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Camp Kitchen Equipment and Techniques.

I must confess, I don’t always travel light.

In my living history work I am used to using some substantial equipment for campfire cooking like iron cauldrons, trivets, spits and tripods. It would seem that light weight gear was not a priority when running a medieval kitchen or packing a Viking ship.

On occasions when a field kitchen is required for a group, and I’m working from a vehicle, I can actually deploy a lot of equipment if needed.

Having said that I prefer to keep it simple if I can and there are a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way that might be interesting if you’re ever in the same position.

Firstly there are lots of ways to hang a pot over the fire. Some people use metal road pins linked together but three sticks tied together to make a tripod is a simple one and a bit of cord will serve to hang your pot or you can carve a pot hanger from a forked stick with a few simple cuts.

fire bars supporting a kettle and a griddle.

For a more flexible arrangement, two tripods supporting a heavier stick across the fire allows more than one pot to be used and makes it easier to adjust the heat by moving the pots over different parts of the fire.

I carry a light chain with hooks on each end in each of my billy cans, which is useful for adjusting the height of a pot without having to fiddle about. It’s a bit of extra weight but saves a lot of bother.

Another very simple method of supporting your pots above the fire is to use a couple of pieces of angle iron. For this you will need supports at either side of your fire but as I usually make a cooking fire between two largish logs this is usually no problem.

The bars can support quite large heavy pots or very small ones if needed just by moving them nearer of farther apart. The picture here shows four bars being used, once two are in place and level, another two can be laid across them for even more flexibility.

Here you can see a griddle placed across the bars which makes a good frying surface or can be used for griddle cakes and bannocks. In a large camp a good size kettle is popular for keeping hot water constantly available but I normally favour a large pot that can be dipped into with a ladle, you can see it’s not boiling dry and can be used for other purposes too

Fire tray and two gas bottle cauldrons

Large cooking pots can be purchased at quite a cost, alternatively an empty gas bottle can be made into a cauldron with the help of an angle grinder.

First of all, make sure the bottle is empty! If necessary connect it to something like a camping stove and use the last of the gas first then just leave it for a good while with all the valves open.

Remove the top valve of the gas bottle with a spanner and flush it out with water to make sure there is no gas left in the bottle. 

Did I mention, MAKE SURE THE GAS BOTTLE IS EMPTY.

Now you can cut the bottle in two using a metal cutting disk in your angle grinder, this can be a long job depending how powerful your grinder is. I usually cut just below the welded seam but you can decide for yourself depending on your needs.

Next I cut the stand off the bottom because I usually want the pot for hanging but it could be left on if you prefer to use it standing. This is much quicker than cutting the bottle in half.

From experience, it seems that some gas bottles have a coating, which I can’t identify, and some don’t. I use a sanding disk in the angle grinder to remove this coating just in case and I usually bung the whole thing into a hot fire to burn off any paint too.

A simple way to make a hanger for it is to drill two holes on opposite sides and use a chain to hang it, but you could use purpose made hanging loops or handles scrounged off a plant pot or something like that. Mine are riveted on. (Big round headed nails make good rivets if cut to the right length.)

bushcraft ktchen gear half packed

Two gas bottle cauldrons and my fire tray.

Bushcraft kitchen gear fully packed.

What you are left with is a steel cauldron which will take much more abuse than a cast iron one without breaking. It will still need to be cared for a bit, I usually just scrub it clean, dry it over the fire and then rub a sheen of cooking oil over the inside to stop it rusting.

Because these pots are so tough I have even used one of these to fire small clay objects under on occasion by building a fire round an upside down one with the clay inside. Don’t try doing that with a cast iron pot unless you want to crack it.

Fire tray with breakfast on the go.

In the pictures here you can also see my fire tray. Often you may have to camp  in a place where open fires are prohibited because of the risk of ground fires. This tray, made from an old cart wheel rim welded to a plate of steel, stands on three pegs which raise it off the floor. I usually use a piece of plywood under that to protect the ground further from heat strike.

The space under the tray is very useful for drying firewood storing fire irons or even grilling food under a hot fire.

Its certainly big enough for cooking fires but is also quite sufficient for a social campfire in the evening too.

One other item, perhaps not commonly available, but very useful, is a small square of chain mail. Used as a pot scourer it cannot be beaten. To clean it up at the end just drop it into the fire for a while and all the grime just burns right off.

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