Camp cooking
  |  First Published: September 2004

SPRING is here and it’s the time to get out and enjoy great outdoors.

We have just come home from a great camping trip to north-western NSW and even though our great country is in drought, the scenery just keeps getting better.

We towed a small pop-top campervan to the town of Burren Junction. There’s not much there: A pub, a general store, a bowling club and a post office. But on the main highway into town is an artesian bore.

This bore is on a registered stock route so the camping is free, the hot water from the bore is free –but sheep and cattle can arrive any day on their way to the saleyards.

The bore is a popular stopping point for travellers heading in and out of Queensland. The bore pool is a constant 40° and is great for relaxation. There are toilets and a hot shower, but no such thing as a powered site so you need to be self-sufficient in the form of lighting and cooking.

Open fires are permitted, so the old camp oven can really be given a workout. We usually take an empty 20-litre drum which has had the top removed and several holes strategically placed around the sides. This piece of camping gear is our fire bucket.

When using a fire bucket there is no need to burn every skerrick of wood that can be found for miles around. A small fire will provide sufficient heat for cooking and warmth.

Camp ovens are designed for cooking in smoky conditions but you can use any old pot for the purpose.

We used our bait trap to catch several feeds of yabbies, which were easily caught in the warm waters of the bore drains which run out into the neighbouring farms.

The only boiling pot that we had was a brand-new stainless steel stockpot, bought along the way for use at home. Because we were using the fire bucket as our only source of heat for cooking, we were reluctant to use the new pot over the open fire.

A fellow camper suggested that we try rubbing a small amount of detergent all over the pot before cooking. We did so and the result was spectacular.

The smoked and burnt outer surface of the pot rinsed off completely and looked as new as the day we bought it. No more burned pots for this girl.

Another camper was having trouble with lighting his fire and was using a lot of fire starters.

But here’s a tip: Most lettuce and banana boxes are coated with a wax so that the produce is protected. If you tear up these boxes into pieces, say, 15cm square and ruffle their corners, by using two or three as fire starters you will have no problems. They burn quite fiercely and produce enough heat to get the kindling well and truly alight.

Always remember to douse the coals from your open fires before leaving the area. On this particular trip a group of campers left behind a large heap of wood with the embers still red-hot. During the day a small breeze re-ignited the coals and the result could have been quite dangerous had we not noticed the new fire when we did.


Recently while browsing in one a local camping store I spotted a stove-top grill. I have owned one for a few years but until recently they seem to have been unobtainable.

They really do work and provide great fat-free cooking. Ours fits quite nicely on a standard two-burner stove and the result is a great fat-free meal.

We have cooked sausages, chops, steak and bacon on it and not once have we been disappointed with the result. The grill sits on top of the burner and the fat is collected in the tray below. It separates into two parts for easy cleaning.

We eat a lot of fresh steamed vegetables when we travel and the stove-top grill is an easy way to cook the meat and veggies at the same time without having to carry a barbecue for the meat and a stove for the veggies.

The stove-top grill can be found at all Aussie Disposals stores and if your local store doesn’t have one they will get it in for you. At around $20 they are the camper’s answer to the ‘lean, mean’ electric grillers swamping the market.

The griller can be used on top of most stove whether they be gas or electric. So you can enjoy camp style cooking in your own kitchen.

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