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Kitchen & Cooking

11 essentials to create the best camp kitchen ever

Spice up your outdoor dining on your next camping trip.

On an outdoor cookware set in the upper left corner, a portable stove at a campsite in the upper right corner with a kettle on top; A person grinding and preparing coffee on a tailgate outdoors in the lower left; A green Bialetti moka pot in the lower right. Credit: Reviewed / Stanley Base Camp / GSI Outdoors / VSSL / Bialetti

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Whether you’re gearing up for some end-of-summer camping, or stocking up for next season, now is the time to outfit your camping kitchen arsenal.

And whether you’re venturing off the beaten path for some fresh air, or car-camping with the entire family, here are our tested and highly rated recommendations for the best equipment to help you cook delicious meals in the wilderness.

1. Get a good camp stove

A Coleman two-burner stove is connected to a propane fuel cylinder. On the stove, there's a kettle and a pan.
Credit: Coleman

This Coleman stove can accommodate pans and kettles of various sizes.

A functional stove is an essential kitchen item, and campsite kitchens are no different. Our former kitchen writer put this highly rated Coleman two-burner stove to use on many a camping trip, and couldn’t stop raving about it. She found the folding shields to be particularly useful, as they can effectively stop wind—an outdoor cooking challenge—from interfering with the fire.

The stove is relatively lightweight and doesn’t take up much space in a car trunk or roof box when folded up. Paired with a propane fuel cylinder, the burner has a one-hour runtime on high and can fit both a 10-inch and 12-inch pan at the same time. Just don’t forget the propane! $70 at Amazon If you need a stove that’s backpacker-friendly, consider this compact tiny stove kit from BioLite. It can also provide lighting and doubles as a charger for emergency use. $185 at Amazon

2. Opt for outdoor-friendly cookware

Left: Set of Stanley Base Camp cookware, dishes and utensils. Right: Snow Peak outdoor frying pan and pot.
Credit: Reviewed / Stanley Base Camp / Snow Peak

A full set of camping cookware is a great investment, but if you're lacking space a simple set does the trick.

Schlepping everyday pots and pans to the woods is impractical—and heavy. If you’re planning to do a decent amount of outdoor cooking, invest in an outdoor cookware set made especially for camping.

This Stanley set includes a 3.5-liter pot with vented lid, a 7-inch frying pan, small cutting board, modular spatula and serving spoon, four plates and bowls, four sporks, a dish drying rack, and a heat resistant trivet that doubles as a pot holder. All of that nests and locks inside the pot for space-saving transport. $88 at Amazon If you’re only serving one or two people and want streamlined simplicity, this lightweight two-pot nested set is perfect. There's a lot you can cook with a frying pan and a 30-ounce pot. Remember that aluminum conducts heat fast so you may need to adjust cooking times and heat levels. $40 at Amazon

3. Don’t forget the cooking utensils

GSI Outdoors 11-piece utensil set with individual pieces laid out on the left and in its case on the right.
Credit: Reviewed / GSI Outdoors

This set allows you to easily keep everything in one spot.

If you’re cooking in the great outdoors you’ll need the proper utensils to handle the food. It’s easy to remember the pots and pans but forget the spatulas and tongs. We recommend this outdoor kitchen utensil set that packs nicely into its own highly portable carry case.

The set includes more than just the essentials. There’s a set of collapsible utensils, including a spatula, serving spoon, and whisk, plus a cutting board, scrubber, towel, and even condiment containers! It, unfortunately, doesn't include tongs, so be sure to add a good pair of grill-worthy tongs. $45 at Amazon

4. Control your fire with a portable grill

A Weber portable grill on a blue background.
Credit: Reviewed / Weber

Even far away from home, you can be a grill master with the portable Weber Q 1200.

While there’s a lot to be said for cooking over the open flames of a campfire, it’s also a lot harder to control the intensity of the heat. The Weber Q 1200 puts out a lot of consistent heat and has enough space to grill for a small crowd—our testers easily fit six burgers with room for flipping.

Like the Coleman stove, this grill runs on liquid propane, and its porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates are easy to clean when you may not have running water. Our testers also loved how lightweight and portable this grill is. Once the grill is cooled, its sturdy side tables fold away for compact portability. $259 at Amazon If charcoal is more to your preference, and you don’t mind packing coals, the Weber Jumbo Joe is our favorite portable charcoal grill. It takes up more space, but if you have the room, or you're feeding a crowd, this grill can handle quantities that rival a full-sized grill. $89 at Amazon

5. Pack a chef-worthy knife set

Knife set laid out, including cloth, case, knife sharpener, 3 knife covers and 3 knives sitting on a cutting board.
Credit: Reviewed / GSI Outdoors

A knife kit that's intended for travel is far safer than trying to pack up your knives from home.

Just because you’re cooking outdoors doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your culinary skills. With a complete knife set—including chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated knife—there’s no limit to what you can prepare.

The set also includes safety guards, a knife sharpener, a small bamboo cutting board, a microfiber dish cloth, and a compact carrying case to neatly store it all. Give yourself even more room to chop with a set of store-anywhere flat cutting mats. $80 at Amazon

6. You can’t beat a cast-iron skillet

Left: Lodge 12-inch cast iron skillet. Right: Lodge 8-inch cast iron skillet with duck scene.
Credit: Reviewed / Lodge

If you don't mind the heft, a cast iron skillet is ideal for outdoor cooking.

When it comes to outdoor cooking, a cast-iron skillet is undoubtedly the most versatile and durable tool you can bring with you. This pre-seasoned 12-inch skillet from Lodge has many great features—it’s nearly indestructible, produces even heating, and is easy to clean in places where water may be scarce.

The only downside of a cast-iron pan is that it’s rather heavy. A smaller version of our favorite cast iron skillet is available—complete with wilderness scenes on the bottom—for the outdoor cooking enthusiast who wants to lighten their load. But if you’re backpacking, then we recommend cookware made of lighter material such as titanium. $17 to $33 at Amazon

7. Ensure you have clean water

Left: Blue LifeStraw bottle on orange background. Right: 4 LifeStraw bottles lined up outside.
Credit: Reviewed / LifeStraw

LifeStraw makes it easy to know you're always drinking clean water.

While most official campsites have potable running water, you never know when you might be out of reach and still in need of a drink. LifeStraw bottles with the 2-stage integrated filter straw are every camper's safety net for clean water. The internal straw itself can even be removed and used to drink water directly from an outdoor water source. $30 at Amazon

And if you want to set up your own camp kitchen sink, and you've got the space to transport it, our favorite is the SereneLife Portable Camping Sink. Fill its 5-gallon tank with fresh water and its almost as if you never left home. $94 at Amazon

8. Set up your very own outdoor coffee bar

Left: Bialetti moka pot. Center: Person grinding coffee outdoors. Right: SterlingPro French press.
Credit: Reviewed / Bialetta / VSSL / SterlingPro

Whether you choose a moka pot, an AeroPress with fresh ground beans from a VSSL Java, or a French Press, you can't go wrong making coffee outdoors.

If you’ve got a camp stove, you can put that burner to good use for your morning caffeine fix, even in the wilderness. There are many options for campers when it comes to coffee, and all you need is hot water and a brewing vessel. The AeroPress Go, which makes hot coffee or espresso in one minute with hot water, packs into its own travel mug. The backcountry community raves about it because it also has the option to make cold brew in two minutes without requiring hot water. $40 at Amazon For French press fans, we recommend our favorite (and unbreakable) stainless steel French press for easy coffee prep. $37 at Amazon Espresso lover? Pack a Moka pot—in an outdoorsy green color we can’t resist—for a great Americano or espresso shot before you hit the trails. $40 at Amazon If you’re a die-hard grind-your-own-beans purist, add a hand-crank coffee grinder to your set-up and you won't even need to grind the beans before you leave home. It’s a pricey addition, but the VSSL Java hand grinder is designed for happy campers—it takes little effort to use, grinds beans quickly, and features heavy-duty materials that make it durable. It boasts 30 grind settings for all your coffee needs. $160 at Amazon

9. Use a stovetop kettle for coffee or tea

Left: Gooseneck stovetop kettle on a pink background. Right: people in tent in background with GSI camp stove in foreground.
Credit: Reviewed / Wenegg / GSI Outdoors

If you can’t leave your pour-over coffee maker at home, or you’re a tea lover who just needs hot water, you can get a stovetop gooseneck kettle with a built-in temperature gauge. Not only can this stovetop kettle help you make hot beverages at home, this versatile, lightweight model is easy to pack for your outdoor adventures. $29 at Amazon While this kettle works with any camp stove, if you’re keeping things super simple you can pair it with a tiny GSI Pinnacle Canister Stove and have boiling water anywhere. $50 at Amazon

10. Set yourself up right with a foldable table

A Coleman portable table on a green background.
Credit: Reviewed / Coleman

A sturdy table that's lightweight and portable is an easy add for a stellar camping kitchen.

Some campgrounds may have picnic tables you can use for meal prep, but in places that lack this amenity, you’ll benefit from bringing a foldable table with you. We like the Coleman Outdoor Folding Table because it’s sturdy yet lightweight, easy to fold, and comes with its own carry case. $37 at Amazon For a more elaborate camp kitchen, consider the Mountain Summit Gear Roll Top Deluxe Kitchen Table, with multiple surfaces, shelves, and a covered compartment for storage. It’s lightweight and also collapses into a carrying case. $150 at Amazon

11. Bring a sturdy cooler for your cold essentials

A YETI Tundra 35 cooler with 35-liter capacity is seen either on a sandy beach or in the middle of a dessert.
Credit: YETI

A cooler can help keep your food and drinks fresh and chilled.

If you’re going car camping, you should definitely plan on bringing a cooler. Not only do drinks need to be chilled, but fresh produce, meat, and other perishable items will need some degree of refrigeration. Not to mention that if you go hunting or fishing, a spacious cooler is useful to help keep your bounty fresh.

A great cooler is an investment, but it’s also a necessity for keeping food at safe temperatures over multiple days. Be sure to pack good-quality ice packs, and refresh ice as necessary. $275 at Amazon

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