Chef Melissa Perello is best known for her Michelin-star cooking at San Francisco restaurant, Frances. But when the outdoor-lover hits the wilderness she still delivers delicious meals. “I really like to be prepared for everything so my camping pantry kit is ridiculously excessive,” she says.
Her camping cookware kit is extensive, and her portable pantry always includes hearty dry goods such as beans, lentils, rice, farro, dried chiles and polenta, plus a roll of heavy duty foil and parchment paper, reusable zip-top bags, and clean pint containers and lids for storing leftovers. She transports everything in heavy-duty plastic totes and advises prepping ahead. For Perello, that means dicing things like onions pre-trip, pre-cooking her bacon, and prepping packets of biscuit, pancake or corn bread mix in Ziploc bags (snip off a corner to use the Ziploc like a pastry bag).
Just what is she cooking up with that extensive campsite pantry? “The most fun dishes are the ones that involve some ingredients my husband, Robert, and I have harvested or caught near our campsite, like trout or watercress from a stream or even wild fennel,” Perello says. She’s also a fan of foil hobo packets — a mixture of veggies plus protein wrapped up in foil — for everything from veggies to fish. “These can be cooked in the coals or on the grill grates and they are very forgiving, super easy to prep ahead of time or on-site, they keep well, are easy to eat on the go, and can be personalized for all kinds of finicky eaters.”
While you may not be whipping up any Michelin-star fare on your next camping trip, you can still take some cues from Perello when it comes to your mobile kitchen set up. Here are her 10 camping cookware essentials for adding a chef’s touch to any camping trip.
Perello describes the Coleman Triton Propane 2-Burner Stove as an affordable workhorse. The spacious cooking surface is large enough to fit a 10-inch pan and a 12-inch pan at the same time. Plus, independently adjustable controls allow you to set your heat anywhere from a simmer to a boil. A clever folding wind block prevents the wind from reaching the flames. Clean up is easy thanks to the removable heavy-duty, nickel-chrome grates and a built-in handle makes it easy to tote the 11-pound grill from campsite to car.
“This rad cooler converts into a backpack,” says Perello of the Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24 Soft Cooler. Perfect for backcountry camping trips, this roomy cooler can fit a day’s worth of food and drinks. Ergonomic shoulder straps and a removable chest strap and waist belt make the trek more comfy. Extremely durable, the DryHide Shell is waterproof and resistant to mildew, punctures and UV rays. Most importantly, it guarantees superior cold-holding so you’ll never have to suffer through a warm beer again.
The feet on the Lodge Six Quart Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven enables it to post up in the fire, says Perello. Incredibly versatile, it’s great for soups, stews and meats, but Perello also recently used hers to make a pizza and says it worked like a charm. The cast iron pot distributes heat evenly, making it great for both quick, high-heat browning and long, slow cooking. And the snug lid makes a self-basting cover that keeps in heat.
The New Camp Cookbook helps you channel your inner chef in the wilderness. Author Linday Ly’s delicious recipes will help fuel your culinary creativity beyond hot dogs and S’mores. Recipes range from ambitious (Dutch oven cider-braised pork shoulder with apple and polenta) to breezy strawberry-rhubarb cobber) and are organized by meal. You’ll also find helpful tips on everything from packing a cooler and building a fire to grilling in foil hobo packs and cooking in a Dutch Oven.
Perello fills old prescription bottles with spices and stashes them in a zip-up makeup bag. If you don’t have a home pantry of spices, the CSpice Organic Camping Spice Set covers all of your seasoning needs. Each set includes the essentials, such as organic black pepper, Himalayan pink salt, and organic garlic, pus onion, red chili flakes, steak seasoning, vegetable seasoning and an Italian blend. Individual packets are resealable and come in a convenient zip pouch with a carabiner clip.
“I use a ton of small lamps to light our camping spot, pathways, tent and cooking area,” says Perello. Her favorites are Black Diamond Moji Lanterns. “The battery lasts a long time so I can leave a few on outside all night.” One triple power LED emits a cozy glow and a dimming switch allows for brightness adjustment. Leave it on the ground or use the collapsible double-hook hang loop to string the lantern above your campsite.
Perello prefers pre-cook her bacon before bringing it on camping trips because cooked bacon keeps longer than raw bacon and it’s easier to transport. Her go-to brand is Benton’s 4-Pack of Hickory Smoked Country Bacon, which is dry cured by hand with salt, brown sugar and black pepper. After three week of curing, it goes into Benton’s Madisonville, Tennessee smokehouse for two to three days. It’s great for breakfast but Perello also adds it to fire-roasted potatoes with crème fraîche and herbs.
The GSI Outdoors, Gourmet Kitchen Set 11 helps organize the camp kitchen. A lightweight tote stores all components of the 11-piece kit while still leaving room for your own additions. Many tools serve multiple functions. For example, the spoon includes gradations so you can measure for recipes and a spatula has tapered edges and a serrated cutting edge to make flipping and serving simple. A waterproof, four-compartment spice holder and two squeeze bottles allow you to easily tote your favorite seasonings and condiments into the backcountry.
Your morning coffee routine should not end just because you’re miles from a Starbucks. Wake your camp mates with the aroma of fresh brew wafting from a bubbling percolator over the campfire. Perello is a fan of the Stanley Adventure 6-Cup Percolator, which she says is also great for simply heating water. The stainless steel won’t rust and is naturally BPA-free. A removable silicone grip makes it safe to grab and pour straight from the flames.
Tread lightly and package your food in eco-friendly lunch packs from Bee’s Wrap. A natural alternative to plastic wrap, the reusable, compostable wraps are made of beeswax, organically-grown cotton, jojoba oil and tree resin. Each kit comes with a sandwich wrap and two medium wraps for snacks. You can build your sammy atop the wrap, fold in the corners and wrap the string around the wooden bee button to seal. The wrap doubles as a placemat for meals.
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