How do you cook food on an open fire?

Cooking over an open campfire can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging if you’re unprepared. Here are some tips to help you cook over a campfire:

Choose the right location: Pick a spot at least 15 feet away from flammable objects, such as trees or bushes, and ensure no overhanging branches or debris could catch fire. Most campsites have a fire pit; use it. Make sure to check for any fire restrictions in the area where you are camping.

Build the right kind of fire:

  1. Use only small, dry sticks or twigs to build your fire.
  2. Avoid using big logs or pieces of wood, as they can create a lot of smoke and be difficult to control.
  3. Build a fire ring using rocks or other non-flammable materials to keep the fire contained.

Prepare your food: Prepare it in advance, so you can cook it quickly over the fire. Cut your vegetables and meat into small, thin pieces so they cook more evenly and quickly.

Use the right cooking equipment: Bring a cast iron skillet or other heavy-duty cookware that can withstand the heat of the fire. Use long-handled utensils, like tongs and spatulas, to keep your hands away from the flames.

Control the heat: Doing this is one of the secrets to successful campfire cooking. Use the embers’ heat for cooking your food rather than the flames. The heat from a campfire can be unpredictable, so it’s important to keep an eye on your food and adjust the distance between the food and the fire as necessary.

Practice good hygiene: Always wash your hands and utensils to prepare your food, and keep your food covered to avoid contamination.

Extinguish the fire completely: Once you are done cooking, make sure to extinguish the fire completely by pouring water over the embers and stirring them with a shovel or stick. Make sure the fire is completely out before you leave the area.

Tidy up & pack everything away: This is just good manners and avoids anyone coming along after you from having to clear your garbage. There’s also the question of wildlife. Bears are an obvious issue, but raccoons can be destructive if they think there’s free food.

How not to burn food when cooking over an open fire.

Not burning your food when cooking over an open fire or, for that matter, any open flame is the Holy Grail of the outdoor culinary experience.

Learn to set a good fire for cooking. You can find more information about creating a campfire for cooking in our article – 

Try to avoid cooking over a direct flame. Better to cook over, on, or in fire embers. Have a water spray bottle to dampen down any stray flames caused by dripping fat.

Have two sides to your fire. One side burns wood, and the other is where you can scrape over embers to cook on.

Is it bad or unsafe to cook food over a fire?

When I was small, our house was heated by two coal fires. I still remember Saturday afternoons fondly waiting to watch the original Dr. Who and the Loan Ranger while mum used the coal fire to cook crumpets with a long toasting fork. Smeared with butter and strawberry jam, this was my height of luxury. Sixty years later, I still love doing this outside with an open campfire.

Despite the pleasure, I would never advocate the replacement of modern kitchen stoves, but as a fun outdoors thing – bring it on.

Health concerns

Always use clean, dry wood or charcoal. Any pressure-treated, varnished, or painted wood will give off toxic chemicals.


Common sense should tell you to be safe around fires. 

  • Children should be kept well away from fires and supervised at all times. The same applies to anyone who’s had a little too much happy juice. 
  • Don’t make the fire too big. It’s bad for cooking and more difficult to control
  • Keep a shovel and water bucket handy for quick firefighting.
  • Use the right cooking equipment, i.e., long handles and oven gloves.
  • Have a first aid kit handy.

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