RV Grilling, Cookout and Campfire Tips

This article is for the griller. Whether you’re using coal, wood or propane, this article is geared toward the outdoors and the open-flame. We’re starting with safety, including safety tips and information sources – which are vitally important, but too often forgotten in cooking columns. One sick person can ruin a trip, let alone a sick whole family. Then, after reviewing the food safety material, read on for the fun stuff!


  • Never use a propane or charcoal grill indoors.

  • Never light a gas grill in the closed position. Make sure the lid is open.

  • Check propane hoses for leaks. Do this by covering the hose with soap and water, and then running the gas through the hose. Leaks will cause bubbling.

  • If you smell gas, turn the gas off and move away from the grill. Call the fire department.

  • Keep grill at least 30 feet away from the RV and away from brush and overhanging branches.

  • Accumulated grease and fat can flare up, causing burns and fire hazards. Keep them clean.

  • Don’t leave the grill or fire burning unattended.

  • When putting out coals, douse with water, stir and douse again.

  • Dispose of coals using a metal container.

  • Learn as much as you can about food safety. If you’re out boondocking, it’s not like you can just run down to the local Piggly-Wiggly or Wawa’s to restock if something spoils. Familiarize yourself with FoodSafety.gov, the federal food safety and handling resource. Post it on your refrigerator or elsewhere in your RV. You want the whole family to know about this. You can download a series of food safety reference charts heree.

  • Pay particular attention to handling raw poultry, meat, seafood and even eggs, which can easily cross-contaminate your utensils, plates, and food preparation areas.

  • Pro-tip: Color code your utensils and cutting boards. Have at least two cutting boards: one for meat and one for vegetables.


  • Roasted vegetables are magic – and great nutritious fun for the kids. Make shiskabobs like the above and throw them on the grill. Or coat them with a bit of olive oil and oregano, garlic and/or pepper and wrap them in tin foil. They’ll be ready to go in 5 or 10 minutes. If you include meat, be alert to recommended cooking temperatures.

  • Some Godless heathen among you will attempt to marinate steak. If you do decide to destroy a perfectly good piece of meat by marinating it, rather than simply using large-granule sea salt, pepper, butter and herbs like intended, don’t put it back in the marinade after you cook it. The marinade will be contaminated.

  • Try flank steak or skirt-steak. It is frequently much cheaper than the fancy cuts, but is easy to cook and absolutely delicious. For the authentic Cuban touch, skip the steak sauce and try chimichurri.

  • Are you a cedar plank salmon fan? Or cedar plank anything fan? Be sure to soak the planks first, and cook covered, so that the smoke surrounds the fish.

  • Burgers? Add a bit of olive oil to the ground beef. It’s healthy, doesn’t evaporate like water does, and helps keep burgers moist and flavorful.

  • Toast the buns on the grill. Add a bit of butter. Better yet, try spreading on a bit of mayo.

  • Thin cuts of meat take less propane to cook than thick ones.

  • Pile up the coals on one side of the grill. Use that one for high heat and searing in the juices; then you can adjust cooking temperature by moving items over towards the cooler side.

  • Got fish? Leave the skin on. That way more fish will end up on your plate and less will end up stuck to the grill.

  • Use tic-tac or gum containers to store spices.

  • Try not to use lighter fluid on coal fires. It changes the flavor and not for the good. Try to use straight ahead kindling. An electric starter can even keep the smell of sulphur and gas away from your food.

  • Another coal or wood fire tip: Soak rosemary, applewood chips, cherry tree chips, maple, acorn/oak or other aromatic woods and herbs and throw them on the fire right before you start cooking. You can soak them in water or for added layers of flavor, try apple cider, beer or wine. Oregon Live has an excellent summary of this technique and also suggests thyme, bay, fennel, peach and other tempting options.

  • Don’t be afraid to grill peppers black. The more they cook, the sweeter they get.

  • Put a little tent of foil over meat once it’s mostly done cooking, but still keeping warm on the grill. The reason? Water evaporates from the top of the meat as it turns into steam and the foil tent helps retain that moisture and drips it back onto the meat.

  • Try cooking fish on top of a bunch of lemon slices. It saves the fish from sticking to the grill, and adds lots of flavor. Don’t forget to pack a bit of dill and pepper.

  • Chicken thighs barbecue better than breasts. To cut calories, leave the skin off.

  • Have kids? Don’t forget skewers/sticks, large marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate squares. They’ll know what to do.
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