17 September, 2019
Cooking Over An Open Fire Pit – Chicken and Vegetable Dinner
Cooking over an open fire pit is one of our family’s favorite things to do when we are camping. Chicken and vegetables in a cast iron Dutch oven makes a great hearty meal after having a couple of meals of hamburgers and hot dogs.
If you do some planning and prepping ahead of time, you can give your family a home cooked meal over an open fire that includes meat and vegetables, which we sometimes lack when camping in the middle of the woods.
Since I was not sure how any of my kids were going to be going camping with us, I purchased two whole chickens. Normally, it takes two chickens for our family! When I got them home from the store, I put them in the freezer and let them freeze for at least a week. I wanted to make sure they were frozen all the way through.
Freezing them give two purposes:
- Helps keep the cooler cold and I don’t have to buy ice.
- They thaw slowly and are ready to eat by the third evening.
The day before we plan to leave, I get my vegetables prepared:
- I buy small red potatoes because the skins are better to eat than a russet (taste wise, not necessarily nutrition wise) and since I buy the small ones, I do not have to cut them up. If you purchase larger ones that need cutting, (I recommend quartering them), take along a knife and small cutting board to do this with at your camp. Otherwise, if you cut them ahead of time they will turn brown. You could also put them in a non-leak container with water. After buying them I wash and dry them, then put them into a large one gallon zip lock baggie.
- The easiest way to do carrots is to purchase baby carrots that are already washed and bagged. If you purchase fresh carrots, you will need to peel, wash and cut them up into large pieces, then put them in a zip lock baggie.
- I like a lot of mushrooms. I purchase the large portabella mushrooms or large button mushrooms. Then I was, dry and put them in to a baggie as well.
- Next, I quartered about 4 whole large onions. We like onions, so I did a lot of them. I also put those into the baggie with my carrots and celery.
- The last vegetable I prepared was my celery. I washed it, cut off the bad ends, then cut each stalk into three pieces. I did extra of these so that the kids could east peanut butter and celery as a snack one day. That was a bit hit!
On the day we left, I put my frozen chickens in a baggie, then placed them at the bottom of my cooler. Next I added other frozen meats (also in baggies) that I knew would thaw before the frozen chicken – hot dogs and sausages. On top, I put the thawed pre-made hamburger patties that we were planning on cooking on our first night at camp.
Notice that all my meats, including my chicken were put into individual zip lock baggies. This is to prevent contamination during the thawing process. Be very careful about juices mixing in your cooler. You do not want to get sick.
On top of my meat, and all in individual bags, I put my vegetables that needed to stay cool, as well as my eggs. There was enough coolness from the frozen meat for this to work for 3 days. After that, if there was anything left in the cooler, I purchased a bag of ice to add to it. Since only three of my seven children ended up with us, we only cooked one o the chickens. We did have to buy ice to put on the other one and cooked it the day after we got home.
Our chickens were completely thawed by the third day. About two hours before we wanted to eat, we put 1 cup of water into the bottom of a large 8 quart cast iron Dutch oven, then the whole chicken. We seasoned our chicken generously with salt and pepper. You can season with any kind of seasoning you wish, I just forgot to bring anything but salt and pepper with me!
Next, put your prepared potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms into the pot on top of the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and/or any seasoning of your choice. Put on a good fitting cast iron lid.
Place over bed of hot coals with no flames! Pot should be level and 12 – 14 inches above coals if in an enclosed pit, closer if an open pit is used. Wind will play a factor with heat.
Temperature control: watch for steam escaping from pot – about 15 minutes. If steam is too vigorous rake back coals from under pot, if no steam within 20 minutes then more heat is needed. Small branches or pieces of wood may be added around the outside parameter of pot – flames should not touch the pot unless you want an instant temperature rise. Flames touching pot should be short-lived, no more than a few minutes before dying to coals.
After it has been steaming for 30 minutes, coals may be added to the top in order to brown the skin of the chicken. Depending on size of coals do not cover more than half the lid. Some of the coals may flame but you don’t want a raging fire – this will burn the contents. Check chicken by lifting lid after 15 minutes, if not brown add more coals and check every 5 – 10 minutes until done. Check entire chicken to make sure it is cooked through.
Scrape coals off lid. Remove lid and place on trivet (or planks of wood) on table. Use a heavy oven mitt to lift handle on pot and place pot on top of the lid. Serve out of pot!
With careful planning, prepping and cooking, you and your family can enjoy a hearty chicken meal over an open fire! There is no better way to enjoy camping than to have a good meal. The first thing to start is by purchasing a good quality cast iron Dutch Oven. You will find some great deals on Amazon! You also might be interested in my article on cooking with cast iron and the benefits of using it.
How about you? Do you ever go camping? Have you ever tried cooking meals other than the normal hot dogs and hamburgers over an open fire? If so, I would love to hear what kind of foods you prepare. Leave me a comment in the comment section below!