Few things taste better than freshly cooked fish by the side of a clear mountain lake or stream shortly after the fish have been caught. However, many people simply don’t know how to prepare the fish that they catch, and they therefore miss out on one of most sublime culinary experiences in existence. Following are a few tips and tricks that can make the difference between enjoying a well-crafted meal prepared over a campfire and resorting to the emergency rations in a can that you’ve no doubt packed in case the fish didn’t fry right.
Frying is the most popular was to prepare fish over a campfire. A cast-iron skillet is the best because it’s capable of holding an even, hot heat. Camping supply stores sell cast iron skillets specifically for use with campfires, although if you’ve got a cast iron frying pan at home, it will do just as nicely.
You’ll need a clean burning, hot fire to fry your fish on. Using foraged green wood will result in smoky fire that will impart a terrible taste to your fish. Many campgrounds supply seasoned firewood to guests, so be sure to check before your departure. If the campground that you’re going to doesn’t have firewood for campers, picking some up before your trip will ensure that you’ve got the right kind of wood to fry your fish over.
If your campground does not already have a fire pit in place, be sure to select your campfire site wisely. It should be at least eight feet away from brush or other significant vegetation. If it’s windy out, you should forgo lighting a campfire because even the smallest windborne spark can ignite a forest fire.
It’s important to get the oil hot before you add the fish, so place the pan over the fire until the oil begins to bubble. A simple cooking grate that you can place over the fire will allow a flat heat transfer surface.
Although freshly caught fish can taste fabulous without breading, breading increases the flavor as well as adds texture. the best breading is simply a bit of flour, corn meal, cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt. Some cooks like to add ground roasted red pepper or ground garlic, but that’s purely a personal decision. The breading can be made prior to the camping trip and places in a plastic bag so that all you have to do is put the cleaned fish filets in the bag and shake it a bit to thoroughly coat the fish with breading. Depending on the size of the fish and the appetites of those in your party, you’ll need roughly one-half to one whole filet per person.
The fish should be placed in the pan after the oil has heated sufficiently and flipped often until the breading is a golden brown and the meat inside is flaky.