How do you build a fire pit for cooking?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

If you've ever been camping for any length of time then you know that cooking over a camp fire is one of the joys. The food tastes better. But, for all of you who only have done camping, say once or twice a year, then cooking over a camp fire may not be your idea of a great time. So, if you'd like to give it a try, here are some basic tips.

To cook really awesome meals on a camp fire one needs to take practical measures. First of all, don't build a bonfire! That is wasteful and impractical. You're not in a situation where you are trying to keep vicious predators away. If you're really roughing it, by that I mean not camping in a designated camp ground where most of the comforts of home are, you need to dig a fire pit while you're setting up your camp. It needs only to be about 1-2 feet in diameter and about 6-8 inches deep. Line it with flat rocks, but NOT creek rock. Creek rock will explode when it gets hot, sending shrapnel flying!

Next,if you've had the foresight to bring a grill rack then you will have solved the problem of what to put your cooking implements on over the flames, or hot coals. (An old steel refrigerator rack works well too.) Otherwise, you will need to find a fairly thin, flat rock to put over one end of the fire pit.

Next, go and gather dead fall wood for burning. This helps to clean up the dead wood that would otherwise build up and contribute to forest fires. It saves the unnecessary waste of killing a tree, and the hard work of chopping wood. Build a fire. Get a really good coal bed built up while fixing up what your going to cook.

If you are using the rock method described above, then you should bank some coals up in the little niche under the edge of your rock 'stove top'. This will get the rock quite hot and will enable you to put a frying pan, or pot on it's top for cooking whatever you like. If you have the grill rack method going then you are pretty well set for cooking without having to do the banking up of coals, or waiting for the rock to get hot enough.

If you want to get some water really hot really quickly for a hot beverage like coffee then it's okay to put your pot of water over the flames. But, to cook your food right, wait till the fire has burned down to mostly hot coals and then put the food to be cooked on the rack top. Feed small sticks and twigs to keep the fire and coal bed going and hot, but don't let it flame up. If you are cooking meat you can put it directly on the grill and allow a few flames to flare up and sear the meat to seal in the juices. Anything you cook in a pot, use only the heat from the coals or your food can get scorched.

You can cook potatoes by poking some holes into the potatoes with a fork and then stick them directly into the coals. To bake freshly caught fish clean the fish of entrails, and cut off the head and tail. Then put a thick coating of mud on the fish and stick it into the coals. Once the mud has baked completely dry, your fish will be done. Crack the mud cocoon from the fish and pull it off. This will remove the scales neatly, cleanly, and, viola! Fresh baked fish! Season with butter, salt, or whatever seasonings suit your taste buds. Enjoy!

When you are finished with your camping trip, and the fire pit, remember that if you pack it in then you pack it out! Don't leave trash littering the forest. Try to leave it as you found it. Make sure all the coals are cold by pouring water on them several times to make sure and stir the coals. Dismantle the fire pit, fill it with the dirt you dug out, and then pack up your gear and head for home!

submitted by Velisa S. Mefford