A few years back, I did a story for a magazine that dealt with the topic of campfire cooking. And since we’re several years down the road, the summer solstice occurred earlier in the week, and the Fourth of July is right around the corner, it’s once again the height of camping season around Lake Texoma.
And with summertime now in full command of the calendar and the thermometer, I thought that this week, the campfire cookery topic is worth a revisit here.
Now keep in mind that when the term “campfire cooking” is brought up in many places, most people tend to think of a hot dog skewered on a stick and then roasted – if not charred – over an open flame.
While that classic grub certainly has its place, some people visiting Texomaland this summer are hoping for a little more enjoyable dining experience, one that produces a meal that is as memorable as the lake’s beautiful surroundings are.
If that’s your desire, grab your YETI Cooler, assemble your ingredients and cooking utensils, and get ready to whip up a gourmet campfire meal while overlooking the shoreline of our beautiful, two-state reservoir.
Burgers – If burger patties are on your campfire menu, give this recipe a try: One that my friend Shaw Grigsby, a Florida bass fishing guru and avid bowhunter who fishes professionally on the Bass Pro Tour these days, heartily recommends.
Known as Grigsby’s Buck Burger recipe, the big Florida Gators football fan shared his take on burgers a few years back when I was writing a story for OutdoorChannel.com or MajorLeagueFishing.com.
And knowing that I loved to bowhunt Texas whitetails, Grigsby was more than willing to help me see a different way of turning ground venison – or store-bought ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey – into a unique culinary treat.
“I use the beer-can method to make a pocket in the patty,” said Grigsby, a winner of nine BASS events during his career on the Bassmaster Elite Series side of competition and an MLF and BPT angler since the inception of both circuits.
Grigsby will make these burgers by pushing a clean aluminum can down into a sizable burger patty, carefully molding the edges around the can to form an interior pocket that he will fill with a variety of stuffing materials. Then he’ll take a little bit more ground meat and form a lid of sorts on top of the stuffed burger patty.
The veteran bass angler and expert sight fisherman says that his favorite pocket-filling materials are actually Gorgonzola cheese and chopped jalapeño peppers.
But from Swiss cheese to blue cheese to Gouda cheese – not to mention onions, garlic, olives, bell peppers, Hatch green chile peppers, mushrooms, chopped bacon, horseradish, steak sauce and even chopped fruit salsas – the burger stuffing possibilities are almost endless .
Once the burger patties are formed, stuffed with the appropriate filler material (s) and wrapped with strips of bacon, Grigsby advises backyard chefs and campfire cooks to adjust their thinking process about how to cook these patties, shunning the usual several minutes long grilling session over hot coals or an open flame.
When the burgers reach the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees for ground meat (www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety- basics / safe-temperature-chart), it’s time to pull the meat off the grill, serving on toasted buns along with any desired lettuce, tomatoes, onions and condiments.
Steak – To get a great steak out in the woods, you’ll want to start off with a good cut of meat: a 1 1/2 inch thick rib-eye or strip steak. (FYI, I talked a little more thoroughly about this topic in a Game and Fish Magazine “Backyard Ready” story I did recently, so check out GameandFishMag.com, if you’re interested.)
Next, keep the steaks in a waterproof baggie that will allow them to stay dry and cold in a cooler until it’s time to cook. While some backyard chefs bring a steak to room temperature before cooking, most prefer to keep the slab of meat quite cold until cooking, something that allows for the searing necessary to come up with a juicy, caramelized, golden brown crust that is similar to the one you’ll get in a fine steakhouse.
When you have a good campfire reduced down to a bed of glowing coals – complete with some mesquite wood pieces for an authentic Texas flavor – put your grill grate over the fire. When that’s ready, season the steak with a dry rub, something easy to use like Hi Mountain Seasoning’s Western Style Steak Rub or a Traeger seasoning mix like their Beef Rub (with molasses and chili peppers), and then move the meat to the fire.
Again, the key to a good steak is the seared crust along with not overcooking the meat, so think approximately three to four minutes per side. The goal is to not overcook the meat, instead getting the steak to a desired medium rare level that features a warm, red center.
When the meat is finished cooking (the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145 degrees and a rest time of three minutes), use tongs to move the steak to a cooler spot on the grill grate where you’ll allow the meat to rest for around four to five minutes. If so desired, add some herbed butter to the top of the steak at this point, allowing it to melt down before the meat is sliced, eaten and enjoyed as one of the best meals possible on this side of heaven.
Chicken – For a memorable chicken dinner around the campfire, try this recipe that combines chicken breasts (chicken legs and thighs can also be used), some vegetables (sliced carrots, sliced onions, small chunks of potatoes, corn on the cob, etc. ) and some sprinkled seasoning from a mix like Fiesta Fajita Seasoning.
After assembling your ingredients, take a couple of large pieces of aluminum foil and lay them across one another in a standard cross shape.
Next, lay your chicken pieces and vegetable cuts down onto the foil where you’ll sprinkle them with your preferred seasoning. Then pull the foil up and close it all off, forming a small packet that has some sort of small vent hole that allows for escaping steam.
Finally, put the packet onto the grill grate over the fire’s heat, grilling for approximately 35-45 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked to its proper internal temperature (Note: the USDA’s website says to cook all poultry to a minimum safe internal temperature of 165 ° F).
When the chicken is properly cooked, remove the packet from the heat, allow it to cool down just a bit, and then open carefully.
Following that, all that’s left to do is to pour a tall glass of iced tea, sit back and enjoy a scrumptious campfire meal.
All the while as you and your family enjoy a stunning late June evening sunset view best found at our beautiful Lake Texoma.