Forget instant oatmeal, in the outdoors you should be eating like a king. Here's how to cook the breakfast of bearded champions: bacon, eggs and fried potatoes over a campfire.
There are few things more likely to rouse groggy humans from bed than the smell of sizzling bacon and hot coffee. Combine that with scenic vistas and forest smells, and you've got yourself one of the finest settings for breakfast imaginable. If you're car camping or have the capacity on your motorbike, treat yourself with a super satisfying, calorically dense meal before hitting the trails, the rapids, or the road.
What you need:
- 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet (I highly recommend Lodge).
- A camp knife (Check out this one).
- Your favourite fat (bacon grease works great).
- A half dozen eggs, account for two per person.
- A heat source (learn how to find the right one here)
- Bacon (Your favourite, and I hope your favourite is a higher welfare/locally sourced product).
- Last night's leftover spuds (add whatever else you like eating at breakfast for a tasty hash!).
- Salt/pepper/herbage to season.
Camping is all about taking advantage of the great outdoors and, for me, that includes eating really, really nice food. With a collection of really fundamental cooking techniques and excellent produce, you and your fellow campers can start the day off like forest wizards.
Bacon and a perk pot. Bliss.
Picture: Robert Engberg
Get it started:
Light a fire! Once you've got a bed of lovely charcoal burning away plunk that skillet on top of a grill rack and start your proteins in a half-cup of water. The water's there to start helping your fats render out. By the time the water evaporates, you'll have rendered enough fat out of your bacon or sausage to create a grease buffer to finish your cooking process with less sticking, and less chance of burning if heat control isn't your forte.
While the bacon's rolling along, cut the potatoes (par boiled/blanched/cooked last night) into evenly sized chunks. Do the same to any other veggies you're adding, and dice your onions if you're using them. Nobody likes huge chunks of onions in the morning.
Once the proteins are near completion, pull them off the heat and stash them in a bit of aluminium foil and move them to a cooler side of your fire where they will stay warm, but not overcook. Reserve any excess fat for later if you've got more than you know what to do with.
Cast iron can take the heat. Picture: Allan Foster
Season and add your veggies to the pan. The potatoes are already cooked, so everything's just going in for a bit of crisping. Maillard reactions — the act of transforming complex proteins and starches into simpler sugars and turning them that golden colour of deliciousness — are your friend. Let everything hang out for a bit to develop some colour, then flip, sauté, whatever you need to ensure full, even crunchification. Place the veggies to the side in their own, separate foil container next to the protein, add a little fat to the pan, next up are the eggs.
Scrambling them is super easy, but here are a few pointers for a better scrambled egg. First, try to work at a medium temperature, plenty of folks are turned off by browned eggs, and slowing your heat will actually yield a much more pleasant, homogenous texture. When using the cast iron skillet, I've actually taken to thoroughly beating up my eggs (homogenous yolks/whites are nicer to look at) with a fork, then removing the skillet from heat. There's enough residual heat in a cast iron skillet to finish 4 to 6 eggs if you're working with a medium-high temperature, and you run less risk of overcooking them if you're off the fire. Work them around the pan until they come to your liking, my preference is still a little bit of a wet scramble, salt and pepper come when the cooking's nearly done, as eggs are super delicate and will yield better results without harsh-arse salt working against them while you're cooking.
Scrambled eggs done right. Picture: Brian Gautreau
Consume, and probably don't worry too much about eating lunch, this will keep you going longer than Froot Loops.