Cooking Gourmet Campground & RV-Friendly Meals
When it comes to cooking while you’re camping, experiences vary wildly. Some people love to bring everything they need to make their favorite meals out of their RVs, while other people prefer simple foods made over an open fire.
But camping doesn’t mean you’re destined for boring, basic meals. We’ve seen people create some truly inspired campground meals. If you love to cook, dealing with the limitations of cooking at a campsite can be a fun exercise in creativity. But even if cooking is just one more thing to get done while you’re on vacation, you deserve to eat well. That’s why we’re sharing the best tips, tricks, and tools you need for cooking gourmet campground and RV-friendly meals.
There are three primary ways of cooking while you’re RV camping:
- Using Appliances Inside Your RV: In an RV, you’ll typically find a stove, an oven, and a microwave. Extra small RVs may just have a stove, while luxury fifth wheels can have residential-sized ranges and microwaves. These appliances function just like the ones you have at home. Popular meals using this method of cooking include one-pot meals, casseroles, and kid classics like pasta or grilled cheese.
- Cooking Over an Open Fire: Making a campfire is a time-honored tradition, and lots of people love using it to cook their meals. It’s fun, novel, and a great way to get kids involved in cooking when they’re old enough. Popular campfire meals include hot dogs or brats roasted on sticks, meat and veggies in foil packets over the coals, and desserts like s’mores.
- Grilling or Cooking at an Outdoor Kitchen: Grilling is a wonderful way to get some fresh air while you feed a crowd, especially when you want to keep your RV interiors cool. Many RVs come with outdoor kitchens that include grills, griddles, or burners that pull out from the exterior wall. Popular choices for grilling or outdoor cooking include meats like burgers, chicken, or fish; easily scalable, griddle-friendly foods like pancakes or quesadillas; and classic breakfasts with things like eggs, bacon, and sausage.
The kinds of recipes you might want to make while you’re camping will depend on which cooking methods you’re planning to use, as a general rule. For example, if it’s not too hot and you plan to use your RV oven, easy lasagna or tuna noodle casserole would cook up in one dish and feed the whole family. But if you plan to cook over your campfire, you’d probably choose something that cooks easily and in less time, like salmon over a bed of veggies, rolled into a foil packet.
Some of our favorite camping recipes include:
In the RV:
Over the Fire:
On the Grill:
Some campers love the challenges of cooking in a smaller kitchen, over an open fire, or in the fresh air. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can find much more complex, inventive recipes to try while you’re camping – recipes that push the boundaries of what’s possible with limited tools.
Or Don’t Cook At All!
In the middle of summer, when temps are high and humidity is pushing 100%, you might shudder at the thought of standing over an oven or fire. Here are some camping-friendly ideas for no-cook meals that just might become your new favorites:
Helpful Tools and Appliances
However you decide to cook while you’re on the road, there are tons of helpful tools and appliances that can make your experience easier.
Two appliances many campers swear by are slow cookers and Instant Pots. Both allow you to automatically cook food in a sealed container, which means you can set it up and walk away. Slow cookers in particular use very little energy, which is great for anyone running on a generator or solar power. And Instant Pots or other pressure cookers often have a slow cooking function in addition to their pressure cooking functions, so you can save counter space by packing an appliance that does double duty.
In the last decade, air fryers have quickly become one of the most beloved cooking appliances in people’s home kitchens. It’s easy to see why. They create perfectly crispy textures, dressing up everyday foods without adding oil. However, in an RV with limited counter space, an air fryer may feel too bulky to bring along. So at Heartland, we’ve made it a little easier – all our new ranges include an air fryer oven that does everything the free-standing appliance can do, without needing to give up any counter space.
Grill and Griddle Tools
If you’re a master griller, you probably don’t need our recommendations. But if you don’t grill often, here’s what we recommend to make your campsite grilling a success:
An RV-friendly grill
Portable grills come in all shapes and sizes, and their main feature is that they fold up for easy transportation. Be sure to get one that fits the amount of food you’ll need to prep – nobody likes watching everyone else eat as they wait for the second round of burgers to come out.
Quality grilling tools
Tongs, a spatula, and a grill brush are the three you absolutely need to have on hand, but there are tons of specialty tools for whatever food you want to make. And if you want to save space, we’ve even seen Swiss Army-style tools that collapse down into a single case.
A cast iron pan is a chameleon. It can move easily between an indoor stove and cooking on a grill or over an open flame. A grill basket holds items between two mesh sides, allowing you to flip fragile foods (like fish) or grill mixed veggies without dropping them into the fire. And you can even find griddles, pizza stones, woks, and more that you can use on the grill. We’re not saying you should buy them all, but if your kids would eat homemade pizza every night of the week, that pizza stone might earn its place among your cargo.
A folding table
When you need outdoor prep space or a place to rest a tabletop grill, having a small folding table in your pass-through storage can be a lifesaver.
With the majority of RVs having only one bathroom, you’ll want to make extra sure any meat you cook is brought to the proper temperature according to food safety guidelines. Need we say more?
Tools for Cooking Over a Fire
Human beings have been cooking over an open fire since the day fire was invented. There’s something primal and satisfying about preparing food this way, and it’s a big hit with older kids who want to help. (And a great chance to teach them about fire safety.) Here’s what you might want to buy to get started:
A camping grill grate
Over-the-fire grill grates come in a few different configurations, but the thing they have in common is that they give you a solid surface to set things on above the flames. They’ll help you cook everything from meat to veggies to foil packets easily, and basic models start around $20-30.
A good, heavy cast iron Dutch oven is a perfect companion for cooking in a campfire. It can withstand almost anything, the lid allows you to keep moisture inside or trap heat to cook things faster, and you can use it to cook indoors, too. We’ve seen people use Dutch ovens to cook everything from chili to loaves of bread over the fire.
Cast iron tripod
This device lets you hang a pot with a handle over the fire, letting the flames more evenly cook what’s inside. It also allows you to easily position your pot to cook over different parts of the fire, from smoldering coals for a gentle heat to active flames for more intense heat.
You’ll want a spoon to stir any stews, tongs to move hot food, and a spatula to flip meat. The longer the handle, the less likely you are to get burned.
Whether you need to shift a log, lift a lid, or move the grill grate, some heavy-duty heat-resistant gloves will ensure you’re cooking effectively and safely.
Next Level Camping Meals
Now that we’ve covered the basics of cooking at your campsite, we’ll leave you with some inspiration. While simple meals can make feeding a crowd easier, there’s no rule that says you can’t make truly impressive meals while you’re camping – especially if you’re camping as a couple or with other adults. After all, isn’t vacation a time to enjoy yourself? Here are some of our favorite recipes that push the limits of campground cooking:
- Mustard Tomahawk Steak with Mushrooms
- Grilled Branzino with Basil, Lime, and Ginger
- Grilled Chicken and Whiskey BBQ Sauce
- Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes and Peaches
- Smoky Campfire Moscow Mule
- Campfire Eclairs
Enough reading – it’s time to hit the road and try these tips out. We hope you end each day at your campsite well-fed, happy, and enjoying the company of your travel companions. Because that’s what meals are really about: creating and sharing memories with those around us. So travel safely, eat well, and make every trip finger-lickin’ good.