How to cook with a portable campfire

Camp Cooking

The most versatile tool needed for campfire cooking is aluminum foil. Most foods can be wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked in the embers of a campfire.

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Cooking with a portable campfire

With the right tools, anyone can use a portable campfire for cooking nearly anything they make at home. A portable campfire gives you the ability to bring the heat no matter where you go, whether it’s in the backyard or out in the wilderness. However, to achieve success while also being safe, there are a few things needed to know and items to have on hand.

This article will show all of the essentials, from knowledge to equipment, to get users cooking with a portable campfire.

What is a portable campfire?

A portable campfire is anything mobile that creates and contains a fire safely. The design can range from a simple bowl or a canister to a collapsible fire pit that fits in a backpack. Some models have built-in features, such as a grill, which facilitates cooking tasks, while others are primarily designed to provide a small heat and light source. A portable campfire can also be a valuable tool in keeping away insects and predators.

What type of fuel do portable campfires need?

Charcoal, propane or wood are all options for portable campfires. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, some companies manufacture portable campfires that run on fuel, such as wood pellets or soy wax and paper briquettes.

Charcoal: Charcoal gives food a distinctive flavor and burns hot and long enough for a wide variety of recipes. However, if seeking portability, lugging 20-pound bags to and from a campsite is not ideal.

Propane: It is easier to control propane temperature for cooking in various styles with propane. While the smaller tanks are more manageable to carry than bags of charcoal, users will still need to pack and carry enough to cook all their meals. A 16-ounce tank will last roughly 1.5-2 hours. Additionally, with propane, meals will not have a smoky flavor. 

Wood: Cooking over a wood fire isn’t as easy as cooking with charcoal or propane. The temperature is harder to control, and users may have issues with popping and spitting. Dried hardwoods such as oak and ash are the best wood for cooking fires. However, this option means there’s no need to pack your fuel since it will be at your campsite.

Other: Some companies use wood pellets or manufacture portable campfires with an alternative fuel. Wood pellets have benefits and drawbacks that are similar to charcoal. Alternative fuel models are often not large enough for meal-cooking needs, but they can be excellent for roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.

When to use a portable campfire

Portable campfires aren’t limited to remote camping trips. They can be used in the backyard, on picnics or at tailgate parties. They also work as a great backup if power is lost during an emergency.

Basic principles for cooking on a portable campfire

When cooking in the kitchen, chefs simply rotate a dial or tap the temperature into a keypad, wait for the appliance to preheat and you’re all set. With a campfire, it’s not as simple, but the same principles apply.


Most people think of cooking over a fire as actually cooking over a fire. Cooking should never happen while there are still flames. It is the embers that deliver the most consistent, clean heat. An open flame will not only burn the food but will also give it an artificial flavor. When cooking over a portable campfire, do not place food over the flames but wait until the fire has turned to smoldering embers before cooking. 

Use direct or indirect heat

The two ways to cook over a campfire are by using direct or indirect heat.

Direct heat: Cooking over direct heat simply means placing the food directly over the heat source for a quicker cooking process. For example, dropping a burger on a grill is cooking with direct heat.

Indirect heat: When cooking with indirect heat, the heat source is adjacent to the food. This type of cooking used when barbecuing. Chefs can create indirect heating on a portable campfire by pushing all the embers to one side of the unit. It is essential to understand that indirect cooking requires a lid, and there may not be one available with the chosen portable campfire.

Control the heat

Besides having more embers, controlling the heat on a portable campfire is moving the food closer to or further away from the embers. While closer is hotter, it is not always the best option because it can easily lead to burning the food.

Five safety tips for using a portable campfire

  • Fire laws vary significantly from county to county, and restrictions can change based on weather conditions. Be aware of any local codes before starting a portable campfire.
  • Keep the portable campfire in an open area, clear of debris and away from structures, vegetation, overhangs and combustibles.
  • If it is windy enough that trees are swaying and debris is moving around, it is too windy to start a fire. 
  • Always keep a bucket of freshwater or a properly rated fire extinguisher on hand when using a portable campfire.
  • Make sure you properly and fully extinguish your campfire when finished.

What you need to buy to cook with a portable campfire

UCO Flatpack Portable Fire Pit

UCO Flatpack Portable Fire Pit

This durable, stainless steel grill folds flat for easy transport in a backpack. It can be assembled in seconds and features a 13-inches by 10-inches grilling area. The base keeps the fire off the ground for added safety.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon

Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit

Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit

This smartly designed portable fire pit features a compact cylindrical shape with vent holes at the bottom to increase airflow. The unit is 14 inches tall by 19.5 inches in diameter and is designed to produce minimal smoke.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Fireside Industries Pop-Up Fire Pit

Fireside Industries Pop-Up Fire Pit

Users can assemble this rectangular pop-up fire pit in under a minute. It is suitable for wood or charcoal and features an elevated base with a heat shield for safety. This model comes with a 50-fire or 1-year guarantee.

Where to  buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Home Depot

Texsport Adjustable Outdoor Camping Rotisserie and Grill

Texsport Adjustable Outdoor Camping Rotisserie and Grill

To cook over a portable campfire, you’ll need a raised grill. This cleverly designed model not only features a large grilling surface but it has a built-in rotisserie allowing for a wider variety of foods.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon

Bruntmor Grill Swing Campfire Cooking Stand

Bruntmor Grill Swing Campfire Cooking Stand

Bruntmor’s innovative cooking stand is suitable for grilling or cooking in a dutch oven. It is manufactured for either wood or charcoal fires and has five different length hooks and an adjustable grill for versatility.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven

Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven

If looking for a top-quality cast iron dutch oven, this offering from Lodge is unbeatable. The company manufactures pre-seasoned cookware and has been a staple in the cast iron business for over 100 years.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon

Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set

Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set

The last item needed to cook with the portable campfire is a comprehensive grill set. This offering from Cuisinart has tongs, skewers, a digital temperature fork, a spatula, corn holders and more. The items come packaged in a durable aluminum carrying case for convenience and storage.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond

Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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