That steak right off the campfire. There’s nothing else quite like it, with all that flavor from the fire and coals. Get ready to end the night on your next camping trip with juicy, fire-cooked, 100% grass-fed beef.
Here’s our primer on how to do it:
Collect the following items:
- A grill rack or camping grill plate
- A cast-iron skillet (optional)
- Tongs with long handles
- A meat thermometer
- Sturdy work gloves to protect your hands
- Fire stoker
Steak and Seasoning
While you can certainly choose your favorite cut of grass-fed steak to throw on the fire, we recommend ribeye. The extra fat from this marbled cut makes it less likely that you’ll overcook it, even though the fire can be a little unpredictable.
Season your beef with salt and pepper. And then leave it to rest while you build your fire.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
The wood you pick for the campfire affects the flavor of the steak, so think about that beforehand. Hardwood — including mesquite, oak, and maple — are generally better for flavor, and they’re easier to turn to fiery coals than softwood.
If you do want to use softwood, make sure the wood is “all coals” before you start to grill. Otherwise, your steak might take on a bad taste from the softwood.
Cooking over an open fire is a lot different than grilling in your backyard. The key is to grill your steak over white-hot coals. That allows for a more even flame and makes it much less likely that you’ll burn your beef. Another good rule of thumb is creating a bed of coals that is around two inches deep.
You also want to keep a small fire that’s active close to where you’re grilling, so you can move coals in or out to adjust the temperature.
Setting Up for Cooking
If your grill rack has legs, set it up over your fire. If you have a grill rack without legs, make sure to set it up in a way that keeps in level, on some rocks. If you don’t have a grill rack, you can use two large skewers to hold the steak in the fire, and you’ll ideally want a nice flat stone where you can rest the steak while it’s cooking.
If you have one and want to bring it on the trip, a cast-iron skillet is a great addition to your campfire cooking experience. Cast iron makes it easier to ensure an even pan-sear.
Whatever you use to hold the steak, place it so that you can feel the heat of the fire with your hand (without your protective gloves on!). While you’re cooking, with or without a skillet, you’ll definitely need your gloves on to protect your hands.
When you’re grilling on a hot fire, sear the steak on one side until it has a nice golden brown sear. Then flip it to sear on the other side. We suggest trying 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Campfire cooking is a great time to use a meat thermometer. The cooking time is variable due to the fire, the wood, and the size of your steak. So a thermometer can really help you know when it’s done to your liking.
If you usually test for doneness by the way the steak feels, you’ll need to adjust a bit because steak cooked over an open flame is firmer to the touch.
Keep close watch of the fire while you’re cooking. If there is a flare from the fat dripping down to the hot coals, move your steaks to another area of the grill until the flames get back under control. That way you won’t char your steak too much.
Also, if one half of the steak is cooking and the other half isn’t, be ready to adjust the grill grate or move the steak for even doneness.
Rest and Eat
When the steak is at your desired temperature, take it off the fire. Let it rest for 5-7 minutes. Slice and serve!