Grilling delicious campsite cuisine takes some planning. Actually, it takes a lot of planning, but every minute spent organizing a culinary camping experience will pay off in hours of enjoyment when you’re on the trail. It starts with having all the right equipment on hand, yet finding the balance between bringing just enough to have you covered but not weighing yourself down with more than you need is often difficult (if only there was a camp cooking checklist somewhere…). Aside from knowing what to take, there’s the matter of packing it all, ensuring everything stays in top shape throughout your adventure, and actually cooking full meals outside the comforts of your home kitchen. And they said camping is supposed to be relaxing!

It can be–no, it will be–with the help of our camp grilling tips. From planning and preparing to packing and finally enjoying the fruits of your foresight, we’ll show you some of the best ways to get the most of your camp grill when journeying beyond the backyard. So study up, make notes to help you stay on track, and get ready to streamline your camp grilling for more delicious days out in nature.

Plan Your Meals

First, take time to think about the big picture, especially if you’re camping with a crew. Get everyone’s input on the menu (and browse our ideas for the best camping meals if you need some help), taking into account the possibility of appetizers, sides, entrées, and even desserts. Be prepared to do a little negotiating because everyone’s idea of camp chow will probably differ. Once you settle on the menu and know how many meals you’ll be grilling, list out all the ingredients – right down to the spices and seasonings – and the cookware and utensils you’ll need.

Chop, Measure, & Store Ingredients

Once your menu is planned, go down the list and prepare what you can from one meal at a time. Slice and dice vegetables and other ingredients, pack them in a freezer bag, label the bag accordingly, and keep it in the refrigerator until it’s time to pack. Group seasonings by meal as well, storing them in the pantry. This way, you’ll ensure all ingredients are present and won’t waste time searching for stray components here and there. Cooking eggs? Crack them into a mason jar instead of trying to keep them safe in a carton that’ll surely take a beating in transit. Shop Food Prep Tools

Freeze Meat & Other Foods

Just like for the supplemental ingredients, prep and bag the stars of your dishes before labeling and storing in the freezer. You’d be amazed how much time and effort you can save by simply trimming some fat off chicken breasts before heading out to the camp. Cook and freeze soups, stews, chili, pasta sauces, and other dishes you can reheat at camp, bagging and labeling in similar fashion. Keep chilled with frozen bottles of water (so they don’t fill the cooler with water as they defrost), then thaw your meat or stew at the campsite when it’s time to get grilling.

Don’t Forget the Little Things

Focusing your attention on meal-planning is important, but we don’t you to lose sight of the minor essentials that are often overlooked until you at the campsite. Just take a gander around your home kitchen and consider what you use on a daily basis: aluminum foil, cooking oil, trash bags, storage bags, paper towels, etc. Make sure such items get packed, along with matches or lighters stored in waterproof containers to help you start fires in a pinch. Pro tip: further waterproof matches by coating the tips with nail polish or dipping carefully in melted wax.

Test Your Grill Before Leaving

The last thing you want to discover at your campsite is a problem with your grill (well, that and bears somehow already waiting for you). To avoid any surprises, you should thoroughly inspect your camping grill for dirty spots or loose parts in advance of your trip. While you’re at it, fold or disassemble any parts for transport, if applicable. And if you’re using a propane camping grill, attach it to your propane tank and light it up for a few minutes to ensure everything is in working order. Skipping this could lead to some major headaches once you’re in the wild. Shop Camping Grills

Gather Camp Cookware & Grilling Tools

If you planned meals down to the spices as previously recommended, then you’ll know exactly what outdoor cookware and camp cooking tools to take. You’ll surely want to have your basic tongs and spatulas in tow, but what type of cookware should you bring? Let’s go back to that menu! If you’re making a stew, soup, or chili, then a Dutch oven makes sense; a breakfast spread of bacon, eggs, and pancakes calls for a griddle; and simple pots and pans can take you a long way with most meals. Shop BBQ Accessories

Pack Meal Components Together

Remember all that packaging of individual ingredients from earlier? When the time comes to finally load your cooler, combine components from the same meal in their own plastic container or bag. Mark each set of ingredients as necessary; “Dinner: Day 1,” for instance. Packing this way enables you to reach into your cooler for a full meal instead of rummaging around for individual ingredients and releasing precious cool air. We recommend storing drinks in an ice chest separate from your meals so you open the food cooler as little as possible and preserve its temperature. Shop Food Prep Tools

Double-Check Your Fuel

We’ll say it again: planning all your camping meals, doing all the food prep, and generally getting ahead of any issue with camp grilling takes serious work. It would be truly tragic, then, if it all went to waste because you didn’t pack enough fuel. We know we led this section with “double-check,” but we won’t blame you for triple- and even quadruple-checking your fuel before leaving home. Whether it’s hardwood pellets, charcoal, or propane cylinders, you need to make sure you’re stocked for the duration of your trip. Otherwise, your grill will be useless weight. Shop Charcoal, Pellets, & Starters

Set up a Camp Kitchen

You might be tempted to set up your grill at the first suitable spot near camp, but you’ll be missing out on the efficiency and safety afforded by a camping kitchen. With distinct cook/prep and sanitation areas in place, you’ll be able to stay on task and remain organized through all the challenges of outdoor cooking. It’s also a great reason to prioritize safe and secure food storage, which will keep hungry animals from getting any ideas about how friendly your campsite really is. Reference our guide to setting up a camp kitchen for more pointers on the subject. Shop Camping Tables

Make Smart Use of Your Pots

If you know a few camping hacks, the simplest of cookware can be perhaps the most versatile. Yes, you should still use your cooking pots as intended over the fire, but we like to let ours double as mixing bowls when necessary – just give them a quick rinse, and they’re ready for the main task. Don’t set them aside when the job’s done, either; use those precious pots to begin boiling water for cleaning while you finish cooking or sit down to feast. You’ll be glad you got ahead of the game when the grilling’s done and you settle in to enjoy an evening under the stars. Shop Outdoor Cookware