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  • Writer's pictureSoo Hammond

Campfire Cooking - How to cook like a Pioneer!

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Humans have been cooking over campfire since the dawn of humankind, so it can’t be that hard!

Camping and glamping in the outdoors is a great place to have a foodie adventure and cooking over a campfire is a fun thing to do on holiday and food cooked outdoors tastes fantastic!

The image of cooking in a ‘big black pot’ hanging over an open fire goes back thousands of years in our human history.

The campfire would be the place where we came together, kept warm, cooked and ate food and told campfire stories – It’s elemental!

If you get the chance to visit Castell Henllys, the Iron Age village, in Pembrokeshire you can see this in the Iron Age roundhouses.


This classic design has evolved very little over the centuries, but in the 17 Century an improved casting technique for the pot was invented by the Dutch and this when the black pot became known as the “Dutch Oven”.


The simple design classic has meant explorers from Canada to Australia and South Africa have used a Dutch Oven or its local equivalents (the Bedourie in Oz and the Potjie in SA) to keep them fed during their wilderness adventures. They deemed such a valuable item in the 17th + 18th Century for the Pioneer that they were often individually mentioned in Wills!

The Dutch Oven is the perfect cooking kit for any wilderness adventurer, because its so versatile, you can cook everything you need in one pot, saving on washing up and the need to carrying lots of pans when you are travelling

Campfire cooking and Dutch ovens

You can cook roasts, stews, bread, casseroles, biscuits, cakes, pie … even pizzas!

See what foodie adventure you can cook up in your Dutch oven this summer in your Pioneer camp!

Food and Drink

The foods that the pioneers would cook depended mainly on what they could carry or find on the trail, so staples such as flour, beans, bacon, dried meat (jerky, biltong, sausages, salamis etc), dried fish and other easily stored foods that not only lasted well but gave good food value, were highly prized.

On well used pioneer routes, such as the Oregon Trail in America, game and firewood both became scarce – it is not surprising that “bacon and beans” is noted as a typical Western meal!

More surprisingly, chocolate was always used as a travelling food in Latin America – the cocoa beans could be used as money, or ground up to make a meal used in savoury dishes or as a sustaining drink. Prepared blocks of this meal were introduced to Europe for turning into a traveller's drink - but soon folk were nibbling on bars of solid chocolate as a snack – and the rest is tooth-rotting history!

Coffee and tea were the other choices of hot drinks for the pioneers (with “cowboy coffee” and “billy tea” being renowned in America and Australia) and again these staples were easy to store and lasted well, while being simple to prepare.

Get your pot of water boiling well, then throw in ground coffee to give the strength of brew you want. Take the pot off the heat and stir it vigorously before setting pot to one side. As the brew cools the grounds fall to the bottom of the pot and the coffee can be poured and – enjoyed. Some folk find cowboy coffee rather bitter, but the real fans find the “horse-shoe coffee” variant stimulating. To make this you simply make the coffee as above, but strong enough to float a horse-shoe on the surface!

Billy Tea

Is it time to have your glamping pioneer food adventure and try cooking over an openfire in Pembrokeshire

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