Camping outdoors is the perfect escape. Staying out in a serene, private patch of wilderness is a great way to avoid the hustle and bustle of everyday life, replacing work, commutes, and grocery runs with campfire discussions, hikes, and fishing.
Camping is fun because it’s the opposite of most daily routines. It strips technology and specialization away and replaces them with more simple activities, emulating a return to a more primal lifestyle.
By removing modern comforts and innovations, campers often find more pleasure in primitive activities like cooking and fire-making.
Top Survival Cooking Methods
Cooking using primitive methods and techniques can also be a great way to connect with the wilderness and flex your survival skills. It’s also a good backup plan.
If you find yourself unexpectedly stranded in the wilderness, basic survival cooking skills can be invaluable.
1. Cooking Over Coals
Cooking food over hot coals is an easy and tasty way of preparing a meal. It’s as simple as wrapping your raw foods in leaves, tying the leaves shut, and placing them over hot coals. It’s also a great way to prepare your fishing catch without a stove or pot.
If you’re planning to cook food over coals, you’ll need some large, non-toxic leaves (soaked banana leaves work great), a campfire, and some sticks or tongs.
While cooking over coals is a relatively simple method, it isn’t completely foolproof. If your fire is too hot, you can potentially burn your food. If your coals are too cold, you won’t cook your food thoroughly, leaving you at risk for food poisoning.
To ensure that you cook your food properly, follow these simple guidelines.
Building the Fire
When you’re building a fire, remember that your goal is to create hot coals instead of a burning inferno.
While placing your food in a fire may cook your meal faster, it will burn the wrapping leaves and food, leaving an unpalatable and inedible mess.
Creating coals takes time. You need to give the fire time to convert the wood into charcoal and ashes. The fire is ready once it has been converted into a hotbed of coals.
Wrapping the Food
Wrapping food in multiple layers of wet banana leaves or other non-toxic, moisture-rich leaves is a great way to ensure that your food won’t spill or burn.
If you choose to use local flora to wrap your food, it’s important to be 100% sure of the identification.
The food should be wrapped tightly, preventing the loss of steam and juices during the cooking process. Tying the leaves shut with string is optional, although it can be useful to help secure the leaves in place to prevent leakage.
Cooking the Food
Once the fire is ready, spread the coals and ashes around to create a bed for the food.
Then, simply cover the leaf wraps with more coals and ashes, creating an oven of heat around your wraps. Use sticks or tongs to remove the leaf wrappings from the fire when the food is fully cooked.
Cooking time will vary depending on the size of food. A small fish may take around 15 minutes to cook, while a larger fillet may take 20-30 minutes. Make sure that you occasionally rotate your wraps to ensure that they cook evenly.
2. Stone Boiling
Stone boiling is an ancient cooking technique perfect for beachside camping or backpacking.
By heating rocks and placing them in an indented rock filled with water, you can easily make a soup or stew using the day’s catch.
Stone boiling can even be used for cooking live lobster, crab, and fresh fish—as long as the food and water fit inside your makeshift rock bowl, you can stone boil it.
Finding the Rocks
To stone boil food, you’ll need an appropriate makeshift bowl. Any large rock with a suitable indent will suffice, as long as it doesn’t have any cracks and is large enough to fit food, water, and several medium-sized rocks.
You’ll likely need at least 15 stones, approximately egg-sized, to keep the water boiling. When selecting rocks, it’s crucial to pick stones that are dense and low in water content—rocks that are too high in water content may explode when heated.
Don’t use submerged or wet rocks on the shore, as they are particularly prone to exploding.
Preparing the Food
Rinse the rock bowl and rocks to remove any dirt before placing the stones in a fire for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Prepare the ingredients for your soup or stew while the rocks are heating.
Add the desired amount of water into the bowl before adding several stones to boil the water. Use tongs or sticks when handling the rocks, as they will be extremely hot.
Add your ingredients, along with any spices or herbs. Stir the soup or stew occasionally, adding additional rocks from the fire or removing cold rocks from the bowl as required.
3. Rock Frying
Rock frying is one of the easiest survival cooking methods and only requires a rock slab and a fire, making it perfect for camping and backpacking in all environments.
Rock frying is good for frying up fish and bacon, proteins that can withstand the sear and high heat.
Choosing a Rock
Any rock used for frying should be low in moisture, thin, and flat (slightly indented rocks may hold oil better). While the chosen rock should be thin, avoid selecting a rock that is too thin, as it will lose heat too quickly.
Preparing the Food
Heat the rock on the fire for approximately 20-30 minutes to bring it up to heat. Prepare your proteins by cutting them into thin slices, as slices that are too thick may not finish cooking before the rock cools down.
Once the rock is heated, move the rock of the fire and scrape any ashes of the cooking surface. Add oil to the stone if available.
Then, cook your food for approximately 5-10 minutes, turning it occasionally to ensure that all the meats are thoroughly cooked.
Don’t attempt to cool the rock faster by dousing it with cold water—it may cause the rock to explode.