Cooking At The Beach
Anywhere you live or travel around the world, people are drawn to the majestic beauty and tranquility of the beach. From Greece to the Western Canadian coastline, trekking to the beach for the day means taking supplies for playing, relaxing and eating. Picnics packed at home are great, but why not enhance your experience by cooking a meal right on the beach itself? If you’d like to avoid a crushed peanut butter and jelly sandwich as your sole source of nourishment consider the options below.
Techniques to get you started
Similar to camping, cooking on the beach means being prepared with the proper supplies and using a bit of resourcefulness too.
Over the campfire
Cooking over a campfire has many advantages. It requires very few supplies, the food tastes great and the cleanup is generally very easy. Cooking caveman style is intrinsically rewarding, getting a chance to cook with a direct connection to the natural world.
The supplies you will need are paper or small twigs; firewood from home or collected driftwood; a lighting device; and, either foil for wrapping the food or a roasting stick (whittled or purchased).
The key to creating a good cooking fire is patience. It’s important to build a hot fire and then let it create a bed of embers to cook with. The hot coals offer consistent heat where the flames do not. Plus, the flames will often ignite your food. Once you have your bed of coals you can roast marshmallows or hot dogs on a stick, foil wrap potatoes to cook in the coals, or create any number of dishes using a Dutch oven (see below).
Using a Dutch oven
The Dutch oven technique has been around for hundreds of years. The key to Dutch oven cooking is to create an even bed of coals to stabilize the pot. What you cook in your Dutch oven is up to you and the options are endless from stew to fried hash browns to delicious blackberry cobbler.
Get out your camping stove
Propane cook stoves are compact and allow you to cook in a way that is similar to what you are used to at home. The technique allows you to boil water in a pot or stir-fry in a skillet. That creates a huge variety of recipe options and all the supplies you need are the cook stove, pots/pans, propane, spatula and a lighting device.
A method for the seafood lovers
Going crabbing? From Maine to Oregon, there is nothing better than fresh crab cooked directly on the beach shortly after the catch. The caveat is that cooking crab requires a large pot. While it is possible to boil water via a fire or cook stove, a crab pot handles the job without concern for the pot tipping over due to instability or the waiting time required boiling a huge amount of water by other means. Your supplies are simply a pot stand, pot, propane tank and hose to attach the propane to the unit.
Set up your own Hawaiian feast
If you are at the beach for an extended stay, pit cooking is a huge treat for everyone. If you have ever been to a Hawaiian Luau, you may have seen the huge roasted pig come out of such a pit. The technique begins with digging a large hole. Make sure that it is large enough to allow about one foot of space around each side of the item you are going to be cooking. Many cooks then choose to line the pit with a layer of stones or bricks. Since you are at the beach, be aware that rocks that have been exposed to salt water may explode and are not the best option in this circumstance. Next, you will need heat. This can come in the form of a huge fire slowly burned down to a thick layer of embers, or you can use charcoal. Depending on how large of an item you plan to cook, this layer should be 6-12” thick.
To prepare your food you will need to create a barrier between the food and the coals so that it doesn’t burn, this can be done by wrapping the food with foil, burlap or even banana leaves. After placing the wrapped food into the pit, promptly cover the pit to smolder the fire, maintain the heat and to keep any fire flames from igniting the burlap or burning the food. Small items such as vegetables can cook in a few hours while an entire hog can remain in the pit for two days. Use extreme caution when removing food from the pit. This effective cooking method can maintain heat for several days.
Supplies required for this method include plenty of wood or coals; lighter fluid, if you choose to use coals; lighting device; metal plate or layers of materials to cover the pit tightly; and bricks or rocks to line the bottom.
Grilling to perfection
A small tabletop grill is a great way to enjoy cooking on the beach. From foil-wrapped fish to s’mores as the sun goes down, a grill gives you plenty of cooking options. Tabletop grills come in propane or charcoal varieties. Choosing one is a matter of personal preference. Gas grills heat quickly and provide easy-to-maintain heat. Some people prefer the flavor that charcoal produces although they take longer to reach the perfect cooking temperature (around 40 minutes) and are somewhat more difficult to keep consistent. You will need a grill, lighting device and your choice of fuel to properly utilize this method.
Cooking on the beach doesn’t mean limiting your options. As you can see from the above suggestions, you can easily dine on a hot dog quickly roasted over the fire; feast on a whole pig; or, enjoy your crab, fish, and other fresh seafood just moments after caught. Although there is nothing wrong with a picnic basket packed with fruit, nuts, sandwiches, fried chicken and pasta salad, if you plan for a longer stay or want a more unique experience, cooking on the beach can open up a world of other options to satisfy your palette and your memory bank.