Campfire Cooking: Measuring Cooking Temperature

Did you know there’s an easy way to measure the cooking temperature of a campfire? It’s called the “hand test” and it can help you nail the perfect cook every time. To get a rough estimate of a fire’s temperature hover your hand over the cooking area. How long you can hold your hand over the heat gives you an estimate of the temperature:

Less than 1 second: + 600 F (high)

1 – 2 seconds: 400 – 500 F (medium-high)

3 – 4 seconds: 350 – 375 F (medium)

5 – 7 seconds: 325 – 350 F (low)

It’s that simple. Just be careful not to burn yourself while performing this temperature test.

Campfire flames

Campfire Cooking Using Temperature Zones

I’ve noticed that professional chefs who cook on open fires often create several temperature zones. For example, they’ll have a spot for grilling vegetables and another for cooking protein. They’ll also have an area to draw hot coals from to increase the temperature of the other zones. It takes practice to master this kind of temperature regulation, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to cook anything on an open fire.

Carryover Cooking

Another thing to consider when cooking on a campfire is that the food will retain heat and continue cooking even after it is removed from the fire. This is known as “carryover cooking.” Keep this in mind so you don’t overcook or dry out your food.

Campfire 101

This is one of several posts in my Campfire 101 series. Check out some of the others: Campfire SafetyTypes of Firewood and How They Burn, 8  Natural Tinders and How to Use Them and Firewood and Invasive Species. If you have any campfire cooking tips – share them below in the comments section. 


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