When you’re out camping, there is nothing better than cooking your food over the campfire. This may conjure up images of roasted marshmallows and hot dogs, but you may want to consider something even better – steak!
Yes, cooking a piece of steak over a campfire will make you connect with your internal caveman/cave-woman. With that said, you may be wondering, what is the best cut of steak to cook over a campfire?
The Best Cut of Steak for Campfire Cooking
As a general rule, the best steak for cooking on a campfire is a thick bone-in ribeye if you are cooking on a grill right over an open fire. If using cast iron, the best steak for camp cooking is going to be a thick sirloin. If you’re a fan of flat iron steak, use the pan versus the grill on a fire.
These are generally the best cuts of steak for campfire cooking. If in doubt, go with a thick piece of ribeye with the bone still in. That’s the best steak cut for your campfire direct on the grill and is still right up there with thick sirloins for cast iron butter pan frying, as well.
These are the cuts of steak that stand out above the rest when it comes to delicious campfire cooking. You want a high fat content with your steak, as this helps keep the meat moist so it doesn’t dry out even when exposed to a kiss of flame. Which makes it perfect for campfire.
The fact that this cut has a significant amount of marbling will actually help prevent overcooking, which is the main danger with campfire cooking. You should get ribeye that is either 1.25 – 1.5 inches thick and the bone even helps ensure the steak cooks a bit more evenly.
Cast Iron Steak Cooking or Grilling Steak?
The biggest distinction is knowing whether you’re cooking your steak right on the grill versus using cast iron. Having bone in steak makes smooth handling and cooking easier if you are going direct on grill. This will also increase the cook time slightly compared to steak without a bone.
Using cast iron on the grill can be a great way to cook. Toss in that big blob of butter, get it bubbling, and toss on the steaks.
Boneless steak generally takes a bout a minute to a minute and a half less. Add that time if the bone is in steak. These are minor adjustments but they are important.
Remember that some dripping fat and grease can feed the flames. An occasional flare up isn’t a big deal if it goes back down but you don’t want a burst of flames constantly hitting the actual meat. The heat from the fire’s coals should provide the overwhelming amount of the heat needed to cook.
Tools You’ll Need
Now that you know the best cut of steak to get, you may be wondering what tools you’ll need and exactly how to go about cooking that beautiful piece of meat. Some of the important tools you’ll need include:
- Tongs with long handles
- Steak thermometer (you can use the old steak knife slicing open the meat method, but this is how you go next level)
- Tool for moving coals or stoking the fire
- Cast iron skillet or grill
- Thick gloves (even if using cast iron)
Make the Perfect Cooking Campfire
When making your campfire to cook your steak, you should keep in mind that the type of wood that you use will impact the flavor of your steak. It is best to use a very dry hardwood and avoid using any wood that has moisture in it.
This is because the moist wood would cause a lot of smoke and the heat of the coals wouldn’t get high enough. Not to mention the uneven heat issues more likely to happen from wet wood.
When creating your campfire, you should ensure that the coals are extremely hot and are layered under the skillet. It is recommended that you also have another fire going so you can get fresh hot coals to add if needed.
As you can imagine, the biggest issue with cooking on a campfire is properly regulating the heat and temperature of the fire as well as dealing with flare ups.
This may cause different temperatures on different parts of your skillet, which may cause it to not cook evenly. So, be sure to move your steak around so that it cooks a bit more evenly.
Pro Tip: If you like a touch of sweetness and you’re cooking steak directly on the grill toss in some cherry or apple wood. If you like a touch of smokehouse flavor put on a little cedar or even mesquite if you have access to it.
The Steak Itself
As mentioned above, the very best cut of steak to cook over a campfire is bone in ribeye steak. The typical cut that you’ll get at your butcher will feed two people, so you can easily determine how many you’ll need to cook.
The bone in ribeye not only helps the steak to cook more easily but makes it a little easier to handle than a steak without the bone.
Don’t go lean. Make sure your butcher or meat counter specialist knows you’re using this for campfire cooking so they know to look for good marbling. That extra bit of fat from a well-marbled steak is going to make it the perfect cut for grilling on the campfire.
Pro Prepping Tip: Often times a steak has been in the refrigerator or cooler. Let it sit out just long enough to warm up to room temperature, then cook it. The taste difference is noticeable!
How Do You Like Your Steak?
Using a meat thermometer is a much better method than cutting it with a knife. While I get this is the “old school way,” and it’s one I’ve used myself, you will retain more flavor and juice by using the right tools for the job. More moisture in the steak means more flavor.
|Steak Doneness||Remove From Grill||Ready to Eat At|
|Well Done (Why?)||166||171|
Keep in mind that while most the cooking is done in the pan or on the grill, if you want that perfect finish you let your steak spend a few minutes off the actual heat, where the meat will finish cooking internally.
This is how you avoid burning the outside while the inside is still underdone.
Grades of Steak
According to the USDA, there are three grades of beef and the grade that you choose, determines the quality of your steak. The three grades are prime, choice and select, where the main difference is the amount of marbling on each grade.
The prime grade is the highest grade where you get the most amount of marbling. This particular cut of steak is very expensive and you’ll likely need to visit a gourmet butcher in order to get it since only 2-3% of beef is labelled as prime.
Next in line is the choice grade which is in the middle and this cut also has a good amount of marbling, however, less than the prime grade. You can easily find this grade in most grocery stores and butchers.
The lowest grade is the third grade which is known as select. This has the least amount of marbling which means that the steak itself won’t be as tasty and flavorful as the other two grades.
So, if you want to make the best campfire steak, then you should definitely opt for a prime or choice grade ribeye steak.
Prepping the Steaks
Once you have your steak and all the items you need to cook as well as your campfire, you should prep your steak. Simply season both sides of your ribeye steak with salt and black pepper and any other seasonings that you desire.
Of course, you don’t have to add any other seasonings as salt and black pepper is all that you need.
It is important that you have your steak out for a half hour before cooking so that it gets to room temperature before cooking. However, avoid seasoning your steak and leaving it outside for over an hour since the salt will draw out the juices and moisture from your steak.
By ensuring your steak is at room temperature before cooking will reduce the overall time needed to cook and make your steak even juicier and more delicious.
It will also ensure that the steak cooks evenly, both inside and outside and prevent issues where the outside is cooked but the inside is still cold and requires a longer cooking time.
Cooking to Perfection
Once your steak is ready, place the skillet on the coals and allow it to get extremely hot. You can test that it is hot enough by dripping a couple drops of water into the skillet and the water should evaporate almost immediately upon entering the skillet.
The reason why you want to use a cast iron skillet is because it is strong enough to withstand a campfire and it also helps to spread the heat more evenly, resulting in a perfectly cooked steak.
You should also consider using gloves or mittens since the handle will be extremely hot.
Place the steak into the skillet and allow it to cook for three to four minutes before flipping it onto the other side. You can use the meat thermometer to check the temperature of the steak to determine when it is done.
If you want to enjoy medium rare steak, then you should wait until the steak is 140 degrees. A rare steak is between 134 to 140, medium is up to 159, and well done is just wrong.
Sorry for the judgement but you have to draw your lines somewhere, and a burned to shoe leather steak is one of them!
Be careful not to make too many cuts or holes in your steak while cooking since this will allow the delicious juices to run out. Even if you want well done steak, be careful not to overcook it since a charred piece of steak is dry and tasteless.
After your steak has finished cooking, remove it from the skillet and allow it to rest for a couple of minutes before cutting. Don’t cut it right away since this will cause the juices to run out, which you definitely want to avoid.
Cook Your Sides
Once the steak is finished, you can use the same skillet to cook your sides. You can quickly cook a variety of vegetables such as mushrooms, corn, carrots, broccoli, asparagus etc.
What’s a good steak without sides? Mushrooms and a baked potato are classics, but it’s also hard to argue with really great buttered asparagus. Cook to your taste!
To wrap things up, we have just looked at the very best cut of steak to cook over a campfire, which is the bone in ribeye steak. Once you choose the best thick cut with great marbling as well as follow the cooking instructions above, you’ll surely be able to enjoy a fantastic campfire steak anytime you want.
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