Gathering friends and family members around the campfire is an age-old tradition. Cooking together around an open flame dates back just as far. It’s one of the best parts of camping. We’ll walk you through how to build a fire and how to cook on it.

Build the fire

Before you begin, find a safe place to build your campfire--preferably a fire pit. Next, build a hunter’s fire. Place two thick pieces of dry wood in a V shape, six inches at the widest and three inches at the smallest. Stack tinder in the middle of the V. Then, using small pieces of bark and twigs, build a teepee around the tinder. Light and feed the fire dry logs about the size of your arm.

Bring the right gear

Plastic can melt over a fire, so you’ll want to pick metal or wood utensils. You’ll also want to skip pots and pans with rubber-coated handles. Heavy leather gloves and sturdy close-toed shoes are also a great idea.

Decide how to cook your meal

There are plenty of ways to cook food over a campfire. If you’re just roasting marshmallows or hotdogs, try a skewer. If you’re barbecuing, throw a metal grill grate over the flames (many fire pits have this already). And you can use a sturdy Dutch oven for almost anything else.

Don’t cook some items

There are some things that won’t do well on a campfire. Foods that drip fat as they cook are a recipe for disaster. Duck, steak and even bacon can cause dangerous flares. You’ll also want to avoid fried foods, for the same reason.

Know about the Danger Zone

There’s nothing worse than food poisoning on a country trip. If you’re planning on cooking raw meat or poultry, you need to make sure you’re keeping it well packed in ice before you grill. Bacteria can grow in food between 4 and 60 degrees Celsius. After you’re done cooking, you’ll want to put away the leftovers quickly too. Food that sits out for an hour or more can also cause sickness.

Lastly, use a meat thermometer for cooking. Food needs to reach 60 degrees Celsius to kill food-born pathogens.

Kids can help

If you’re planning a trip with the family, cooking together is a wonderful experience. Have your young ones watch what the adults are doing and assign them little tasks, like gathering tinder or wrapping food in tin foil. They can also roast marshmallows and hot dogs themselves!

Put it out properly

You need to make sure you always have a bucket of water or sand on hand. You can use it to extinguish the fire once you’re done with it, or if it gets out of control. After the flames are out and the embers stop hissing, stir the ashes with a skewer. Pour more water and sand and repeat until the ashes are completely cold and smothered.

Store all of your food in airtight containers and keep it in a latched cooler or container provided or required by the campground. Don’t sleep with your food, to avoid unwanted animal guests.

Discover some of our favourite recipes for camping in our dedicated article.