Early evening on the campsite is when you will invariably see smoke wafting skywards from many of the pitches and the appetising smell will remind you, If you haven’t already started, that it is time to light the barbecue.
As a method of cooking barbecuing has been around since way back in history, maybe even prehistory, so it is little wonder that it appeals to the hunter gatherer instincts of to-days carvanner, RV owner or camper. Apart from the refrigerator it is probably one of the most used items on the campsite.
The charcoal burner operates by having a space in which to burn the charcoal, with a space underneath to catch the ash, and a grill over the fire to cook the food. What provides the unique taste is mainly the fat and oils from the food falling onto the fire, resulting in smoke which in turn envelopes the food. A little smoke from the charcoal itself probably assists this process, however you generally wait until it is burning hot and no smoke remains before you begin to cook. You can of course add a little smoking wood as you cook in order to enhance the flavour, however we’ll leave the finer points of the art of barbecuing to others in order simply to touch on the units themselves.
Most charcoal burners will have a lid of one form or another which you can use to regulate and control, to a certain degree, cooking heat and the contact of smoke with your food. They may also have a small inlet which it is possible to adjust in order to control the flow of air to the fire.
Two of the most popular and the most convenient for caravanning are the kettle grill and what is know simply as the portable barbecue.
The portable is usually shaped as a rectangle and will most likely have legs that fold up, or detach altogether, making it very useful indeed for taking with you.
The kettle grill come in many sizes from quite small tidy units to large freestanding ones which you can use to feed a larger family or a party of friends. These are usually spherical in nature and will have a vented lid to allow flexibility in how you cook your food.
Gas burners either apply heat directly to the food or alternatively apply heat to something else, like stones, which in turn cook your food.
Food from the one which uses direct heat will generally taste much the same as if it were done on the grill in your kitchen. Using gas to heat stones or some other element onto which the fat and oils can fall during the cooking process results in a more authentic barbecue taste. This taste I imagine, unless you are a connoisseur, is more or less similar to using a charcoal unit.
The one that I use is very much based on the portable charcoal grill and has legs which are detachable making it very easy indeed to transport. It is rectangular in shape and and has a gas burner located underneath a grill which holds some small, about one to one and half inch, volcanic pebbles. These pebbles heat up nicely allowing the food to cook at a good medium pace. It is made from cast metal and has a gas lead that attaches safely to the gas outlet on the side of the caravan. This outlet incidentally I find to be extremely useful, meaning that I don’t need to take an extra gas bottle with me.
If you would like to get some more information on outdoor cooking while camping just let know and I’ll see if I can find it for you. If you have any tips on using these things, especially on how to clean them easily and efficiently please do get in touch via the contact page.
Again these come in many shapes and forms and are practically all operated on gas of one form or another. My own favourite is a simple one burner cooker that is a triumph of engineering. It comes in a plastic briefcase type container and when you open it the stove is fitted neatly inside. Take it out and you will find that the pot stand is inverted and integrates in this inverted within the stove for transportation, adding no height to the package. While it is in its storage position it prevents the
use of the lever which operates the gas supply. Simply switch the pot stand over to its operating position, operate the lever to engage the gas cartridge, switch the ignition attached to the regulator dial. You’re ready to cook!
All of that would suggest that this is an expensive piece of kit. On the contrary, I paid in the region of €20.00 for it and it has operated efficiently and faultlessly for the six or seven years that I have used it.
Never operate you barbecue or other camping cookers in confined spaces. This includes awnings, tents, campground shelters and camping kitchens. Apart from the obvious danger of setting your tent or awning on fire there is a real risk that you will die from carbon monoxide poisoning.