Tin Foil Dinners

I do not have fond memories of tin foil dinners from when I was a girl.  When we made them when I was a Guide the chicken was either so raw I’m surprised we didn’t all come down with food poisoning or the whole meal was so burnt that everything tasted like tin foil.  I recently returned to the idea of foil dinners but now I use pre-cooked protein for much better results.


  • pre-cooked protein such as chicken breast, sausage or vegetarian patty
  • white and/or sweet potatoes
  • vegetables such as corn, carrots, zucchini, onions, celery etc.
  • butter or vegetable oil
  • heavy duty tin foil


  1. Clean and chop the potatoes and vegetables.  You want to make sure all the pieces are a pretty consistent size and not too thick or large.
  2. Mean while, build a fire and form a bed of hot coals
  3. Give each girl a piece of foil and let her build her own dinner.  This way everyone ends up with what they like.
  4. Wrap the dinner like a package with the shinny side of the foil on the inside.
  5. Wrap in a second layer of foil to ensure all the good stuff stays inside the package
  6. Lay on coals to cook, turning occasionally.
  7. Cook for approximately 20 min, open and enjoy

Tin Can Stove

A tin can stove is a simple portable stove that can be used to cook over a buddy burner, charcoal or commercial solid fuel.

To make one you will need:

  • a large can such as an apple juice can or a large metal coffee can
  • a bottle opener
  • tin snips
  • can opener


  1. If both ends of the can are closed, use a can opener to open one end all the way.  This step may not be needed with a coffee tin
  2. Wash the can out (be careful of the sharp edges)
  3. Flip the can over so the unopened side is now the top. Use the bottle opener to create a ring of air holes near the top.
  4. Use the tin snips to cut a large square opening from the bottom to let in even more air.

Tip: if you are using a coffee can or something similar that had a plastic lid that fits the can, save this lid.  It can be placed over the open end during transport so the cut corners of the large air hole doesn’t cut or catch on anything.

Once you have your stove made you can use it for all sorts of camp recipes.  Perhaps the easiest is to toast things like grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadilla or pizza pitas over them.

Buddy Burners

Traditionally I’ve always used tuna cans, but at a recent camp we tried small  individual serving cat food cans.  The Guider who collected them feeds her cat the food twice a day so the cans were easy for her to collect and used less wax then tuna cans.  It is easier to make buddy burners on a different day then when you want to use them.


  • Small flat cans
  • corrugated cardboard
  • a wick or birthday candle
  • paraffin wax or old candles to melt down


  1. cut the cardboard so it is in long strips the same width as the height of the cans.
  2. Tightly wind the cardboard around a wick or birthday candle until it will fill the can tightly.  It may help to play with the cardboard some so it will be flexible enough to roll.  You want to fill most of the can with cardboard otherwise it will take A LOT of paraffin to finish the burners.
  3. Melt the wax in a double boiler.  It is often wise to use a can as the inside boiler otherwise clean up can be tricky.
  4. Fill the cans to the top with wax and allow to cool thoroughly.

Buddy burners can be used under a tin can stove or in a park bbq for some quick heat.  I recommend bringing an old flat pot lid or large can top to snuff out the burners when you are done.  Also pack some oven mitts.  Do not under estimate how hot the cans can get.  Be sure they are completely cool again before packing them away on a hike.


Sam eased the pack on his shoulders, and went over anxiously in his mind all the things that he had stowed in it, wondering if he had forgotten anything: his chief treasure, his cooking gear; and the little box of salt that he always carried and refilled when he could; […] flint and tinder; woollen hose; linen; various small belongings of his master’s that Frodo had forgotten and Sam had stowed to bring them out in triumph when they were called for. He went through them all.

“Rope!” he muttered. “No rope! And only last night you said to yourself: ‘Sam, what about a bit of rope? You’ll want it, if you haven’t got it.’ Well, I’ll want it. I can’t get it now.”

– JRR Tolkin, Fellowship of the Ring

No S’mores Tonight

There is nothing wrong with a s’more at campfire but there are lots of other tasty desserts you can make around a fire.

Banana Boats

Cut a slice lengthwise out of the middle of a banana to make a gap.  Fill the gap will mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips.  Wrap in tinfoil and toast in coals, turning occasionally until squishy.

Baked Apples

Place a little butter on a piece of tinfoil.  Add sliced apples, raisins and maple syrup.  Roast on coals until apples are soft.

Gingered Peaches

Place a couple of ginger snap cookies on the flat side of a canned half peach.  Roast on coals until cookies are soft and peach is warm.

Oatmeal Surprise

Take two crunchy oatmeal cookies (like Dads) and sandwich them around a tablespoon of pie filling (apple, cherry, blueberry etc.).  Wrap in tinfoil and roast on the coals until cookies are soft and it is warmed though.

Campfire Macaroons

Cut a loaf of white bread into 1″ squares.  Dip squares in sweetened condensed milk and then into sweetened coconut flakes.  Toast on a stick over the coals until the coconut is toasted and it is warmed though.

Pineapple Upside down

Place a round of pineapple is the bottom of a small clean can (like a tuna can).  Cover in spice cake batter and cook until the cake dry.


Chopped Outdoor Kitchen

This is another idea to use a Food Network game show and turn it into a camping challenge.  This time the theme is Chopped but it could easily be changed to be Iron Chef or Masterchef*.  This would be best done at the last dinner of a multi-day camp as that would provide the most leftovers for the pantry (and might be a great way to use them up)

In this game, each patrol will be given a basket of ingredients they must use to make their dinner.   Dinner should consist of a main course and dessert. You can also challenge them to make an appetizer if you want to make it more difficult.  A nearby picnic table should contain additional ingredients they can use if they wish.  After a fixed time (45 min to an hour) the Guiders will come around and sample everyone work and pick a winning patrol (or patrols).  Then everyone eats dinner.

Recommendations for the basket:

  • a basic protein such as ground beer/turkey or chicken breasts
  • Several vegetables (lettuce, carrots, celery)
  • something sweet like pudding mix, cookies or chocolate chips

You can make the basket more tricky if you know your girls are accomplished outdoor cooks.

Suggestions for the “pantry”:

  • tomato sauce
  • cream of mushroom soup
  • Onion soup mix
  • some different herbs and spices
  • yogurt, mayonnaise or sour cream
  • condiments like ketchup or mustard
  • eggs
  • pasta
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • several kinds of fruit (banana, apples)
  • anything else you have left over from other meals

*To convert to Masterchef, put all the items into a mystery “basket” and eliminate the pantry table. The girls must make their dinner out of the basket but don’t need to use everything.  To convert to Iron Chef, have one challenging feature item in the “basket” and put everything else on the pantry table.