Campsite cookout or backyard bacchanal, it’s time to think like a chef. The secret? Plan, prep, and, yes, bag your food in advance. The payoff? A super-fast outdoor feast.

We asked 30 of the West’s best chefs to tell us how to eat well in the wild. We didn’t want to hear their Outstanding in the Field fantasy of hand-caught trout and foraged berry clafoutis served on tables lined with beeswax candelabras. We wanted to know how they really cooked, without a battalion of prep cooks to back them up, equipped with just a cooler, a pot, and open flame. We’re happy to report that not one chef offered up ideas for artisanal s’mores or gourmet hot dogs. Their advice was refreshingly, resoundlingy, emphatically the same: prep, cook, and, yes, bag what you can in advance. 

So we did exactly that and toted frozen bags of soups, braises, grillable par-cooked marinated vegetables, and prime meats into the wilds of the Santa Susana Mountains north of Los Angeles. You’ll see actual results of our trip here. Everything was cooked either on a two-burner propane stove or on olive wood from fallen trees in a fire pit. No food stylists. No mobile kitchen just out of frame. Just coolers, bags, and a commitment to eating the best possible food with minimal effort in the open air. 

This story originally appeared in our summer 2020 Outdoor Living issue.

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