Cooking Like a Pro: A Guide to Outdoor Cooking

After a busy day playing on the beach or trekking through the local area, you want to come back to some tasty food on holiday. But outdoor cooking hasn’t always been for everyone.

After a busy day playing on the beach or trekking through the local area, you want to come back to some tasty food on holiday. But outdoor cooking hasn’t always been for everyone.

Fortunately, here at Winfields we want to make your life easier – and your dinners tastier – which is why we’ve picked out some ready-made tips to make delicious meals wherever you are. And, you could even find your new favourite outdoor cooking gear with our new Cadac range. 

Keep reading to find out more

Top tips for cooking outdoors

Whether you’re camping for the weekend, on a caravan holiday, or even just enjoying a BBQ tea in the garden, cooking outdoors is a great way to enjoy the weather and soak up those extra minutes of sunshine. Plus, you can rustle up some incredibly tasty meals for your friends and family.

But, outdoor cooking can be a little daunting for beginners. The following tips and tricks are the perfect starting place to make sure you have an amazing meal – and the only problem will be deciding who’s on dish duty afterwards!

1. Choose your cooking equipment

First things first, you need to choose the right cooking equipment as different pieces will have their own advantages and disadvantages.

BBQs are designed to cook on metal grills. When the lid is closed, the heat generated will cook your food all the way through – and will leave the characteristic sear marks in the sides touching the grill. This is perfect for burgers, kebabs, and various fruits or veggies.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to boil your kettle or do any cooking that requires a saucepan, you’ll need to look into getting a stove or portable hob. These are more like what you have in your kitchen at home, allowing you to prepare a range of meals like soups and pasta dishes.

Top tip: some outdoor cooking units will offer you the flexibility to use a grill or burner unit – giving you the best of both worlds!

Of course, you can also cook over an open flame. But, this is pretty difficult to get right if you’re new to it. So, we’d recommend sticking to using a BBQ or stove for your main meals, and using the campfire for some delicious toasted marshmallows…

2. Pack the right accessories

Alongside your BBQ or stove, you need to make sure you have the right accessories to make outdoor cooking easy and enjoyable. We recommend making a standard kit that goes everywhere with you, and includes:

  • A good set of knives.
  • A pair of tongs, a wooden spoon, and a spatula.
  • A tin opener.
  • Chopping boards.
  • A pair of scissors.
  • Plates, bowls, and cutlery.
  • Saucepans and frying pans.

Of course, these are just the basics. Depending on your level of cooking ability, enthusiasm, and know-how, you may want to bring more varied supplies like a bottle opener and grater – or even some specialist pans or plates to fit your BBQ.

3. Plan your meals

Outdoor cooking is rarely spontaneous – and that’s perfectly fine. Why not make the most of the structure cooking outdoors can give you by matching certain meals to your activity levels whilst you’re away?

For example, if you’re planning on going for a long hike one day, you won’t want to do a lot of cooking when you get back. On these kinds of days, it’s way better to come up with a speedy, tasty, and most importantly, filling meal to replace all the energy you’ve used up on your trip. Why not try a quick and easy pasta, or premade veggie curry with rice?

Instead, save your longer, complicated and/or more labour-intensive cooks for days when you know you’re going to be relaxing because you’ll have the time (and inclination) to put in the work on a longer cook. With the right barbecue, you could make anything from slow-cooked ribs and pulled pork, to delicious pizzas and paellas – which is a massive step up from instant mash!

4. Prepare at home

A huge part of cooking is in the prep work. But, this can be a faff when you’re out on a campsite without the space or work surface to get all of your chopping done comfortably. So, we recommend completing the majority of your meal prep at home wherever possible, as you have the time and space to do it properly. This includes:

  • Chopping fruit, vegetables, and protein sources.
  • Preparing marinades, spice rubs, or flavour mixes.
  • Marinating meat, fish, or vegetables.
  • Making sauces.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables.
  • Pre-cooking elements where possible (and safe to do so).

Top tip: some fruits and vegetables don’t last long once they’re cut up. You can either save these for the campsite, or make sure you cook them first.

Once everything has been prepared before your trip, it’s easy to portion out snacks, or make meal packs with the necessary ingredients – which will help you with our next step…

5. Pack food strategically

If you know you’re going to be away for a few days, you need to make sure you’re packing your food practically and strategically to make sure everything lasts in the best conditions.

Considering you won’t always have easy access to a fridge when you’re camping, it’s well worth investing in a high-quality cool box to help you keep perishables from getting too warm. 

Top tip: make sure to stock your cool box with ice packs to help regulate the internal temperature of the box, and insulate your food whatever the weather.

But there are ways you can help your food last on a camping trip. For example, always try to pack your ingredients in the order you’re planning on using them – with immediate meals at the top and later foods at the bottom. This is because cold air drops, while hot air rises, so packing ingredients you need later in your trip at the bottom helps them stay cool for longer. It also reduces their exposure to the outside, and stops you from rummaging too much and upsetting your carefully planned order.

As we mentioned above, doing the prep at home means you can make separate portions or meal packs before your trip. This not only reduces food waste, but also makes it easier for you to pack your ingredients into your cooler and helps with maximising the available space.

6. Test your equipment

There’s nothing worse than getting ready to cook, and finding out your stove or BBQ isn’t working! So, one of the most important things you should do before heading on a camping trip is to test your cooking equipment. Make sure you run through the following to familiarise yourself with your cooking gear:

  • Check any connections to make sure they’re not loose or damaged.
  • Make sure you know how to attach any gas canisters, or alternative power sources.
  • Clean any accessories, grills, and the body of your BBQ.
  • Look for damage to any other parts of the BBQ or stove that could prevent it from operating safely.
  • Turn on any electric or gas powered stoves or BBQs to make sure they work.

Top tip: for any charcoal BBQs, make sure you have plenty of coals, firestarters, and matches before you leave.

Outdoor cooking safety

Cooking is a great way to bring people together – but you need to make sure you follow the right safety measures to keep everyone safe. Outdoor cooking is no different, and can even come with some extra measures you need to consider.

Wash everything

The outside is a wonderful, beautiful place that’s home to incredible fauna and flora. But. Where there are plants and animals, there is also mud, dirt, and other things we reckon you’d rather not end up in your dinner.

So, our first safety tip is to make sure you wash your equipment before you use it. This covers everything from tongs and knives, to chopping boards and plates. And, of course, wash your hands before touching any ingredients.

Note: if you’ve prepped your ingredients beforehand, you shouldn’t need to wash them again as they’ll have been sealed in tupperware or storage bags. Also, as a reminder, you should never wash meat or fish products, as this increases the risks of cross-contamination (the exception being fresh shellfish, which may need a rinse to remove sand and sediment).

Depending on where you’ve pitched your tent, and the type of campsite you’ve chosen, you should have access to running water or even washing stations. If not, simply boil some water and wash in that (although wait for it to cool before dunking your hands in).

Keep ingredients separate

Just like you would in your home kitchen, make sure to keep raw and cooked ingredients separate when you’re cooking outside to avoid cross-contamination. Whilst this can be a bit more difficult when you don’t have a fridge or cupboards to keep track of everything, with some planning it’s fairly simple.

This is another instance when forward planning and preparing food before your trip will make your cooking experience much more enjoyable and easy. When you’re cooking, make sure you only have the ingredients for that meal out (and keep the others safely packed away in your cool box). Having multiple chopping boards will also help you keep everything separate, as cooked ingredients can be transferred to a clean board until you’re ready to dish up.

Cook food thoroughly

If you’re new to outdoor cooking, you may struggle with knowing when everything is cooked properly. Unlike your oven, BBQs don’t necessarily have a set temperature, which makes it harder to gauge how long your food needs to cook. And, when it comes to ingredients like chicken, the difference between cooked and uncooked can be a very unpleasant night at camp.

Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks you can do to make sure everything is cooked through.

  • Bring a food thermometer: these are a more accurate way to gauge the internal temperature of your food. Simply stick this into the thickest part of your meal to check if it’s hot enough inside.
  • Cook everything for longer: an easy way to make sure everything is cooked is to give it slightly longer than you think it needs. However, this can make your food dry, so should be a last resort.
  • Cook up a test piece: whatever you’re cooking, make sure you have one piece as a tester. You can cut into this and check it’s cooked all the way through without affecting the rest of your ingredients.

Learn your equipment

Just like it takes time to get used to a new oven or hob, you need to make sure to familiarise yourself with any new outdoor stoves or BBQs you use. This ensures you know how to power it, use it, and to notice if anything is damaged or set up wrong.

For example, improperly fitted canisters can be incredibly dangerous so you should always make sure you know how to correctly install and change any gas canisters that supply your BBQ or gas stove. You should also make sure everything is turned off before changing a canister.

Top tip: you should NEVER use a gas canister if it appears damaged or dented in any way.

The same can be said for charcoal BBQs – make sure you know how to use firestarters and lighter fluid safely before you head out.

Cook on flat ground

Cooking on a slope is dangerous for everyone involved. An unbalanced BBQ is more likely to fall, or be knocked over, which could burn you, or those around you. It may also cause fires to spark around you – which is the last thing you want on a campsite.

So, you should ALWAYS make sure you’re cooking on a flat surface. Some campsites have level pitches, which means it’s easier for you to cook onsite. If they don’t, try and find (or create) a level surface for you to cook from.

Top tip: some BBQs have adjustable legs to allow for uneven terrain.

Practice fire safety

Last, but certainly not least, on our outdoor cooking safety checklist, is to make sure everyone around you is aware of fire safety rules around BBQs and outdoor stoves. This means: 

  • No running or playing near an open flame.
  • Do not touch or move cooking equipment until it’s cooled completely.
  • Supervise children at all times.
  • Always keep matches, gas canisters, and any other cooking supplies out of the reach of children.
  • Never leave your BBQ or stove unattended.
  • Do not use your BBQ or stove indoors.
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand close by for emergencies.
  • Don’t cook in long grass or near your tent.

Outdoor cooking with Cadac

Here at Winfields, we’re pretty keen on helping you spend time outside – and having some incredibly tasty meals is definitely one of the best ways to get the whole family to come along with you. But, you need to make sure you have the best equipment with you.

Cadac, for example, is one of the leading names in portable and outdoor cooking, with plenty of versatile BBQs for you to choose from. In this section, we’ve picked out a couple of our favourite models that can really help you make the most of your camp cooking.

Cadac Safari Chef 30 Compact Gas BBQ

Usually weighing in around the 4kg mark, the Cadac Safari Chef range is one of the best portable BBQs for camping adventures. And, we absolutely love the Cadac Safari Chef 30 Compact model – here’s why.

  • Lightweight and with a small pack size, it’s easy to bring the Cadac Safari Chef with you wherever you go.
  • Comes with a durable storage bag for easy transport.
  • The versatile 30 series-compatible cooking surfaces can be swapped out depending on your needs, so you can grill, boil, and fry a wide variety of ingredients.
  • The enamelled lid doubles as a cooking pot.
  • Easy ignition, and simple canister assembly makes it a breeze to use at your campsite.

So, if you’re planning a trip away with the family, or want some delicious food on your next solo trek, make sure you invest in this compact Cadac BBQ.

Cadac Carri Chef 50 Gas BBQ / Plancha Combo

Looking for something a little bigger? The Cadac Carri Chef series takes home barbecuing to the next level, with plenty of useful accessories helping you elevate your cooking. At Winfields, we love the superbly modular Cadac Carri Chef 50, which includes useful features like:

  • Compatibility with multiple ‘drop-in tops’ to change your cooking surface with ease.
  • An included plancha – a flat plate that’s perfect for cooking everything from fish and veggies in the evening, and then switching to pancakes for the perfect start to any morning.
  • Easy assembly and construction to get you cooking in no time.
  • An integrated temperature gauge in the lid to help you cook everything perfectly.
  • The automatic Piezo ignition helps your BBQ start instantly – no need to wait for charcoal to burn.

Cadac 2 Cook 3 Classic Stove

Alternatively, for something simpler (but no less useful), you might want to pick up a Cadac gas stove. The Cadac 2 Cook 3 gas stove is a perfect example of simple functionality executed well, with features including:

  • Piezo ignition for instant flames.
  • Independent controls for each burner, allowing you to cook multiple dishes at once.
  • Two pot stands for added convenience and service.
  • The lightweight and compact design makes it highly portable, and easy to carry to your campsite.

Our top Cadac accessories

One of the best aspects of Cadac gas stoves and BBQs is their versatility and modular design – as there are a whole range of compatible cooking accessories to make your cooking experience more enjoyable. Choose from some of our favourites below to take your camping meals to the next level.

  • Perfect for making the ultimate camping breakfast, you can cook anything from fried eggs to pancakes on your Cadac gas stove with the Cadac 2 Cook 3 Flat Grill Plate.
  • Fancy a traditional, stone-baked pizza on camp? Check out the Cadac Pizza Stone Pro 30 – compatible with any in the Cadac Safari Chef 30 range.
  • Treat yourself to a full Sunday roast with the Cadac Roast Pan 50, or step up your cooking game with the Cadac Paella Pan 50, perfect for paellas, risottos, and other rice dishes. Both of these are compatible with the Cadac Carri Chef 50 range.

Outdoor cooking made easy with Winfields Outdoors

You don’t have to limit yourself when it comes to outdoor cooking. In fact, why not take your new Cadac cookware for a test run at one of the amazing outdoor campsites in and around the UK? Find out more about these, and plenty of other amazing outdoor activities, when you explore the Winfields Outdoors blog

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