Pictured above: A simple stir fry consisting of chorizo sausage, scallions, red and yellow bell peppers, carrots and zucchini cooked on a camp stove.
One of the best features of our travel vans is the ability to enjoy a fresh cooked meal at any time. Cooking on a camp stove is just as easy as cooking at home, with a few minor differences. For one, camp stoves cook at high temperatures, and for another, weather can be a factor. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help inspire your next camp stove meal.
- Choose a cooking oil with a high smoke point (the temperature that the oil will burn at). Olive oil is commonly used at home, but has a relatively low smoke point at 391 degrees Fahrenheit (200 C). Instead, we often cook with avocado oil, which has a smoke point of 570 degrees F (299 C). If you can’t find avocado oil, vegetable oil is also a good option, and it’s available almost everywhere. Its smoke point is 460 degrees F (238 C).
- Choose items that stand up to heat. Stir fry, hamburger, chicken, pasta, bacon, sausage, eggs, and other items that aren’t delicate make great options.
- Remove the pan from the camp stove periodically while cooking to help regulate your temperature. This technique is especially helpful when preparing things that cook rapidly, such as scrambled eggs. This technique also works for proteins, like chicken or sausage, that need to cook all the way through. The outside of the meat cooks much faster than the inside at these higher temperatures.
- Be aware of the wind. Our van kitchens were designed so that the stove can be used where it sits, but it is possible to remove the stove and use it elsewhere at your campsite. If it’s a windy day, make sure to use the flame guards on the two sides of your stove, and position your stove so it’s facing the wind. A cross-wind will drastically decrease the stove’s cooking power.
- Avoid items that need to simmer for extended periods. Rice can be difficult for this reason, but can be done if you have the patience to watch over the rice and use the techniques above. We’d recommend a short grain rice such as Arborio or Calrose for this—long grain rice has a longer cook time and therefore more opportunity to burn. Couscous is a great rice substitute because of its short cooking time.
There are several cook books on the market specifically designed for camp cooking and cookbooks that focus on small portions and how to use your leftovers. (Some of these focus on cast iron cookware, and while cast iron cookware is a great camping tool, it is better suited for an open flame and not for use with a camp stove.) Cooking the One-Burner Way by Melissa Gray and Buck Tilton is focused on backcountry cooking but is full of inspiring recipes and great advice for car camping as well. The New Camp Cookbook, by Linda Ly, is useful both on the road and at home and The Traveler’s Cookbook, by Britta-Lis Perry, focuses on small portions and creative uses for all ingredients.