campfire

The full experience of camping isn’t the same without a warm, crackling campfire. Even if your version of “roughing it” consists of sitting in a cool RV sipping on a mojito, you can still call it “camping” if you cook up dinner on an open fire, right? However you choose to enjoy the great outdoors, cooking a meal on the primal fire (even if in your own backyard) just makes the food taste all the more delicious.

If you want to give cooking on a campfire a go, but are a newbie to the whole cooking-over-untamed-flames thing, check out these four tips to do it right.

1. Get creative

Many methods exist to start fires, but I’m not going to detail them all here. Instead, I have a fun method to start fires that’s a little less Survivorman and a little more girly. Use dried out orange (or other citrus) peels to start your fire instead of kindling. The oils in the peels will ignite quickly and get the fire going. Make sure to use a supplemental source as well to maintain the fire.

2. Keep the fire low

Campfires get hot—and fast. Unless you want to burn your food to a crisp, don’t let the fire get too large. Most of the time you can cook food on the coals alone. If you’re using a pan just be sure to stabilize it above the coals. You can even use something readily available, like a few of the same sized twigs, to stabilize it.

3. Pay attention

Don’t rush campfire cooking. It’s about the experience. If you want a hot meal quickly, then use a camping stove. Cooking food on a campfire will require you to monitor it. Move the food farther or closer to the campfire to adjust the temperature. It may take more time, but there’s nothing like relaxing and watching the crackling fire that you just used to cook your meal.

4. Know your techniques

Several methods exist to cook food on a campfire. Here are just a few:

Grill: Set pots and pans full of goodies on a grill grate over an open fire to cook, or put meats directly on the grill.

Skillet: Fry veggies, eggs or cook up pretty much anything that you would at home in a skillet. Be sure to use cast iron, as its hardy surface can stand the heat.

Aluminum foil: Wrap entire dinners in aluminum foil and throw them on the fire to cook.

Sticks: If all else fails, pop what you can onto a stick. Holding a stick over a campfire is, of course, the only way to cook marshmallows. Don’t forget to make s’mores!