Larry has some tips on how to suspend your pots over an open flame. PHOTO: Pixabay
A lot of folks who are new to camping would rather use one of the new(er) camp stoves that will simmer or rage and that also have an electronic igniter, so you don’t even need a match to get it going. They run on cans of butane or propane, or refills of kerosene or white gas. Convenience is what makes them so popular, and on a rainy day, convenience is pretty good to have available. They are pretty dependable but lack the ambience created by a cooking fire.
A cooking fire isn’t just a miniature bonfire, and to make a good one takes luck, experience or some advice from someone who’s got a reputation for being a good campfire cook.
The fire can be big enough to keep you and your campmates warm, but that hot part of the fire is not what you cook on. Visualize a keyhole, with the circular part being the large fire. Off to one side (upwind) make a “slot” straight out from the fire. Into this keyhole shape, pull a bunch of coals from the fire, set your grate on stones at either side of the slot and cook on that area. Replenish the coals from the main fire as needed. You can control the cooking heat by adding or removing coals or by moving the grate a little farther from the main fire.
Having a variable-height grate allows you to control the heat by changing the distance from the fire. This allows you to simmer or boil by varying the height.
The ultimate in heat control over an open fire is to hang your pots over the flames. For this, you will need to install a pole, either level or propped up to be between four and five feet above the fire. In advance, you will have prepared at least three very light chains, with bungee-type hooks at the bottom, and at least one or two more (up a foot each) above the bottom one.
Wrap the other end of the light chain around the horizontal (or propped-up stick). Another hook in that end will assist to keep that chain from slipping off the support stick. You can then hang your (bail-equipped, handle over the top) pots on the lower hook to boil, or on one of the higher hooks to simmer or keep warm. The hook-equipped hanging chain can also be shortened at any time by giving it another wrap around the hanging stick.
Of course, none of the campfire cooking is as easy as cooking on a stove, so it depends on what satisfies you personally. Bear in mind that anyone can cook a meal on a stove; but on a fire, now that’s a skill.