Gourmet Gone Wild: Jared Bennett Shares Tips and Recipes for Campfire Cooking

Master the art of the campfire cooking with these tips and recipes from the executive chef at Royce.
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You don’t need to be an expert to cook more than hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire—and you probably need much less gear than you may imagine. Although he’s an expert, Jared Bennett, executive chef at French brasserie Royce (open now for dinner and weekend brunch, and fully opening August 22), has beginner-friendly recipes and advice for hikers and campers looking for more than trail mix after a long day of adventuring. 

One of Bennett’s go-to recipes is cast iron pork steak, cooked over an open flame. “I like to cook pork this way for trips,” he says. “The pork is so tender that a knife is not needed to slice into [it]. You can also shred the pork if that’s more your style.”

The first key to Bennett’s recipe is prep, and it’s best done long before you leave home. Not only does this limit the number of tools you’ll need on the trail or in your cabin, but it also helps prevent temperature-sensitive ingredients from spoiling en route. You’ll still need a cooler, of course, but vacuum-sealing and pre-cooking do a lot for food safety on a camping trip.

The second key is equipment. Banish the thought of awkward tripods and dangling cauldrons. To make gourmet-inspired cuisine over a fire, you only need the basics. A cast iron pan delivers versatility with the durability you need to cook right on the coals, and although it isn’t the lightest thing to carry, it’s worth the weight if you plan to make camp for a couple of days. You’ll also need long, fire-proof tongs (no rubberized grips that could melt) for cooking directly on the coals, along with fire-resistant pot-holders. Cast iron gets hot.

With the work done in advance, the hardest part of dinner time should be building the fire. 

“After a day of hiking, it’s great to have these in the cooler or fridge to pull out and cook for a quick dinner,” Bennett says.

Check out Bennett’s recipes to level up your campfire cooking skills:

Illustration by Carlie Burton

Pork Brine

  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. fennel seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch thyme

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a 4-quart pot.
  2. Bring brine to a simmer, then shut off heat.
  3. Steep for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain and cool.

Sous Vide Pork Shoulder Steak

  • 2–3 pork shoulders
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 pork brine recipe (see above)

Directions:

  1. Place pork and brine in a vacuum-seal bag or a one-gallon zipper seal bag.
  2. Brine pork for 4 to 6 hours. Remove pork from brine and pat dry.
  3. Set the temperature on your Precision Cooker to 165°F / 74ºC for pull-apart tender pork, or 145°F / 63ºC for pork that is tender but still sliceable.
  4. Add the garlic, butter, and bay leaf in a vacuum-seal bag or one-gallon zipper seal bag.
  5. Seal the bag either using a vacuum-sealer or, if using a zipper seal bag, by using the displacement method. To do this, seal all but the last inch of the bag, then slowly lower your bagged pork into a pot of water, letting the pressure of the water press air out through the opening of the bag. Seal the bag just before it fully submerges. It should be completely air-free.
  6. Drop your sealed pork into the water bath, set a timer for 18 to 24 hours, and relax. For extended cooks like this, it’s a good idea to cover the top of the container with foil or plastic wrap to prevent excessive evaporation that could lead to the circulator shutting down due to low water levels.
  7. Once the pork is cooked, you can chill it and refrigerate for up to a week before continuing, or just continue straight into the finishing steps. The first thing to do is get rid of excess moisture by removing the pork and patting it down thoroughly with paper towels.
  8. Cut the pork in to one-inch-thick pieces and place steaks in a zipper seal bag to take on trip.

Cast Iron Pork Steaks

Ingredients:

  • 1–2 portions of sous vide pork shoulder (see above)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cast iron skillet

Directions:

1. Place your cast iron skillet on the campfire coals. Wait for the pan to reach medium-high heat.

2. Place your pork shoulder steak on the skillet and sear on one side until a dark, golden-brown crust forms. Adjust skillet on the fire if needed.

3. Flip the steak and add garlic, rosemary, and thyme, basting pork with butter.

4. Cook until golden brown.

Grilled Corn and Elote Sauce

For the Grilled Corn:

  • 1–2 ears fresh sweet corn, unshucked
  • 2–4 Tbsp. queso fresco or feta
  • 1 tsp. (or more) Tajin spice
  • 1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 2–4 Tbsp. elote sauce (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Take the ears of corn and throw them right on the coals or another hot part of your campfire.
  2. Roast corn till cooked thru or charred to your preference. Shuck and clean up corn, removing as much corn silk as you can.
  3. Smother the corn in elote sauce. Sprinkle the tajin spice on corn. Then top with the cheese and cilantro.

For the Elote Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 cups queso fresco or feta
  • 2 tsp. ancho powder
  • 4 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 2 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Mix in a bowl until combined.

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