Cooking salmon when you are camping is not as hard as it would seem and is a whole league of difference from some boring hamburgers or hot dogs. Though a good hot dog, slow roasted over a fire is pretty awesome.
Regardless of the method, the key to cooking salmon over a campfire is to find a way to suspend your fish near the hot coals, or place them on them on the coals in a way that they will cook evenly without charring on the outside while still being raw on the interior. The following are three methods for cooking salmon over a campfire that will be sure to please everyone!
Cooking Salmon on a Stick
If you really want to go primitive, you can cook your salmon on a stick over/by the fire. You can use a single steak or a fancy multiple stick system like in the video below, but the key is make sure your salmon won’t fall off your stick. Leaving the skin on will be helpful for that.
You can either place your salmon on sticks vertically next to the hot coals/fire or you can suspend them over the fire. The key element will be to place them close enough to cook slowly and not immediately burn like a marshmallow.
For seasoning you can keep it relatively simple with a basic seasoning mix of salt and garlic, maybe with a touch or lemon.
To get the right distance, place your fish in a spot where you can hold your hand for 5 seconds. Fish that far away from the heat will cook in 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness. Start with the skin side toward the fire to help hold your fish onto your stick.
Cooking Salmon on the Coals
One simple way to cook salmon when you are camping is to wrap your fillets in a couple layers of foil and set them on the coals.
These can be prepared ahead, making one or more for each person and then cooked when the time is right. Below is a basic foil wrapped salmon recipe for cooking on coals, but in reality you can convert any foil or packet salmon recipe to work in this manner.
An additional tip is that you can prepare your salmon packets, freeze them and then take them with you on your trip. They will stay cold longer, and be perfectly fine to drop in the fire even if still a little frozen. they will just take a while longer to cook.
Campfire Salmon Cooked in Foil Packets
- Aluminum foil
- 1 Medium Sized Piece Salmon with skin
- 1 Lemon
- Pinch Salt
- Pinch Black Pepper
- Start your campfire and get the wood or coals nice and hot.
- Tear off two pieces of aluminum foil, and lay them on top of each other.
- Take your piece of salmon and lay it in the aluminum foil skin side down. Cover with salt and pepper to taste (as much as you want) and then top with sliced pieces of lemon all over the meaty portion of the salmon.
- Then, close up the aluminum foil completely so that there are no holes or leaks.
- Take your foil packet and place in the fire. (We placed it directly on the hot “bed” or coal area.
- This is where you’ll need a meat thermometer to check that the salmon is cooked completely.
- Once your foil packet is in the fire, flip it over every 8 minutes or so. It’s hard to put a time limit on the time to cook in the fire because all campfire heats are so different.
- Cooked for about 15 minutes then check to see if they are done. If you brought a thermometer, you can use that, or just pull one packet out and open it and see if it is flaky and done.
- Let rest 5 minutes before serving
Cooking Salmon Over a Campfire in a Basket Grill
A super easy way to cook salmon over your campfire is to use a basket grill and cook them like you would a marshmallow on a stick. These baskets hold onto your fish, so there is no worry of them falling into the fire, have long handles to keep you from burning your hands and let you see just how done your fish is.
The great thing about these is that they can be used for multiple things, from grilling burgers to toasting sandwiches.
One thing to be aware of is to avoid the non-stick versions as the high heat of coals is not good for that material and it can cause it to break down and release not-so-good-for-you things into the air or your food. Good old wire ones work fine.
To cook your salmon in a grilling basket, give it a light coating of oil, season to your liking and secure into the basket. Place over a bed of hot coals, not the flames, until perfectly cooked which should take about 15 minutes depending on your fire and how far over your coals you place your fish.
When shopping for a grilling basket for cooking salmon on a campfire, do look for one with a long handle. Some are made for cooking on a grill and have short handles and those don’t work well for campfires unless you have fireproof fingers.
Cooking Salmon on a Grill Over A Fire
Back in the day before charcoal or gas grills, this was how it was done. Drop a grate over a pile of hot coals and cook your food. Obviously the big challenge with that is getting just the right height over your coals to cook your food. There are some solutions to that however.
There are two types of grills for over a campfire. The first is one with legs that you set right over the fire. These are not my preference as they need an even surface and can’t be adjusted in height easily, so you are stuck with one heat.
For cooking over a campfire, I prefer either either a grill secured by a single stake or hung from a tripod. The advantage here is that they are both adjustable and so you can control your cooking much more easily than you can with one that has fixed legs.
As with any other type of grilling, you will want to oil your fish before placing on the grated to prevent sticking, and let it cook long enough that it doesn’t stick when you go to turn it. One of the main reasons food sticks to grill grates is that it is under-done when people go to flip it.
With this sort of a grill setup you can use virtually any sort of grill setup you would at home. From grilling your salmon directly on the grates to foil wrapped salmon, the choices are nearly endless.
One of the big advantages to using one of these adjustable grills is that you can reposition them to keep things warm. By raising them up or turning the grates away from the fire, you can keep your fish, burgers of other foods warm without burning them. They also don’t interfere with tending your fire like smaller ones will.
Don’t Overlook Kabobs
Technically this is a mini-version of cooking your salmon on a stick as described above, but when it comes to camping, putting your fish on skewers shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly if using a grill with a wide grate. The added support will help hold your fish together and smaller pieces will cook faster than a whole fillet will. Additionally it makes cooking veggies easy and more fun, provided you are one of those people that eats vegetables when they go camping.
Cook Your Salmon Over Your Campfire
There you have the four main ways to cook salmon over a campfire. The basic stick method, directly on the coals, a wire holder over the fire or a grill grate over the coals. I encourage you to expand your camping menu to go beyond the boring old basic hot dogs and hamburgers the next time you go out in the woods. Take along some salmon on your next trip and experiment a little with cooking salmon over a campfire.