Build the Ultimate Camp Kitchen in a Box…or Two
How to fit everything you need to make three meals a day into two easily transported boxes.
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The year 2020 so far has managed to dish out ample amounts of stress across the board, pushing more and more people to find reprieve through new activities that help relieve some of that tension. With the knowledge that nature is directly linked to a multitude of health benefits including stress reduction, it’s no wonder record numbers of people are turning to the outdoors for a healthy dose of R&R. Aside from the relaxation that spending time in nature provides, arguably, one of the best parts about a weekend of camping is enjoying all of your meals al fresco. Simply put, food just tastes better in the great outdoors.
Whether you’re sitting by a campfire, beneath clear skies above, or with the sounds and sights of nature all around you, there’s something about adding a dash of fresh air to any recipe that really brings a dish together. And, if you’re thinking that box of mac & cheese, instant mashed potatoes, or the dehydrated backpacking meal in the back of your pantry is the only way you’ll survive the weekend, think again. A fresh cooked meal while camping is completely attainable. You just need the right tools to get the job done.
By organizing your camp kitchen essentials in a thoughtful manner, everything will be right where it needs to be, just like in your home kitchen, less the random catch-all drawer we all know and love. Mise en place is the French culinary phrase that translates to “everything in its place,” which refers to the way a kitchen is set up—from ingredients to tools—that make for an efficient and enjoyable cooking experience. This is something to keep in mind while assembling the contents that will live inside your camp kitchen bin. Within the confines of a camp kitchen box, space is limited, so pieces that fit tightly together without taking up too much real estate are essential for making the best use of a small space.
The foundation for building a great mobile kitchen setup begins with one (or two) bins that if chosen wisely will serve you well on all of your adventures to come. Things like having good handles will make it easy to move your bins from your vehicle to the cooking area, while durable construction will withstand the rigors of camp life and provide protection from dust and moisture to keep the contents clean and dry. Let’s face it, nobody likes soggy bread or gritty snacks. We love these boxes from Front Runner Outfitters because they’re tough as nails, are a manageable size to keep the weight low, have latching lids to seal out the elements, and stack together tightly so they stay in place on bumpy or curvy roads as you hunt for the perfect spot to rough it for a couple of days.
Choosing the proper bin is half the battle. Then come the tools for prepping, cooking, and serving up your culinary masterpiece. A set of nesting pots and pans, a serving bowl that houses plates or bowls inside, a compact cutting board and chef’s knife, and zippered canvas bags keep everything tidy and organized for easy loading and unloading at each meal. Outdoor cooking brands like Primus have beautiful options that will make you feel like a master chef of the woods and are built to last a lifetime. Other useful things like dish towels, a roll of aluminum foil, and of course a way to brew coffee like a small backpacking stove with an integrated French press setup are essential for rounding out your kitchen.
When thinking about what you need to stock your bins with for cooking a great meal in camp, it’s as simple as filling them up with the same things you would keep in your home’s pantry, cabinets, and spice rack, just on a much smaller scale. Small food-safe liquid bottles and screw top jars can be found at most any outdoor gear shop and are perfect for storing oils and different seasonings so you can prepare all of your favorite dishes. A small bottle of biodegradable liquid soap like Dr. Bronner’s is great for washing your hands before you begin cooking and works well to clean dirty dishes after you’ve enjoyed the delicious campsite cuisine you’ve created.
One final element to not forget when building a comprehensive cooking setup is the kitchen sink. Since nature has everything but, *you’ll need a solution for how to transport water and a way to clean up post-meal. A collapsible water bag and wash basin are great options because they take up very little space when not in use. A hard-sided water jug or jerrycan will work for water storage but can be difficult to manage when pouring water into a pot, trying to wash your hands, or rinsing soapy dishes. A good water bag will often have a valve that makes controlling the flow of water simple and can typically be hung up somewhere so you can keep your hands free to perform important tasks. Before you go, make sure you brush up on your dish washing and food disposal technique by checking out this helpful Leave No Trace tutorial.
With summer upon us and people turning to nature for respite from the daily grind, there’s no better way to step up your camping game than preparing and enjoying a fresh cooked meal in nature. So before you head out on your next camping adventure or road trip, give your kitchen box a second look, see what could use some freshening up, and treat yourself to the outdoor kitchen you’ve always dreamed of.
Read the 2020 Home & Hearth Issue
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