What’s the best meal you ever had on a campout?
The best meal ever on a campout is one that tastes good and is ready when you’re hungry, right?
Every once in a while, you may be on a campout when time is no object and you have all day to make a meal. Fancy meals usually take mindful watching of temps and require adding a specific order of ingredients at crucial times…or the meal goes south. (Then you find yourself munching peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.) If you really like to cook…then, no problem!
Sometimes, though, you need easy meals because of time or place or weather. Here are some “golden rules” to consider:
- Easy meals = tastes great, quick prep, little to no monitoring, small amount of equipment needed, and fast cleanup.
- Easy cleaning = “If it went on hot, it has to come off hot.”
You will find that almost all these meals use a Dutch oven. Why? Because Dutch ovens can stew, fry, deep fry, and bake. You can take the lid off, turn it upside down, and use it as a griddle or warmer. They are the best things to use for easy cooking. And, they don’t require a ton of space, either.
Here are my top 10 easy meals for your next campout, ranging from “not entirely easy” to “easiest thing you can make”:
#10. Spaghetti (Lunch or Dinner): As the “hardest” of the easiest meals to make, this one has some good points and some bad points. First, the good points: it’s super cheap to make. You can feed a lot of people out of one giant Dutch oven. You can easily boil noodles, drain the water, and then add a can of sauce. It’s hard to burn boiled noodles (my sister did that once and I’m still scratching my head on that one). Cleanup is one pot and tongs. So how is this not the #1 easiest meal? If you cook spaghetti in this way, it will taste… just ok. Which bring me to the bad points: it won’t have much flavor without considerable work in prep, cooking time and using multiple pots. You need steady heat temps to make it easy so you need a stove—this takes some diligent attention. You can easily spread out a table of used utensils, pots, pans, chopping boards, etc. to clean when it’s all finished. But that spaghetti will be rockin’ awesome!
#9. Chicken Pot Pie (Lunch or Dinner): This is generally baked. You can cook for a lot of people out of a #12 Dutch oven for this meal. There are a lot of ingredients to this meal but the good news is that it all goes in one pot. There are some good keto, paleo or vegetarian recipes so you can accommodate special diets easy. Since there are a multitude of recipes out there for this, be sure to try a couple at home first. There is a certain order to the ingredients so pay attention to the directions. You can substitute a couple cans of mixed veggies instead of chopping all those raw veggies. You can use canned chicken, too. It won’t have the richer, bolder flavor of fresh vegetables but you won’t have the mess either and it still tastes pretty good. Take a can of pre-made biscuits or unroll a can of crescent rolls on top of those ingredients and bake. Only sporadic observation of temps is necessary. While you are waiting for it to bake, you can begin the super-easy cleanup (minimal if everything was canned). You have one pot to clean; it would even be easier if you use a Dutch oven liner (but using this can take longer to cook…so beware).
#8. Breakfast Casserole (Breakfast): This is also generally baked. You can use one pot for about 10 people. You can make it with just about any ingredient you like, but mostly it consists of eggs, sausage, shaved or diced potatoes, onions, peppers and cheese. You have to cook the food in a specific order if you use a single Dutch oven: first, meat is cooked to generate some grease. Second, cook the vegetables, then drain the grease. Finally, add eggs and cook before adding cheese over top. Cover and bake. You are going to need hot coals on the lid as well as under (can also be a stove). Because of this it’s a bit harder to observe the cooking process. You can easily get the kitchen area clean with minimal work while it’s baking.
#7. Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches (Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner): One Dutch oven can feed 8 people. You need something to keep a plate or foil about ½ inch from the bottom, such as a trivet, a metal plate or a pie pan. Put the trivet in the bottom of the Dutch oven and add about ½ cup of water. Take 8-10 pre-cooked dinner rolls, slice them in half, and bunch the sliced bottoms on the plate/pie pan. Heat the water in the Dutch oven. Put that plate/pan on top of that trivet. Add shredded cheese and shredded ham, then top halves of the rolls. Flip the Dutch oven lid upside-down and heat it up over a propane stove or campfire for two minutes. Now, put that pre-heated lid on top of the Dutch oven pot. Put the whole Dutch oven over a low heat source. Let that hot water steam and the heat melt the cheese in about 5-8 minutes. You will end up with a soft, gooey pull-apart sandwich. The only thing dirty is the pan you put the rolls on as the cheese melted on it. The Dutch oven simply rinses out. The total time to prep, make and clean is under 30 minutes.
#6. Breakfast Burrito (Breakfast): You only need one Dutch oven for up to 10 people. Crumble sausage or cut up bacon in small 1-inch pieces to cook in the oven. Drain most of the grease and add eggs, then seasoning. Flip the top lid upside-down and use it to warm tortillas one at a time for 10 seconds. Make a line of people next to the lid. Scoop the eggs-and-meat mixture into a warm tortilla, then have each person walk in line along a table with shredded cheese, salsa, etc. You don’t even need a mess kit. A paper towel on the hand can substitute as a plate and away they go! Clean it fast by cooking hot water over a campfire or stove, using a spatula to scrape it. Total time to cook and clean is roughly 20 minutes.
#5. Fajita Casserole (Lunch or Dinner): Take a pre-made fajita mix that you find in a grocery deli (usually made up of raw chicken or beef, cut onions, peppers and seasoning); need 1/4 pound per person. Cook that in a Dutch oven until the chicken is done and the water has nearly cooked off (about 5 minutes). Add a layer of flour tortillas, then a layer of shredded cheese, then one more layer of tortillas. Finally, add some salsa and shredded cheese on top. Flip the Dutch oven lid upside-down and heat it up over a propane stove or campfire for 2 minutes. Now put that lid on top of the pot. Put the whole Dutch oven over a low heat source for another 10 minutes. Voila…done! You will only have one slotted spoon and one Dutch oven to clean. This is a crazy fast, easy and taste-good meal.
#4. Hobo Dinners (Lunch or Dinner): These are basically nothing more than tin-foil packs filled with raw ground-burger, butter, cut veggies, salt and pepper that are sealed up tight and laid over a large area of coals from a wood fire or charcoal briquettes. Flip these over after 15 minutes and then cook for about another 15 minutes. All done! If you use canned mixed-vegetables, then really the only thing dirty is the food prep table. Give the scout handling the raw hamburger disposable plastic gloves. The only thing you will need to heat up is water for cleaning the table tops and forks. The only potential problem is bad weather as this requires cooking outside over coals.
#3. Walking Taco (Lunch or Dinner): Talk about easy! Simply brown hamburger in a large cast iron skillet (less than 10 minutes), then add taco seasoning. Line up separate bowls of lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes (or whatever taco relish you would like) on a table. For each person, open a bag of single-serving bags of corn chips, adding meat on top before the vegetable and cheese toppings. The only dirty utensil for this meal is a fork. The only major prep items to wash are the bowls and any utensils used to scoop the ingredients. You will need a large drying rack area.
#2. Chicken Dinner (Lunch or Dinner): This takes “simple” to an extreme, especially if you use a Dutch oven liner. Take a whole chicken fryer. Cut up large pieces of potato, onion, carrots, and celery. Add about one cup of water and seasoning. Hang the Dutch oven from a tripod over the fire for a couple hours. You don’t really have to monitor it…the longer it cooks the more tender it will be! The only reason this isn’t the absolute easiest meal is that you have more cleanup.
#1. Chili (Lunch or Dinner): The best thing about chili is that it fits in one pot. You can make it with any dietary considerations. It can be made from just about any meat source or meatless. It can be tangy, smoky, vegetarian, keto friendly, etc. It can be made in the winter, spring, fall or a cool summer night. You literally pour stuff in the pot, hang it from a tripod over a fire or put it on the stove, and let is simmer all day long. The longer the better. There are a thousand recipes out there and the cleanup is…. one pot and a spoon. It can be done on the cheap or it can be super expensive. You stir it every once in a while. As long as it stays over a fire, you can eat on it all day. Cleanup is super simple.
So, there you have it…the “Top Ten Easiest Campout Meals” to try on your next campout!
Add your own easy recipe for campouts in the comments below and share why it’s easy.
Good luck out there, scouters!
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The author, Tony Zizak, is a long time scouter, Eagle Scout, and the scoutmaster of Troop 119 Ellettsville, IN. He has been to scout camps across the country and was a certified Program Director, Aquatics Director and a Scoutcraft Director. As a youth Tony received his Vigil Honor and served as a Lodge Chief for Tseyedin Lodge #65. Reach out to him for any questions you may have on this article.