A Great Campfire Meal That Doesn't Require a Skillet

July 28, 2017

It's prime camping season, and if you partake, you know that camp cooking is an entirely different animal than kitchen cooking. First of all, you’re dealing with a different heat source than normal, not to mention cooking out of a cooler. And that’s before you even get into equipment, which ranges from super fancy camp stoves to, well, sticks.

Thankfully cookbook author and avid camper Lina Ly is here to help. The New Camp Cookbook is full of recipes that wouldn’t be out of place at fancy dinner parties, despite being cooked over a campfire. She also has a lot of advice for planning your meals and packing your cooler to doing dishes at your campsite.

Some of her best advice concerns foil-packet cooking. This is a camping classic: an entire meal, wrapped in foil that is both the cooking vessel and the plate you eat from. Ly likes foil-packet cooking best for dishes that “cook in their own juices,” and often uses the technique with fish, like halibut with lemon dill couscous and salmon with pineapple salsa. But this technique is great with all kinds of vegetables, and can even be used for eggy breakfast dishes.

Shop the Story

Here’s are Ly's tips for foil-packet cooking:

  • Use heavy duty aluminum foil. No one wants their foil packets to tear and lose their dinner to the campfire. In fact, Ly recommends a double layer if the packet is especially full.

  • Oil the foil. Don’t go to all that work only to have your fish stick to the foil!

  • Leave room in the packet. When sealing up your foil packet, leave some room for steam to circulate and cook the food.

  • Cook foil packets on a grill surface. While some people cook foil packets directly on the coals, Ly likes to grill them over a fire: “It gets the meal going sooner, since I don’t have to wait for the fire to die down to ashy coals before I can cook.”

  • Rotate the packets during cooking. Use tongs. This makes sure they cook evenly.

  • Make packets ahead of time. And stack ‘em in the cooler til you’re ready to eat. Less time chopping means more time enjoying the great outdoors.

Photo by Will Taylor

And just like that, you have a meal that's admittedly less sophisticated than a genius one-pot meal, but arguably just as easy and far more portable! What could be better when you're camping?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BerryBaby
  • Nancy
  • Matilda Luk
    Matilda Luk
Paula Forbes has reviewed cookbooks for nearly a decade for sites like Epicurious, Eater, Eat Me Daily, and now Food52. She's currently working on a cookbook about the foods and restaurants of Austin, Texas.


BerryBaby July 31, 2017
I call these Pocket Dinners. My recipe was entered last year in one of the monthly contests on Cooking over an Open fire. They are great in the oven or an open fire. BB
Nancy July 30, 2017
This is a superb technique which makes great-tasting foods. I always recommend it to people who ask for camp-cooking advice. But I never thought of using it at home. What a great idea, and great article!
Matilda L. July 28, 2017
So useful for my impending kitchen demolition -- I'm going to try out all of these techniques!