Senior food editor Elaine Johnson reviews the features of two popular stoves for camp cooking
A camp stove is your most important piece of equipment for cooking in the outdoors. While there are all kinds of ways to cook food while camping, including over the fire or with a high-tech compact stove, a traditional propane-powered camp stove is ideal for car camping.
You want a camp stove with a removeable grate and a sealed surface underneath so it’s easy to wipe down when you’re done. Windscreens are also key for cooking outside. The wind can make your fire sputter or put it out completely without them.
Size also matters. A large stove makes it easier to fit everything you need to feed a large group, but if you’re sticking with smaller pots and pans and have fewer people to feed, a small stove may be just right. A basic stove will have room for a big frying pan and a small saucepan on its double burners.
The power of the stove, measured in BTUs, will also affect how quickly your food cooks, and the price. Higher BTU stoves will get hotter and cook faster, but they also tend to be more expensive. A baseline stove is around $40-$50, while a high-powered stove will run $150 and up. Most of the camp stoves today use propane–don’t forget to pick up a full canister or refill your tank before leaving for the campsite.
To start cooking, first make sure you have enough fuel. You can tell a canister is almost empty if you don’t hear much sloshing when you shake it. Connect the propane to the stove with a built-in fuel line or with a pipe connector. Use the ignitor or a regular lighter to light the stove. You want to use a lighter with a long neck to prevent any accidental burns, and it’s also more reliable than matches when it’s windy or wet. Turn the knob and you’re ready to cook!