The Right Gear

​Cooking in the outdoors is an experience enjoyed by the whole family. You can cook the same recipes you enjoy at home, try some outdoor camping staples, or something truly gourmet. And, although teens don't usually cotten to "family activities", we've rarely seen a teenager that doesn't enjoy poking in the fire or cooking on the campfire! There is literally something for every age group to contribute, whether it be gathering or chopping wood, preping the ingredients, or helping with the actual cooking – and eating is the reward for all.

Using cast iron Dutch ovens for outdoor cooking makes it easy to create great dishes without the fuss and mess of other cookware. Dutch ovens are very popular for outdoor cooking for many reasons. They are durable and you can bake, roast, stew, braise, simmer, steam, deep-fry, stir-fry, boil or baste in them.  You can cook directly in your Dutch oven, or you can use oven-safe baking dishes inside for ease in serving and cleanup.  This means you can prepare casseroles ahead of time, pop them in the Dutch oven on a bakers rack (or balls of aluminum foil), for a great meal or side dish.

Regardless of your culinary skills or recipes, to use a Dutch oven you have to have some method of hanging it over the open fire, and controlling the heat.  Heat control is everything!  Having an assortment of different length hooks is critical to success over an open fire.  Second most critical is to learn the patience to cook over coals – not flames.  And lastly, you want stability.  The most devasting thing that can happen to a campfire cook is to see their heavy, food-laden Dutch oven dumped into the fire!

As host of Campfire Cafe® and president of EMG Productions, Inc., I have approved 20/20 Precision Machining as the exclusive manufacturer of our Cowboy Cooksets™ and Cowboy Cookware™ accessories. The quality is outstanding and the design is tried and true, sure to give you many years – if not a lifetime – of superior use.

Equally important to the actual cooking equipment are the utensils.  A good set of long tongs, a short gardener shovel, and a pair of silicone coated gloves are just three items every open-fire cook should have. There are other useful items, but with just these three – you'll be set to cook just about anything.  The tongs can be used for everything from turning meats to flipping errant coals back into the pit.  The shovel is essential for placing coals on the top of Dutch ovens for baking.  And the gloves...well, their usefulness is self-explanatory!

In addition to these three critical items – I like to have a wire baker's rack, a silicone baking dish, and a ceramic baking dish.  All should fit inside either a 10" or a 12" Dutch oven for smaller groups; a 14" or a 16" for large groups.  Which brings me back to the Dutch ovens.  I am often asked what size one should invest in.  My answer: if I have nothing but a 12" Deep Dutch oven, I can cook anything.  But if you're serious, have at least one of every size you can find!

Happy open-fire cooking,
Pamela Alford, Host of Campfire Cafe®

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