Setting Bad Habits Ablaze: 7 Campfire Cooking Mistakes to Avoid

Cooking on an open flame under the stars can be a relaxing, enjoyable activity that gives you proximity to nature and the comforts of home in one. Unfortunately, outside of modern kitchens, things can go haywire if you don’t properly prepare.

Next time you want to cook up some camp stove burgers for the family, here are seven campfire cooking mistakes to avoid.

Forgetting your tools

The last thing you need while out in the woods is to realize you’ve forgotten the one tool you need to make your meal. Ensure you have utensils, pans, matches or lighter, aluminum foil, and any other relevant cooking tools you need for your meal before you leave the house.

If you plan to cook out in the wilderness often, a campfire cooking kit might be an excellent investment to ensure you never crawl into your sleeping bag while still hungry.

Building a weak fire

Your fire will be the most critical part of how well your food cooks. Building a fire that will create consistent heat and produce coals is essential. You should double-check that you’re only using deadwood to avoid harming the forest around you.

If you aren’t hiking into your camping place, consider buying wood logs beforehand to ease the way.

Cooking in the flames

Cooking directly in flames might seem like a good idea, but it isn’t. Most recipes require solid and consistent heat to cook thoroughly and avoid burning the food. 

Build up a solid bed of coals to cook over rather than relying on the fickle flames for your next meal.

Waiting until too late

Unlike a stove, you can’t just turn your fire on and know exactly when it will be ready. Cooking over a fire requires building, gathering materials, and waiting for the coals to become hot and stable. Campfire cooking can take up to an hour or more before you even lay your first morsel on the heat.

This time-consuming process can be frustrating, especially if you’re fresh off a hunger-inducing hike through the woods.

Start your fire as early as possible to avoid the agonizing dinner wait. 

Complex recipes

We all have seen the glorious cooking videos of people making extensive meals over flames. But this culinary extravagance is not the reality for a beginner—go for simple, hearty meals with protein and flavors that you enjoy. 

Packing too much

Pack what you need, but don’t go overboard. If you are backpacking, try to minimize the weight by packing lightweight pots/pans, reusable utensils and dishes (plastic or paper), and only the necessary wooden spoon, spatula, or tongs.

Prep as many of the ingredients as you can at home. This planning allows you to carry fewer dishes and pack the food in light containers. The less work you have to do while you’re hungry, the better.

Trying it first while in the woods

The last thing you need is a new pot or pan that doesn’t work as it should or the recipe you chose not to go as planned. If you can, try out the recipe and cook in the pans you’re planning to use. If you have access to a place where you can practice building a cooking fire, even better. 

This practice will help you prepare for your proper trial by fire. 


Cooking over a campfire requires preparation, patience, and the right tools. Take your time before you get into the woods, and make sure you bring the right tools to cook up a gorgeous outdoor meal.