When you go camping you quickly discover that when it comes to preparing meals, you need an organized area. If you’re trying to fry eggs and bacon and the pans, prep space and stove are far apart from one another, the food is going to get cold and you are going to keep bumping into people who follow you in to the tent to grab a glass of juice, steal a piece of bacon, or just see “what you are doing”.
We have a 10′ X 10′ instant-up gazebo that has removable walls and mosquito netting. This keeps the bugs out and also lets the heat out on hot days. When it rains, everything food-related stays dry and you can make meals in comfort. You can see how we set up our kitchen tent and what you need in order to do the same. Just click here for full instructions.
Whether you use our set-up, or just want an area where you can cook, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Keep the camp stove(s), propane tank, and propane tree all together.
A propane distribution tree is a long pole that attaches to the tank, with a propane lamp at the top. If you have one of these setups you can have a nice bright cooking area if it falls dark quickly. Your stove can also stay attached to the tank. Any time you need to cook or heat something on the camp stove, it just becomes a matter of turning the stove on. So much easier!
Have a separate stand for the stove, and a prep table beside it.
The propane tank and tree should be on one side of the camp stove, and the prep table on the other. Have a stand for the camp stove to sit on. You save your back because you can stand and cook instead of being bent over all the time. A stand also keeps the stove from taking up all the space on the table. It’s light and easy to fold and pack away, too.
We usually have a large group with us, so we have invested in three of those folding banquet tables. They last forever and are great for food prep. We stick all the cooking gear bins underneath and lay out one end for washing up. The corner is for drinks and snacks. Because they fold away, we just stick them up against a wall in the garage when we go home.
Your tent cooking area should be close to the camp fire.
We set up our kitchen tent so it’s just a few feet from the camp fire. That way, if we decide we want to do some Dutch oven cooking or set up a BBQ grill, everything is in the same general area. You can also put grill racks across hot coals at the camp fire to act as a food warming area. Just wrap it in tin foil and lay it on the rack.
Invest in some “S” hooks and hang your pots and pans and cooking utensils from the frame of your tent inside; then you just have to reach up and grab instead of digging around in the bins. It’s amazing how much easier cooking becomes at camp when you can see where everything is! Some people suggest getting a belt and adjusting it around a nearby tree; that works, I suppose. But then you have to go get the cooking utensils. If you hang it from the tent frame it’s right there. We like to use the trees for makeshift clotheslines and for hanging the first aid kit in plain sight.
You can also use a bungee cord, thread it through the center of your roll of paper towel, and hang that from the tent frame too. It’s always at hand and won’t get knocked off the table.
The nice thing about setting up your cooking area like this is that it’s so easy to set up and break down. There’s no wondering where what goes. All the stuff you need to cook with is in one area and it’s good for two or three people, or a crowd. (If you do want to set up a camp kitchen for a crowd, we have how to’s and more hints here.) You can adapt it to your circumstances, whether it’s a camping trip for a few weeks, a long weekend, or even an ambitious tail-gate party. No matter what, you’re prepared. Happy cooking!