The ideal campout dinner is one that lets you spend the day outdoors and maximizes your evening relaxation time. That means simple set up, minimal prep time and a fun cooking experience.
A bit of advanced planning is all it takes to turn your camping picnic into a culinary adventure for the whole family. Get the bulk of your grocery shopping out of the way before you leave home, so you can slice, dice and portion out your family’s favorite toppings, add creative spices like lemon pepper or cilantro lime to your seafood, then marinate and freeze chicken, steak and other hearty proteins to preserve flavor during transport. Pack food in a well-insulated cooler to keep ingredients chilled, and replace messy ice cubes with frozen juice pouches that double as a slushy treat for the kids upon arrival. Once you fire up the grill, let the flames burn down to a smoldering bed of coals for high heat and even cooking temperatures. The embers will be just right for roasting marshmallows after dinner.
Gather ‘round the campfire for dinners that are as much fun to cook as they are to eat.
1. Luau Chicken Kabobs
Hawaiian-style skewers are a light dinner alternative that you can prepare at home. Use wooden skewers and toss them in the fire at the end of the meal for the easiest clean-up ever.
Instructions: Stack chicken pieces, red onion and pineapple wedges on skewers, adding optional ingredients like green peppers, cherry tomatoes and bacon slices for more adventurous palates. Marinate the meat and veggies with summer flavors like lime, ginger, cilantro and honey. Turn frequently over medium coals to grill evenly and prevent charring.
2. Pie Iron Empanadas
Cooking with pie irons is a camping tradition that is destined to become a family favorite. These mini cast iron cases on a stick melt your ingredients, all packed in between a warm and crunchy crust.
Instructions: Trim and press thawed, ready-made pie crust into both sides of your oiled iron, then add fillings like ground beef, onion, garlic and Monterey Jack cheese. Build on the traditional recipe with fillings like flank steak, black beans, corn, zucchini and sweet potatoes.
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3. Baked Potato Bar
After a long day of being active, your hungry campers will crave a filling meal. Make extras of these hefty taters and mix with leftover toppings for grab and go lunches the next day.
Instructions: Scrub potatoes at home, then oil, salt, pepper and pierce the skin before wrapping each one tightly in foil. As dinnertime approaches, roast them on the coals while you lay out your topping buffet. Include crowd-pleasers like ground beef, cheddar cheese, onions, sour cream and salsa, but don’t be bashful about adding some unexpected options. Try Cotija cheese, pulled pork, bacon, black beans, roasted red peppers, avocado and sriracha for rave reviews. You might even throw sweet potatoes on the grill, and top with soy-marinated chicken, peanut sauce, snow peas and ginger.
4. Campfire Pizza
Take family pizza night on the road with this easy recipe for personal pan pizzas. Incorporate produce and herbs from local farmers markets for pies that are bursting with summertime flavor.
Instructions: Pick a crust to match your prep time, from ready-made flour tortillas toasted on foil to refrigerated pizza dough pressed lightly into an oiled cast iron skillet. Top with your favorite pesto, white or red pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, proteins like sausage, chicken or pepperoni, and fresh veggies like sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and onions. Sprinkle basil, cilantro, oregano and parsley on top, dust with parmesan, and finish to melted perfection on the grill.
5. Surf ‘n Turf Foil Packets
Foil packet grilling is one of the easiest campfire cooking techniques. Everyone can mix and match their favorite ingredients, so there are no complaints from picky eaters. Tweens and teens can staff the grill with long-handled tongs, flipping packets until it’s dinnertime. Eat out of the foil for easy clean-up.
Instructions: This versatile recipe can be modified in endless ways depending on the ages and tastes of your campers. Toddlers will love proteins like ground beef, chicken nuggets and shrimp, while older kids and adults can go upscale with lobster, scallops, salmon and sirloin. Top it all off with veggies like onions, grape tomatoes, potatoes and corn, then toss in olive oil and seasonings.