biscuits with jelly and chuckwagon in background

Looking for Simple, Comfort Food Ideas? Think Chuckwagon Cooking

Chuckwagon cooking is a unique outdoor style rooted in the American West during the late 1880s. Named after the horse-drawn wagons used to feed cowboys on cattle drives, chuckwagon cooking is all about the hearty, simple, and delicious food you can cook over an open fire. Menus typically consisted of easy-to-preserve foods like salted meats and beans, sourdough biscuits, and coffee. While for most, chuckwagon cooking has fallen to today’s outdoor grills, those who camp may find it the perfect method of preparing food when away from home. Here are some classic chuckwagon meal ideas that are perfect for outdoor cooking.

Dutch Oven Stew

This hearty stew is a staple of chuckwagon cooking, made with meat, vegetables, and spices simmered together in a cast iron Dutch oven over an open fire. It takes only a few steps to make a chuckwagon stew, browning the meat in the Dutch oven, adding the vegetables and spices, and letting it simmer for an hour or two.

Biscuits and Gravy

A classic breakfast dish, biscuits, and gravy are a staple of chuckwagon cooking. Make biscuits from scratch using a simple biscuit recipe, then top them with gravy made from pan drippings, flour, milk, and seasonings. If you can’t make gravy- just make the biscuits and add our pepper jelly. With chuckwagon coffee, it’s the perfect morning boost.

Grilled Steak

Nothing says chuckwagon cooking like a juicy, perfectly grilled steak. Season your steaks with salt, pepper, and your favorite seasonings or some Craig’s All Purpose seasoning, then grill over hot coals until they reach your desired level of doneness.

Beans and Bacon

This classic side dish is a staple of chuckwagon cooking, made by simmering beans with bacon, onion, and seasonings over an open fire. Cook the bacon in a pan, add the beans, onions, and herbs, and let it simmer until the beans are tender. Add some Craig’s BBQ Sauce for extra flavor and kick.Individual bottle of Craig's BBQ Sauce on a white background

Dutch Oven Potatoes

These delicious potatoes are the perfect side dish for any chuckwagon meal. Peel and chop the potatoes, then cook them in a Dutch oven with butter, garlic, and seasonings over an open fire until they are tender and crispy.

Dutch Oven Cornbread

This classic cornbread is made in a Dutch oven and perfectly complements any chuckwagon meal. Mix the batter, pour it into the Dutch oven, and bake over an open fire until the cornbread is golden brown.

Safety Tips for Cooking Food Over an Open Fire

When chuckwagon cooking over an open flame, there are several safety tips you should keep in mind to ensure a successful and safe experience:

  • Use quality cooking utensils, including long-handled tongs, large spoons, and equipment like stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron cookware 
  • Use a heavy-duty grill grate
  • Cook food to a proper temperature and store leftovers in a cooler
  • Use grill gloves
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to the proper temperatures

Chuckwagon cooking is all about hearty, simple, delicious comfort food that can be cooked over an open fire. From Dutch oven stews, biscuits, and gravy to grilled steak and Dutch oven potatoes, these classic chuckwagon recipes are perfect for any outdoor cooking adventure. So next time you’re out camping or just want to try something new, give chuckwagon cooking a try and enjoy the tastes of the American West.

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