Some people point to the #vanlife movement, or to the new era of documenting all our adventures—and meals—on social media. Others cite the rising popularity of camping in general, or the new crop of cool camping cook gear.
Whatever the exact reasons, one thing everyone agrees upon: we’re living in a golden era of camp cooking. But here’s the thing. That doesn’t mean you have to get all fancy or overly complicated about it, says Emma Frisch, a former climbing and backpacking guide and author of Feast by Firelight, a cookbook optimized for the outdoors. “If done right, you’re hanging out, having a beer, and just watching something sizzle on a grill.” Here are Frisch’s best tips—and a few recipes—to help elevate your next car camping meal.
Prep at Home
“You can keep things simple while you’re at the campsite and avoid most of the cleaning if you do your prep at home,” Frisch says. That means chopping vegetables, marinating meats, and pre-making sauces or seasonings before you leave the house. Front-loading these tasks not only simplifies the cooking but also makes packing the cooler easier and more efficient.
Elevate a Campfire Classic
You could argue that you’re not camping if you’re not eating hot dogs at some point during your trip. Frisch up-levels this campfire classic by grilling sausages over an open fire and topping them with homemade Pale Ale mustard. “Get precooked sausages so you don’t have to worry about internal temperature, and cook them on sticks over an open fire. The kids love it,” Frisch says.
Pale Ale Mustard: Soak a cup of mustard seeds (black and yellow) in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the fridge overnight. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of allspice, and 5 tablespoons of honey. Blend thoroughly and store in a jar.
Satisfy Big Groups
Large groups can be tough. You’ve got one dude who’s allergic to dairy, another who’s allergic to soy, and someone’s kid who only eats orange foods. Avoid the hassle by creating Frisch’s “Grazing Table,” where you load the picnic table with hearty snacking foods so everyone can load their plate with only the items they want. Think: sliced fruits, nuts, thick bread, cheese and sliced salami, hummus, sliced veggies… “It’s a full meal, and you’ll avoid spending all day cooking over the fire,” Frisch says. Go the extra mile by making your own Pale Ale hummus.
Pale Ale Hummus: At home, add 2 cans of drained chickpeas, 3 cloves of garlic, half a cup of tahini, juice of 1 lemon, and 1 teaspoon of salt to a food processor or blender and blend. Once it’s thoroughly blended, add half a cup of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, stirring constantly until you get the consistency you’re looking for. Store in a jar in the fridge.
Try Something New
One of Frisch’s go-to campfire dinners is grilled skirt steak and vegetables with a homemade chimichurri sauce, all of which is prepped at home so all you have to do at camp is man the grill. “Skirt steak is great because it cooks fast and you can’t overcook it,” Frisch says. Slice the steak into wide strips at home and season with salt and pepper, storing in plastic bags. Slice yellow squash and zucchini, baste with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, storing in plastic bags.
Chimichurri: In a blender or food processor, blend a bunch of parsley and olive oil until you have a thin paste. Store in a jar. At camp, grill the steak and vegetables. Serve with a dollop of chimichurri, which pairs perfectly with the grilled meat and an ice-cold and aggressively hopped Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA.
Don’t Forget Dessert
There ain’t nothing wrong with s’mores, but if you’re looking to impress your mates, make this Old-Fashioned Bourbon Cherry Fool, which combines crushed fruit (cherries are best, but anything seasonal will work), homemade whipped cream, and bourbon.
Old-Fashioned Bourbon Cherry Fool: At home, mash 2 cups of pitted cherries and put them in a mason jar with the juice of 1 orange and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Shake and store in the fridge. At camp, put 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1 tablespoon bourbon to a mason jar (leave out the bourbon if you’re serving kids). Add a marble. Tighten the lid and shake vigorously for 3 minutes, until it turns to whipped cream. Remove marble. Layer cherries and whipped cream in a bowl or mug, fold together, and serve.
June is National Camping Month, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., wants you to celebrate with car camping, a backcountry overnight, or just by pitching a tent in your backyard. However you decide to enjoy it, make sure you stock up with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale—the Official Beer of Camping— for the adventure.