How to Give Your Camping Trip the Gourmet Treatment

For most, eating while camping means brittle trail mix, dry jerky and soggy sandwiches. But your meal quality doesn’t have to flatline when you’re roughing it. Little tricks can take your outdoorsy culinary experience from “yuck” to “yum.”

We turned to Chris Morgan, Co-Executive Chef of Maydan in Washington D.C. for insight. Maydan’s centerpiece is its open-fire grill and Morgan is a master of cooking over an open flame. Here, he shares a few hacks to help make your next summer camping excursion much more delicious.

Bring Your Own Firewood

It might seem silly to bring wood to the woods, but controlling the quality of the smoke coming off your cooking fire can make a huge difference in the taste of your food. Maydan’s chefs hand-select the wood they use to fuel their grill and Morgan says that campers looking for higher quality outdoor foods should be discerning about their heat source as well. If you’re spending a few days at a single site, store wood you’ve selected in your trunk. You’ll find it’s totally worth it. American oak is Chef Morgan’s first choice, as it “produces a really clean flavor and allows for your ingredients to truly shine.”

Cast-Iron: An Ironclad Choice

Preparing a meal on an open fire can be tricky; heat levels fluctuate and cause uneven cooking. Cast-iron pans help retain and spread the heat under your food, and “work incredibly well over a fire and are supremely durable,” says Morgan. The pans might be a little too heavy to schlep on the Appalachian trail for weeks on end but pack one if your camping trip is relatively stationary.

Don’t Forget Veggies

Burgers and dogs can be fun for a night, but well-balanced diets are essential for physically challenging excursions. Summer vegetables like zucchini, eggplant and corn are easy to pack. After cooking them, Morgan suggests you “serve some hot and save some for room-temperature salads to accompany proteins or as a main course if you prefer not to eat meat or seafood. Grilled corn taken off the cob and mixed simply with basil, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and tomato can make for a super-refreshing side salad to go with any meal.”

Pack Lots of Pickles

“Bring pickled vegetables of all kinds,” the chef advised, adding that they’re amazing additions to practically any dish. “Whether eaten on their own as snacks or chopped and mixed into a salad or side dish, they will brighten up your meal.” Want to whip up steak tacos while grilling amongst the trees? The traditional garnishes of pickled radishes and red onion can make them much more satisfying than plain little meat roll-ups. Plus, once they’re fried in your cast-iron pan, Leftovers can top your eggs the next morning.