Top 3 Survival Cooking Methods – Step by Step Guide

Survival cooking methods are all about going back to the basics - they're primitive, simplified, and foolproof once mastered. Why should you even bother to get the hang of it?

Well, let's say you decide to embark on an adventure that provides a perfect escape from the hustle of everyday life, like camping near the ocean.


If you decide to go on a camping trip, you'll need to fend for yourself - catching food and cooking it right are the elementary survival skills you ought to know.

Fishing in the ocean

Fishing in the ocean.

Who says you can't enjoy a delicious meal without the help of modern technology? Check out these top 3 survival cooking methods that everyone should know.

What you will need to follow this tutorial

Admittedly, you won't have access to many gadgets and utensils when cooking to survive. It doesn't mean you can't take a few 21st-century items to your camping trip. If all else fails, you can always rummage your surroundings and find a few helpful "tools."

The following list might seem surprisingly short, but it's always quality over quantity when it comes to survival cooking.

Here's what you need:

  • Fire ignition source
  • Fire fuel
  • Tongs
  • Wrapping leaves
  • Knife

I highly recommend you bring multiple lighters on your camping trip. You can go with matches too, but lighters may last you longer. Frequently, your matchstick burns quickly, especially if you're trying to start a fire for the first time. 

Matches vs. lighters

Matches vs. lighters?

As far as fuel goes, the most common is wood. It can be any wood you can find in your area. Some that work well are birch bark or spruce sap. You can also sprinkle hand sanitizer on small twigs to get the fire going.

I've also listed tongs as an indispensable tool. However, if you don't have any, two simple wooden sticks will do the job. When you are in the wilderness, remember this one rule: improvise and adapt.

Making wooden sticks

Making wooden sticks.

Read more: 10 Effective Lost Ways to Live off the Grid

Cooking Over Coals

Cooking over coals is probably the most obvious choice when it comes to survival cooking. It's an easy and delicious way to prepare your catch without a pot or a stove.

You should know that cooking over coals is not foolproof. Your fire has to be the right temperature; otherwise, it can burn or undercook your food.

To prevent this, follow these few steps:

1. Building the fire

Remember the three crucial things that create fire: oxygen, fuel, and a sustained ignition source.

Dig a ditch a couple of inches deep to be your fire pit. Lay three pieces of wood in a triangle over the ditch, pile your firewood on top, and place your fire starter of choice in the middle.

You want to start with the smaller sticks and branches that will catch on fire fast and then add larger pieces as the fire grows.

Kindling the fire

Kindling the fire.

Once the fire turns the wood into charcoal and ashes, you'll be able to cook your food. Mind you, this process takes time so arm yourself with patience.

Pro tip: While building a massive fiery inferno may impress your fellow campers; a small fire will suffice for creating hot coals.

2. Wrapping the food

Yes, you can place the food in the fire to cook it faster, but this will probably burn it and leave you with an indigestible mess.

Wrapping the food will ensure it won't spill or burn. Banana leaves are an excellent wrapper option, but you can use your local flora too. It would be best if you are sure they're 100% non-toxic.

Banana leaves close-up

Banana leaves close-up.

If you have any strings available, use them to tighten the wraps and prevent leakage.

Pro tip: Always choose wet or moist over dried out leaves because the latter will burn fast.

3. Cooking the food

When the fire creates coals, spread the coals and ashes around to make a bed for your food.

A hotbed of coal

A hotbed of coal.

Place your leaf-wrapped food in the coal and cover it with more coal and ashes. This way, you create an oven of heat around the leaves. You need to rotate the wraps occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.

Once the food is done, use tongs or sticks to remove the wraps from the fire. Smaller fish will take around 15-20 minutes to cook thoroughly, while bigger catch will take at least half an hour.

Rock Frying

Rock frying is undoubtedly one of the simplest survival cooking methods as it requires two things: a rock slab and a fire.

This method is ideal for frying up fish and bacon or any food rich in protein that can withstand high heat.

1. Choosing the perfect rock

Any thin, flat rock will do the job. Choose the size according to your food's size, and make sure the stone is low in moisture. Wet rocks tend to explode when exposed to high heat.

Pro tip: Avoid too thin rocks because they lose heat too fast.

2. Preparing the food

Heat the rock on the fire for at least 30 minutes or more if necessary, depending on the rock's size.

Cut the meat as thinly as you can since thicker pieces, although juicer, might not finish cooking before the rock cools down.

Thin fish slice

Thin fish slice.

When the rock is hot enough, please remove it from the fire, and scrape any ashes off the cooking surface. Add oil if you have any, and place the meat on top of it.

Pro tip: Never try to cool the rock with cold water since it will cause the stone to explode. 

Stone Boiling

Stone boiling is a cooking technique as old as the hills. This method particularly comes in handy for beachside camping - you can even use it for cooking live lobster, crab, and any fish you manage to catch.

Beachside campfire

Beachside campfire.

The process is simple. You heat rocks and put them in an indented rock filled with water. But that's not all; you can't use just any rock you stumble upon, which brings us to the first step of the stone boiling method:

1. Picking the rocks

The crucial step to stone boiling is to find the perfect rock that will act as a makeshift bowl. This rock needs to be:

  • Large (to fit food, water, and stones)
  • Indented
  • Without cracks

Besides the large rock, you'll need smaller stones to heat and place in the rock. Approximately 15 egg-sized rocks will do the trick. 

Ideal rocks for stone boiling

Ideal rocks for stone boiling.

It's essential to pick dry and dense rocks.

If you use stones with high water content, they can explode when heated. Submerged or wet stones from the shore are a definite no-no since they're particularly prone to exploding.

Pro tip: Use plain old rocks for stone boiling; avoid crystals and minerals such as sandstone, quartz, or obsidian. They might look prettier, but simple stones will do a better job. 

Mineral rocks you should avoid for stone boiling

Mineral rocks you should avoid for stone boiling.

2. Preparing the food

You'll first need to place the small stones in the fire for an hour or so. Meanwhile, rinse the large rock as thoroughly as possible. While the stones are heating, you can also prepare the ingredients for your stew or soup.

Pour your desired amount of water into the rock and add a few stones to boil the water. Be careful when handling the stones as they will be hot at this point - use sticks or tongs instead of your hands.

Raw fish ready for cooking

Raw fish ready for cooking.

Once you deem the water ready, add the ingredients and any herbs and spices you have at your disposal.

Stir the "pot" every so often. Add hot stones and remove cold ones regularly to keep the water temperature the same.

Final Word

Man starting a fire in the wilderness

Man starting a fire in the wilderness.

These three survival cooking methods proved to be invaluable to me more than once. I'm sure they'll be handy if you ever want to reconnect with nature and take a break from the modern world.

Hopefully, you've enjoyed learning how to prepare a delicious feast in the wilderness. If you have, share it with your friends and try them on your next camping trip.

In case you have any tips, tricks, or questions about basic survival cooking skills, feel free to comment below - we'd love to hear from you!

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