • Gloves
  • Roll-type can opener
  • Punch opener
  • Hammer

1. Remove lid from tin can using roll-type can opener. This open end will be the bottom of your stove.

2. Cut door in stove. Wearing gloves, take the tin snips and cut from the open end two slits three inches apart and three inches long. Bend this piece of tin back into can and hammer it flat.

3. Punch with the punch opener two or three small holes at the top of the can on the side opposite the door. These are your air holes and serve as a chimney.


Find a level spot for the stove so food will not run over the side. If stove is not level, put a twig under the low edge.

Press the stove in the dirt so that it makes a ring. Then put it aside. Make a small fire of twigs in the ring. Keep fire small but steady. You can also use a Buddy Burner. (See directions for making.)

Put the stove over the twig fire or Buddy Burner. The stove will get very hot so do not touch it.

The first time you use your stove you will have to wipe the finish off the tin can after the stove has heated up. Hold stove with a pot holder and wipe off with a paper towel.


A Buddy burner is fuel and can be used with a vagabond stove. It is also good emergency fuel to have on hand if your stove at home should not work. You can use it in a driveway or an inside fireplace or when you cannot have an open fire. The smoke is very black so do not use it in a room.

You need: A shallow tin can (tuna or cat/dog food)

  • Corrugated cardboard, cut in strips just a little narrower than depth of can
  • Paraffin, in a tin can
  • Lid from a larger can
  • Pot of water on stove

1. Roll cardboard into a coil that fits loosely into the can.

2. Melt the paraffin. Paraffin should always be melted in a tin can set in a pot of water on the stove. Use low heat. Melt small amounts at a time. The vapor given off by the melting paraffin might start to burn, so have a lid from a larger tin can on hand to smother any fire.

3. Fill shallow can almost to the top with melted paraffin.

4. Let the paraffin harden. Now you have made a Buddy burner.

You can make a Buddy burner using sawdust instead of cardboard. Fill the tin can with sawdust and pour in paraffin. You may have to use "wicks" in this to start the burning easier.


Light the top of the Buddy burner with a match. Now you can cook on your vagabond stove. Never cook directly on the Buddy burner because the smoke is black and sooty.

Place the vagabond stove over the Buddy burner.

Put the fire out by lifting the stove off and smothering the flame with a No. 10 tin can lid or any flat surface larger than the Buddy burner. Use a pot holder to lift the stove, or knock the stove over with a stick. The paraffin will be hot and liquid, so wait until it hardens and cools before you pick it up.


Foil Cooking Hints

Use two layers of light-weight, or one layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. Foil should be large enough to go around food and allow for crimping the edges in a tight seal. This will keep the juices and steam in. This wrap is know as the "drugstore" wrap.

Drugstore Wrap

Use heavy foil three times the width of the food. Fold over and roll up the leading edges. Then roll sides for a steamproof seal.

A shallow bed of glowing coals that will last the length of cooking time is necessary.

Cooking Times:

Hamburger: 8-12 minutes, Carrots: 15-20 minutes

Chicken pieces: 20-30 minutes, Whole Apples: 20-30 minutes

Hotdogs: 5-10 minutes, Sliced potatoes 10-15 minutes


Lay slices of potatoes, onion, and carrots on a sheet of heavy-duty foil then place hamburger patty on top. Cover with slices of potato, onion, and carrots. Season with butter, salt and pepper. Cook 20-30 minutes over hot coals, turning twice during cooking.


A cardboard box will make an oven. Cut off the flaps so that the box has four straight sides and bottom. The bottom of the box will be the top of the oven.

Cover the box inside and out COMPLETELY with foil, placing shiny side out.

To use the oven, place the pan with food to be baked on a footed grill over the lit charcoal briquets. The grill should be raised about ten inches above the charcoal. Set the cardboard oven over the food and charcoal. Prop up one end of the oven with a pebble to provide the air charcoal needs to burn - or cut air vents along the lower edge of the oven. Control the baking temperature of the oven by the number of charcoal briquets used. Each briquette supplies 40 degrees of heat (a 360 degree temperature will take 9 briquets).

Experiment! Build an oven to fit your pans - or your menu: Bake bread, brownies, roast chicken, pizza or a coffee cake. Construct a removable oven top or oven door. Punch holes on opposite sides of the oven and run coat hanger wire through to make a grill to hold baking pans. Try the oven over the coals of a campfire.


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