Having a campfire is a big part of camping. But do you know what type of campfire to make?
Don’t believe everything you watch on TV or see in the movies. There are different types of campfire. Some are best for heat and light, others are best for cooking over.
Creating a Campfire for Cooking
TV shows and films often have a roaring fire with pots and other items cooking over the flames.
Whilst it’s not impossible to cook that way, you’ll usually end up with burnt and undercooked food.
Hot coals and embers are actually much better to cook over as they give out a good steady heat, and it’s easier to control the temperature by adding or taking away hot coals.
Flame tends to burn yet not get that hot, at least not hot enough to cook the inside of your food before it scorches the outside.
If you want to do a lot of campfire cooking for your family, I recommend you get a Dutch Oven (see our article on how to use a Dutch Oven for more info).
Dutch Ovens and other cast iron cookware work really well with hot coals, as the heat from the coals transfers to the iron, making it ideal for frying, baking, and roasting.
Let’s look at a few different types of campfire.
The Tepee Campfire
The Tepee is the classic looking campfire and is ideal when you want to create a quick fire to warm up with.
Pile up dry tinder kindling and set it alight. Then start placing sticks around it in a tepee shape, making sure that you don’t smother the fire.
As the fire gets bigger you can use larger sticks and logs.
This is a good fire that puts out a tall flame and heat in all directions, making it an ideal campfire to sit around in the evening.
You will need plenty of fuel close to hand as this type of fire burns quickly.
However, the tepee campfire is not a good choice if you want to cook food.
The Criss-Cross Campfire
If you want a campfire to cook over, then you need to build a Criss-Cross fire.
You build this by simply placing a criss-cross of logs, stacked on top of one another.
I find it easier to light by creating a small depression in the ground and start a small fire with dry kindling first, then start adding more small twigs to the fire, and then build the crisscrossed logs above the fire.
Although the fire’s shape does provide a flat platform to cook things over, eventually the logs will collapse in on themselves.
This is not a problem, as it’s the hot embers and coals that this sort of fire makes that you then use for cooking with.
The Keyhole Fire Pit – The Best of Both
So what if you want to sit around a campfire and cook? How can you have a good campfire that does both?
Well, the ideal solution is a Keyhole Firepit.
You cut a keyhole shape in the ground and start a Tepee fire in the round part of the keyhole. This fire provides light and warmth.
Now you can either wait for the Tepee fire to create enough hot embers or start a second fire for cooking with.
If you decide to wait, then rake hot embers from the main fire into the slot where you can cook food.
Alternatively, start a small criss-cross fire in the slot to create some embers while the tepee fire is warming everyone and lighting up the camp.
The Swedish Torch
The Swedish Torch campfire is very popular on the internet. After all, using this design, a single log can burn for hours. Sounds amazing, right?
The concept is quite simple.
You cut some slits into a log. You stand the log on its end and start a fire in the top. As the fire embers fall into the slits the log starts to burn.
Air is drawn into the slits and the log burns down from the top and the inside.
We’ve created something like this before, and although you can have a log burning for a long time, it doesn’t give out as much heat or light, so a group of you at a campsite won’t be keeping warm by this fire, unlike a tepee fire. Though if there’s just one or two of you and don’t have much wood, the Swedish Torch could be a good choice.
You’ll also want make sure the log is firm. You don’t want it falling over, especially with kids around.
If the top of the log is also flat you could place a small pan or pot on the top and use the log to cook on. The Swedish Torch does put out a lot of heat at the top of the log.
Here’s a video from the internet on making a Swedish Torch campfire.
So there you go, a couple of different methods of creating a campfire.
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