Sizzling Outback: A Journey of Campfire Cooking in the Heart of Australia
What could be better than a road trip through the wild and rugged Australian Outback? How about enjoying delicious meals cooked over a campfire, featuring the freshest local ingredients?
During my many journeys up north in Australia, I found a new appreciation for the simplicity and ingenuity of campfire cooking.
In this post, I’ll share my experiences, campfire meals, and helpful tips for those looking to spice up their next Outback adventure.
As I traversed the sun-scorched landscapes and admired the breathtaking beauty of the Outback, I quickly realized that the heart of Australia’s culinary scene lies within its diverse and unique ingredients.
The rich taste of Australian snapper, the sweetness of fruits from local markets, and the surprising taste of donkey stew – these experiences have left a mark on my taste buds and travel memories.
So, join me as we explore the art of campfire cooking in the Australian Outback.
Related read: Outback Camping Safety Tips
Packing for my Outback adventure
Here’s a breakdown of everything I packed to enjoy campfire cooking in the Outback.
Check out: How to do Sustainable Camping
The lifesaving camp oven I couldn’t live without
I think I will surprise you here because my trusty camp oven is actually a small kitchen cast iron pot. It’s perfect for my small family trips and its versatility allows me to prepare everything from shortbread, burgers, and pizza to hearty stews and cakes.
My essential cookware and utensils for the journey
I always make sure to pack a Potjie Pot for larger family gatherings, followed by a frying pan, which is perfect for morning pancakes or dinner steaks.
Additionally, I bring heat-resistant gloves to make moving pots or opening covers easier, a small broom to remove any dust from the pot cover (I still remember the taste of dust in my goulash), a small shovel for creating a charcoal bed and topping up the charcoal on the pot, and a wooden spoon.
Check out: Gear Guide: Must Haves for Camping and Hiking
The art of food storage on the go
Embarking on an Australian Outback trip often evolves into a multi-week or even a few months-long adventures. It’s essential to stock up on provisions, including an extra week’s worth of food for unforeseen circumstances.
Smart packing is the key, as the rugged Australian terrain teems with potholes, bull dust, and corrugations. Glass jars and fragile items must be packed compactly to minimise movement. I try to pack lots of dry pasta, rice and beans.
My camper trailer fridge brims with fresh veggies, while the car fridge transforms into a freezer filled with meat, ham and bacon.
This allows my family to have enough ingredients for a good meal for an extended period of time.
Stocking my Outback pantry: The food essentials I rely on
As I mentioned, I rely on versatile, non-perishable food such as pasta, rice, and beans. These items are not only easy to store but also serve as the foundation for countless delicious meals.
Additionally, I favour pre-mixed cake mixes (an excellent base for banana bread or chocolate cake creations), ready-to-use sauces in jars (like honey and mustard, perfect for chicken stew), and instant bread mixes.
This allows me to pack exactly what I need without cluttering my pantry with various ingredient boxes. With just a bowl and a wooden spoon, whipping up delightful dishes became a breeze.
The versatile spices that brought my dishes to life
A selection of spices always turns my simple outback pantry into a treasure trove of culinary possibilities.
I always have spices, such as dry garlic, paprika, and oregano, to add depth to my dishes.
Chilli flakes and ground pepper add a touch of heat, while a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg introduces a warm, exotic twist to our meals.
My strategies for keeping ingredients fresh and organized
Whether going on a long or short camping trip, assigning a specific place for all our food and equipment is crucial. If something isn’t returned to its proper spot, it can create chaos in my routine (especially when I can’t find my instant coffee in the morning).
In my opinion, the key to successfully preparing various dishes, even complex ones, lies in proper organisation.
With limited kitchen space, it’s essential to know exactly where each item is stored and easily accessible. For example, I store all my spices in small jars that perfectly fit my daughter’s old lunchbox.
Related read: Camping Survival Tips for Adults
How to keep ingredients fresh for campfire cooking?
Well, keeping ingredients fresh without a fridge can be challenging, especially when travelling through the scorching Australian Outback with temperatures soaring above 35°C.
Using an icebox isn’t an option either, as finding ice within a 1000 km radius is often impossible.
We soon discovered that a dependable fridge was the only viable option. Initially, we had one in the car, but as we began travelling with a camper trailer, our cold storage capacity expanded by an additional 50 litres.
Embracing the flavors of Australia
My love affair with local ingredients
Camping not only shapes us but also allows us to discover the incredible flavours of local food.
I’ll never forget my first taste of freshly caught oysters in Tasmania – they were swimming in the morning, and I enjoyed them for lunch.
Back in Brisbane, I tried oysters in one of the restaurants but they never quite taste the same.
Talking about the tropics, if you ever have the chance, savour your first barramundi in northern Queensland, prepared by the locals with a side of mango salsa.
Even after all these years, I can still recall the exquisite taste of that first bite of this delectable fish.
The rich taste of Australian Snapper
One of the true culinary gems I encountered during my travels was the Australian snapper.
Its rich, succulent taste and delicate texture make it a seafood lover’s dream.
We often have a chance to eat it when we travel to beautiful Port Douglas where many fish charter tours depart every day and freshly caught fish is easy to obtain.
The flavorful delight of Aussie-grown vegetables
Aussie-grown vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and butter pumpkin, bring a delightful burst of flavor to many campfire dishes. These humble yet versatile ingredients serve as the perfect accompaniment to a variety of Australian classics.
Picture a full juicy roast beef sourced from the heart of Tropic of Capricorn, enriched by the earthy flavors of these vibrant veggies, or a juicy steak sizzling in a frying pan, complemented by the subtle sweetness of butter pumpkin.
And who can forget the iconic Aussie meat pie, where a flaky, golden crust encases a savoury filling, made all the more delicious with the addition of these easy-to-obtain and store vegetables?
Sourcing campfire cooking fresh ingredients during my trip
Let’s paraphrase Forrest Gump:
“Travel is like a box of chocolates, you never know what tasty surprises you’ll come across.”
My favorite finds at local markets and roadside stands
I’m always drawn to roadside stalls with honey and veggies, but the biggest thrill comes from discovering something new and unfamiliar.
For instance, I was charmed by the custard apple – first tasted in Cooktown, the unique Asian greens from Darwin market, and the intriguing finger lime, a native Australian fruit bursting with tangy citrus caviar.
These unexpected discoveries not only expanded my culinary horizons but also added an extra layer of excitement to my travels.
My Outback cooking adventures
Over the past 15 years, my campfire cooking journey has evolved significantly.
What began as a simple affair of grilling sausages on a stick and toasting marshmallows has transformed into a passion for creating delicious, hearty meals using cast iron.
Mastering the art of campfire cooking
Today, whenever I find myself in the outback with a roaring fire at my disposal, there’s no doubt in my mind that a dinner prepared in a camp oven will be the highlight of our evening.
Because, there’s something magical about cooking over an open fire, surrounded by the vast expanse of the Australian Outback.
The warmth of the flames, the aroma of food mingling with the smoky air, and the satisfaction of crafting a delicious meal under the stars all contribute to a truly unforgettable experience.
My unforgettable experiments with camp oven cooking
Camp oven cooking opened for me the doors to a whole new culinary creativity. Often pushing me to think outside the box when the required ingredients weren’t readily available, especially while camping in remote areas.
This necessity to adapt and innovate gave me the chance to breathe new life into classic recipes, adding my own unique twist to traditional dishes.
A memorable experience that stands out for me was baking my grandmother’s sweet braided bread in a camp oven while exploring the remote reaches of Cape York.
The combination of a cherished family recipe and the rugged beauty of the Australian wilderness created a truly unforgettable memory for my family.
The joys of outdoor dining
There’s an undeniable joy in cooking and dining outdoors, beneath the vast canopy of the starlit sky that in the Australian Outback is one of the best in the world.
The simple act of preparing a meal amidst the gentle whispers of nature and the flickering glow of a campfire elevates the experience to something extraordinary.
As you taste each bite of your campfire-cooked dish, surrounded by the serenity of the wilderness, it becomes clear that dining under the stars is more than just a meal – it’s a moment of connection with nature, your companions, and the universe itself.
One of my most bizarre outdoor dining experiences
One of the unexpected joys of sharing a meal with fellow travellers in remote areas is not only the opportunity to enjoy the natural surroundings but also the chance to connect with like-minded adventurers.
A really interesting exchange took place in Mataranka, where we met some wonderful people who were as passionate about outdoor dining as we were.
That evening, we swapped our famous raspberry shortbread for their delicious donkey stew.
And, to our surprise, our teenage daughter enjoyed the dish immensely, savouring every bite.
My must-try Outback recipe
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a deep appreciation for Australian roasted veggies, which serve as a delightful side dish to various meat dishes. The beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity, making it accessible to anyone and an excellent starting point for those new to outback cooking over an open fire.
The smoky, irresistible camp oven-roasted vegetables
- Assorted vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and butter pumpkin)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Your choice of herbs and spices (such as rosemary, thyme, or garlic powder)
- Prepare the vegetables by washing, peeling, and cutting them into evenly-sized pieces.
- In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs and spices until evenly coated.
- Preheat your camp oven by placing it on hot coals for about 5-10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the camp oven lid using heat-resistant gloves or tongs, and place the seasoned vegetables inside the camp oven.
- Put the lid back on the camp oven and arrange hot coals on top of the lid to create an even distribution of heat.
- Roast the vegetables for approximately 30-40 minutes, checking occasionally for tenderness. If needed, cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are tender, carefully remove the camp oven from the fire and let the vegetables cool for a few minutes before serving.
Campfire cooking: Final word
I strongly encourage any camping enthusiast to try campfire cooking. There is nothing better than sitting at the fire and waiting for a tasty meal to be prepared in the Dutch oven.
For me and my family campfire cooking added an additional dimension to our adventures. Simply – it is tastier!
So go ahead, light that campfire, and let the magic of the Australian Outback inspire your culinary journey.
Looking for more inspiration on camping and road tripping in Australia? Check out the below: