Nothing will make you feel connected to nature and your primal roots quite like cooking over a fire under the stars, and fall is the perfect season for it. You might assume the only over-fire treats are s’mores and hot dogs — but it’s possible to make the great outdoors your kitchen and dining room all in one with these simple backyard and backwoods campfire recipes.
Build Your Fire
First things first: You need to learn how to start a good fire. Make sure you follow safety tips, like paying attention to the weather and ensuring your fire won’t be too close to any structures. If you don’t have a dedicated fire pit (Buy on Amazon, $58.99), you’ll have to set up your fire from scratch. Christine Bailey from The Art of Simple recommends the following steps:
1. Make your fire pit.
Bailey suggests using large stones or bricks to make a circle, however large or small you want your fire to be, and digging out any grass from the inside of the circle.
2. Gather your wood.
Find small, medium, and large pieces of dry wood — you can use sticks you find in your yard or buy firewood. Bailey recommends organizing your wood into piles by size.
3. Stack your wood.
Time to load up the fire. “Stack your logs in a tower, starting with the largest ones on the bottom, in a Lincoln-log type pattern. For each layer, keep adding the next smallest size of wood, all the way to the top,” says Bailey. Add your smallest sticks in a pile on top, making sure to keep a little space between them.
4. Add your kindling.
Stick your kindling — which Bailey says can be dried pine cones, leaves, or even things from your recycling like toilet paper rolls, ripped paper, or bunched-up brown paper grocery bags — inside the tower of wood, underneath your small sticks at the top.
5. Light the kindling with matches or a lighter.
Bailey notes that once you light the kindling, the flame should burn from the top down. You can add more wood, one log at a time, to keep it burning.
Once you’re done with the fire, let it burn down. Susan Meyer from The Zebra recommends letting it “burn for 30-45 minutes before you try to put it out.” Meyer then suggests dousing the fire with water, keeping a safe distance, until any sizzling sounds stop, and then stirring remaining embers and ash to make sure they are all fully extinguished. She also says not to rush and to make sure your fire has fully cooled before leaving it alone.
Appetizer: Grilled Veggie Skewers
Now that your fire is crackling, it’s time to get cooking. Start with something light and healthy, like these grilled vegetable skewers with herb marinade from Cadry’s Kitchen. This may be made easier with a cooking grate placed over your fire for support (Buy on Amazon, $23.65-$53.17).
Ingredients for herb marinade:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
Ingredients for skewers:
- ½ red bell pepper, cut into chunks
- 6 cremini mushrooms
- 14 grape tomatoes
- 1 small zucchini cut into ¾-inch pieces
- Combine marinade ingredients.
- Add vegetables to marinade and let soak 30 minutes to an hour.
- Skewer marinated vegetables and grill 8-10 minutes until browned evenly on all sides.
The author of this recipe notes that you can also get creative and swap out other veggies and seasonings of your choosing.
Main Course: Foil-Packet Potatoes and Sausage
Time for the main course. Sausages are a classic campfire recipe staple, but this recipe for foil-packet potatoes and sausage from Taste of Home is a more sophisticated iteration. It’s hearty, flavorful, and perfect for fall — plus, cleanup couldn’t be simpler.
- 3 pounds red potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 2 packages (12 ounces each) smoked sausage links, cut into ½-inch slices
- 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Additional chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- Toss ingredients together in large bowl.
- Divide among eight 18×12-inch pieces of heavy-duty nonstick foil, placing mixture on dull side of foil, and fold foil into tightly-sealed packets.
- Place packets over campfire or grill (medium heat), and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Be careful removing the packets from the fire, as they will be hot, and make sure you carefully allow the steam to escape from the packets before eating.
Dessert: Campfire Baked Apples
Got a sweet tooth? Before you break out the marshmallows, try this recipe for Apples By the Fire, which is the ideal treat for a crisp autumn night. It’s also cooked on coals, meaning it’s perfect to make as your fire — and your evening — winds down.
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Fill apple core with brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Wrap stuffed apple in heavy-duty foil, twisting end of foil into a handle for easy grabbing.
- Place apple on coals and cook until softened, 5-10 minutes.
The author of this recipe cautions you to be careful when removing and unwrapping the apple, because of the hot sugar.
Fires were made for autumn and good conversations. Get your best bonfire story ready to go and enjoy a tasty meal and evening under the stars.
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