There’s something so satisfying to the process of skewering wild game meat on a stick and watching it roast over a crackling fire. It is likely the same way that the majority of our ancestors prepared their food since ancient times. Whether fire-kissed meat is inherently tasty or we have been bred to enjoy its flavor, you cannot deny that it is delicious. Keep in mind though, that delicious doesn’t happen by accident. If you’re a beginner at this, be patient, and pay attention to the details if you want to produce a good meal. Cooking on sticks over an open fire can infuse your food with a great smoky taste, and when sticks are your only utensils, there’s no nasty dish washing to do after the meal. The same fire that cooked your meal will clean up the mess for you. Just throw in the sticks, and you’re done.
1. Cook With A Single Stick
Whether you’re in a survival setting or just camping out with the family, it’s really nice to have a quick and efficient campfire cooking system. For either situation, you’ll need practical ways to suspend your cookware over the fire to boil water and cook your food. This rig is often called a dingle stick and has cooked so many meals for me that I couldn’t even begin to count them. While it is the least steady setup for holding a pot, it’s one of the fastest cooking rigs to build and secure enough if you don’t overload it. Find a straight stick, about 3 feet long and carve a point on the thicker end (this end will go into the ground).
2. Roast On A Spit
A practical and direct way to cook bigger food items, like hunks of meat or entire small game animals, is to roast them on a spit over an open fire. In the backyard, these spits are often made of metal and reused over and over. In the wild, they can be cut from green, living wood for one-time use. Live wood is very handy, as these moisture-filled sticks and branches resist burning. Just make sure it’s a non-toxic local species. Use a larger setup to roast medium-sized animals whole. If you do decide to cook something that isn’t easy to balance, like a chicken or an odd-shaped roast, make a spit that has a side spike, barb, or prong of some kind.
3. Weave A Snowshoe Grill
Do you need a grill to cook a meal for one or two people? You can weave one from green wood to cook steaks, fish, and many other tasty foods. The snowshoe grill (also called a tennis racket grill) can be used as a portable, reversible cooking surface. If it’s not too close to the flames, you should be able to cook several meals with it before it burns up. Choose the right kind of wood. You should have multiple species in any given area, but opposite branching woods like maple, ash, and dogwood will give you lots of natural forks due to their growth pattern. Just steer clear of buckeye and horse chestnut wood, which look like a good fork, but contain dangerous toxins.
Cut some small, straight green-wood sticks and one large forking branch, then carve a point on the end of the forked stick so that it can be stuck into the ground. Bend the fork into a hoop, twisting the branch tips around each other until they hold their shape. Then lay one long straight twig down the middle of the hoop. Start weaving shorter twigs into the hoop, with an “over and under” pattern. If it is tight and difficult to weave, that’s good. The grill should be rigid and secure. Place your food on the rack and use a couple more green sticks to pin the food into place. Stab the pointed end of the grill stick into the ground, and prop the grill over the fire using rocks or a log, just as you would with a dingle stick. Turn your grill periodically until your food is fully cooked.
4. Build A Green-Wood Grill
For a real wilderness feast, the green-wood grill is a great approach. This cooking method consists of a rack of fresh live sticks or branches, set up with a fire underneath. It acts very much like a metal cooking grill, and you may be able to use it several times before the sticks begin to burn. These sticks can be supported in different ways, and you can build the grill in any size or shape that you like. Square, rectangular, and triangular shapes are popular, and these can range in size from tiny to huge.
5. Tie A Tripod
Tie a clove hitch or square knot to the end of one of the poles, and wrap the line around all of the poles five or six times. Wrap the line between the poles twice between each one, working back toward the original clove hitch. Finish by tying the free end of the line to the free end from the knot that started this whole thing. Spread the legs, and your tripod is done. Use a chain and hooks to hang your cooking pot, or lash in some grill sticks to make a very stable green wood grill. For this, lash three cross pieces to the outside of the tripod and then lay your green-wood rack on top of the cross members. Use vines, rawhide strips, or leather thongs to lash the cross pieces since there will be a fire nearby.
6. Set Up A Skewer
If you’ve roasted marshmallows over a campfire, then you’ve used a skewer. This pointy stick can give you many more options than just placing food directly on a bed of coals. You can easily make a wooden skewer by carving or breaking a point into a straight branch of live, non-toxic wood. To be more conservative, you can use wood that is dead, just know that it is more likely to light on fire, especially if grease starts running down the stick. For quick-cooking foods, impale them on the sharp end and hold the skewer over the flames by hand.
7. Build A Cooking Crane
We can adopt this technique for our camp by building simple cooking cranes. Here’s how to carve a “three-stick” crane. Select three sticks: a long stick, a forked stick, and a hooked stick. Carve points on the ends of the hooked and forked sticks and stake them into the ground. The fork should be right side up, and the hook should be turned upside down. Make sure the upward fork is closer to the fire, and the downward hook farther away. Lay the long, straight stick on the fork with one end over the fire, and put the other end under the hook. Put a pot on the end in the fire, and leverage will hold it in place.