Gather Around the Campfire for Meals Anyone Can Make
Campfire stew (also known as Hobo Stew, Scout Stew, or Foil Packet Stew) is one of my favorite childhood camping meal memories. It was an easy way to get us kids involved in meals and gave us the glorious ability to choose what (and how much) of each ingredient to include in our dinner.
Plus, we got to be in charge of cooking our own dinner right on the campfire whether it was burned and dry, not cooked fully, or perfection was our own discovery! As it turns out, there are nearly unlimited options of variations on this fun family-friendly way to cook a meal. With a little prep time, a campfire stew can be a fun way to spend time together no matter what age you are.
Campfire stew basics
The basics involve creating individual meals that are wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked slowly over hot coals. You want to use what my dad would call a “quiet fire” – one that has been going long enough to have some good glowing coals, but not a raging inferno with tall flames.
If campfires are not permitted due to fire restrictions, you can also cook them over fire pits, propane grills, or even in the oven at about 350F. The key is to use heavy-duty aluminum foil and to include enough moisture in each packet to prevent burning or scalding while it cooks.
In our family, the traditional campfire stew ingredients included ground beef, diced potatoes, onions, peppers, corn, carrots, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. The trick is to dice the potatoes small enough that they cook through.
Mom would have everything cut up and ready to go for us, and we could put in whatever we wanted. We would line a bowl with the foil, using the depression of the bowl to create a pocket for the ingredients.
Things that need to cook more go toward the bottom and outside, things that just needed to be heated up go on the inside. Tomato sauce went over the top to provide moisture to create the stew.
Once the ingredients are added, the foil is carefully folded over to completely enclose the meal. A second layer of foil is used, placing the folded seam of the first foil packet in the middle and folding opposite to make the seam of the second packet on the other side to further prevent leaks and spills.
Using tongs or sticks (to keep kids a safe distance from the fire), the packet are placed carefully in the coals, keeping in mind that if the foil gets poked the sauce will leak out and your dinner will burn.
After 10-15 minutes (thicker packets will take longer), you can flip the packet to cook on the other side for 10-15 minutes. When you think it is done, you can take the packet out of the fire (careful so you don’t poke a hole in it) and unwrap a corner to check the doneness of your stew. If it needs more time, simply re-wrap the packet and put it back in the fire.
When it is done, pull the packet out of the coals, set it on a plate, and carefully (hot!!) unwrap the packets to open up the stew. You can eat it right from the foil!
Campfire stew tips
- Double wrap with heavy-duty aluminum foil
- Slice potatoes and things that take longer to cook thinly
- Use a quiet cooking fire (if fire conditions permit)
- Use plenty of “sauce” to keep moisture in the stew to prevent scalding
- Remember that uncooked food will look like a lot, but will lose about a third its volume in the cooking process
- Always remember to be safe when using a campfire and put your campfire OUT when you are done
Campfire meal variations
The beauty of campfire meals is that you can use whatever ingredients your family likes! Each member can contribute their favorite. To get you started, here are some ideas:
- Protein: Ground beef, ground turkey, cubed steak, shredded chicken, sliced sausage, scrambled egg, chickpeas, edamame, tofu
- Vegetables: Carrots, potatoes, yams, corn, onion, peppers, mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes, olives, Brussel sprouts, peas, green beans, butternut squash
- Sauce: Tomato sauce, cream of mushroom (any cream-of variety) soup, olive oil, butter, barbeque sauce
- Extras: Cheese (best as a topping), seasonings, herbs, lemon wedges
- You can even try different themes: Ranch chicken, anyone? Mexican? Italian? Caribbean? How about a warm curry?
Campfire meals don’t always have to be savory. Try this easy recipe for a pineapple upside-down cake on your next camping trip.
Campfire Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
- Spray the foil with cooking spray
- Add a handful of pineapple chunks
- Add a handful of cubed pound cake (or sliced cake style donuts) on top of the pineapple
- Sprinkle with brown sugar
- Ad a dollop of butter
- Fold up the aluminum foil and double layer as you did with the stew
- Cook over hot coals (or in the grill or oven) for 10-15 minutes.
- Open up your packet, top with whipping cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
You may also want to try these 10 No-Bake Desserts that don’t require an oven.
Share your favorite campfire meal ideas in the comments or with the community on iRV2 Forums. For more campfire meal ideas, check out these articles:
- 8 Bacon Recipes You Need To Try Over The Campfire
- 5 Amazing Camping Meals You Can Make With 5 Ingredients Or Less
- 12 Easy Foil Packet Recipes You Need To Try This Camping Season
How to Build the Perfect Campfire
If you are still struggling to build that perfect campfire, take a look at this article for some tips.
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Karen Becker says
Thanks for the reminder on how easy and fun the foil wrapped meals are. Brought me back to my Girl Scout days. Great memories!!!
Rob Clarke says
Campfire brownies in an Orange – One box of brownie mix will fill 6-8 oranges.
Slice a thin top off each orange, then carefully hollow or each orange with a table spoon and save for fruit later.
Prepare brownie mix per package. Fill each orange about 3/4 full with brownie mix (they will expand when cooking.
Place sliced top back on orange and double wrap the orange with standard foul. Twist a peak where the top is so you can place upright in the campfire.
Place oranges in a primarily coals campfire like you would use for S’mores.
Let cook for 25-30 mins. A little shorter will make the brownie more soufflé like, longer more cake like.
Take out of fire, let cool for 5 mins, open foil from the top, remove the top of the orange and eat out of the orange for orange infused brownies!
we cook most of our complicated meals before heading out
then reheat them whatever way we can
our current camper has a very large freezer
our previous campers had a lot of room for large coolers
so between campfires, grills/griddles, microwaves or stovetops we usually have it covered
Great recipes for camping! Camera Stew is what our family has always called “ Hobo pies”. We have been making them for 46 years…. Before 5 kids and after.