Pitching your tent, laying out the sleeping bags and all the other put-it-up/take-it-down chores are static, routine, never-changing. Campfire cooking is just the opposite: it’s dynamic, challenging, and ever-changing! As one who enjoys cooking over coals radiating from within a fire ring, I’ve discovered a few tricks about cooking—including improvising utensils to better serve a specific chore.
Take pan frying fish fillets in a huge, hot oil-sloshing skillet. Regardless of your preferred recipe (dry coating, beer batter or simple sautè) that first flip in the frying pan, before the fillet has firmed up a bit, can be a bit sloppy as the fish belly flops into the hot grease as it slides off the spatula. Even if you carefully nudge it to the side of the skillet and ease it up and over to where gravity exerts its pull on the walleye critical mass, there’s still a good chance that several drops of blistering oil will find their way to a patch of exposed skin.
There are commercial spatula/flipper/tong-like grabber utensils on the market; they range about $10-$20 in price and provide a finite angle of attack on a arguable limited range of foods where they will actually offer an advantage over conventional turners.
My gadget cost me $1 and a few minutes of metal manipulation on the workshop vice. Using a regular pair of cheap kitchen tongs, I bent the bottom tong out flat, flipper-like. I then bent the arm of that lower tong at an angle that would allow me slide under the food parallel to the bottom of the pan. Guessing that most of the flat foods I’d be manipulating would be less than an inch thick, I flattened the upper tong, too, but also angled the outer half of the tong surface so the two ends of the tongs were relatively flush (like hands folded in prayer) when they closed in around the fillet or steak or anything being cooked.
The advantages to creating this handy utensil:
- It’s customized
- It’s incredibly cheap
- Provides a secure grip during the entire turning process
- Works as a decent scoop for turning or removing food at the same time
Creating campfire cooking goes beyond what you fix, but also how you fix it as well!