Many of my earlier camping years were spent backpacking. This necessitated a certain mindset when it came to camping food which revolved around noodles, granola bars, and occasionally (when we were feeling rich) dehydrated meal packs.
It’s no wonder that I never really associated camping with gourmet food.
Now I am older, wiser, and appreciate the luxury of car camping, all this has changed. If the thought of a bubbling pot of coq au vin or a juicy steak washed down with a glass of red wine sounds more appealing than curry flavored instant ramen, then welcome to the gourmet camping club.
But before we start debating the merits of different recipes, let’s cover the camping cookware you need for gourmet cuisine. The good news is, cooking delicious food outdoors doesn’t mean having to pack the entire contents of your kitchen into boxes every time you want to go camping.
Here’s my selection of the best camping cookware to create a meal worthy of a Michelin star.
Different Cookware For Different Camping Styles
Before we look at pots and pans, it’s worth considering how you’ll be cooking. Cast-iron cookware is the best option for open fires, but if you’re only ever going to cook using a portable stove, then a more compact set of pans will be a better investment.
Many campsites, particularly in the US, come with fire pits or grills, but open fires aren’t always an option, particularly if the fire risk is high, so it’s worth having a stove as backup.
For the lightweight camper, you can usually get by with a single stove, but if you car camp, then a two-burner camp stove is a good investment. It gives you the flexibility to produce meals requiring two pans without having to worry about food getting cold before your dinner finishes cooking.
The Fundamental Gourmet Cookware
For car camping, cast iron cookware is worth its weight in, well, iron. If you want to create gourmet meals over a roaring campfire, a skillet and Dutch oven will allow you to cook pretty much everything you want.
If you’re having to carry your cookware any distance, then you’ll want to look at more lightweight options.
For searing steaks, sizzling bacon and whipping up a stir-fry, this is your staple item of camping cookware.
Cast iron skillets come in lots of shapes and sizes. They’re not too expensive, so it’s worth getting two – perhaps a 10-inch and an 8-inch skillet – to make multi-pan dishes or desserts.
If you’re buying a brand-new cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, then you may need to season it before taking it camping. If you look after it properly, your cast iron cookware could easily outlive you.
The humble Dutch oven is the most versatile of all camping cookware. Long treasured as family heirlooms, if you haven’t inherited one from your great-great-grandfather, then it’s time to start a family tradition.
Dutch ovens are perfect for slow cooking meat, bean stews, and berry cobbler, but you can also use them to make lasagne, nachos, and even chocolate cake. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you’re cooking over a campfire, a Dutch oven should be your first camping cookware purchase.
Lots of campsites will provide grills, but if you’re camping in the wild, then you’ll need to take your own. This reversible grill/griddle gives you the best of both if you’re short on space.
If you want to leave no trace of your presence, then a portable flatpack fire pit and grill will let you grill meat, fish, and vegetables without impacting the environment.
There are times when a cast-iron pan isn’t ideal for cooking. Learning how to fry eggs on a skillet is something of a dark art and if you’re backpacking or cooking over a small stove, you’ll probably want some lighter cookware.
For these occasions, a non-stick pan is a worthy addition to your gourmet camping arsenal. Most non-stick camping pans are coated in Teflon or similar polymers, but if you’re a health-conscious foodie, MSR has a set of two ceramic non-stick pans which are worth checking out.
Whether you’re a tea, coffee or hot chocolate lover, one thing you need for all three is boiling water. There are plenty of options out there from sturdy stainless-steel whistlers to lightweight titanium kettles.
Special Cookware For The Wilderness Ramsay
With your basic arsenal, you can create a myriad of delicious gourmet meals. But if you really want to be the envy of your friends, here’s the best camping cookware to make your food stand out from the crowd.
Gourmet Pizza Oven
Sometimes a product comes along that looks so perfect, you wish you’d been the one to invent it. The BioLite Basecamp Wood Burning Stove system is currently at the top of my “things to buy when I have lots of money” list.
Not only can it be used for grilling, boiling and charging your phone (yes, you read that right), with the PizzaDome add-on, you can cook gourmet wood-fired pizza.
A pie iron is basically a sandwich press on a stick. I know what you’re thinking: grilled cheese sandwiches aren’t exactly the height of gourmet cuisine, but you can’t deny that they’re fun to make. Besides, you don’t need to limit yourself to sandwiches – your pie iron can be used to make cinnamon buns, hash browns, and bacon and eggs.
If you’re still not convinced, try this drool-worthy blueberry cream cheese stuffed French toast recipe.
Brewing the perfect campsite coffee is a topic worthy of an entire blog post (which is why we’ve written one – check it out here). But for gourmet espresso, there are two things you need: a portable coffee grinder and a Wacaco Minipresso.
While my husband is an espresso addict, I’m definitely more of cappuccino person, which is why a battery-powered milk frother is part of my essential camping cookware list.
The Little Extras For Every Camping Chef
Once you’ve got your camping cookware sorted, there are a few other essentials that will help you cook up a gourmet meal and (very importantly) avoid a trip to the local accident and emergency department.
Pack these extras in your car camping box:
As an aside, a friend once gave me a pair of welding gloves as a joke after I complained about the number of times I’d burnt myself getting things in and out of the oven. Best present ever.
Now you’ve got your camping cookware sorted, it’s time to put your apron on and dig out some gourmet camping recipes.
Or, if a few pans just aren’t enough, go the whole hog and invest in a full-on camp kitchen. After all, if there’s ever going be a camping version of MasterChef, you want to be prepared.
Alison spends her days writing and dreaming of adventures, and her weekends living them. Both are helped by copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea. She owns a campervan called Sadie and far too many tents.