campfire cookouts for kids

Safe and Scrumptious Campfire Cookouts for Kids

This year, we’re taking kid-friendly campfire cookouts to another level, beyond weenies and s’mores. Whether you’re grilling in your backyard or over a fire pit at the campground, these safety guidelines, unique cooking tips and simple recipe ideas will pump up any campfire cookout.

Grilling safety guidelines

Before you get to the sliders and steaks, let’s talk safety.

Wash your hands. We know you’ve heard it before, but washing your hands well before cooking or eating is a must, especially when dining with kids. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), be sure to wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (that’s the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). No bathroom is no problem according the the FDA, that suggests improvising using a water jug, some soap, and paper towels.

Cook meat at proper temps. When you’re grilling meat, you want to be sure it’s cooked all the way through. The FDA recommends using a food thermometer to be sure your meat is cooked and there are no signs of harmful bacteria, which are present in raw meat. Burgers should be cooked to 160°F, and chicken should be cooked to at least 165°F, according to the FDA report.

Keep food chilled when it’s not on the grill. In the summer heat, food is under attack. “Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important,” according to FDA. Keep cookout food on ice if you’re camping out, and if anything was left out of the cooler for more than two hours, toss it. In addition, the FDA reports that if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees, food cannot be left out for more than one hour.

Cooking tips

With grilling safety under our headlight, it’s time to explore the grill. Catherine Mayhew, author of “Handy Mom’s Guide to Grilling” provides the inside scoop on how to grill perfect meals on your next camp out.

Know your charcoal. Either buy pure-lump charcoal (it will read “lump” on the label), which is actually wood that has been burned until it forms charcoal lumps, or buy pure briquette, Mayhew says. “You do not want to buy charcoal that has been soaked in lighter fluid—it can leave an unpleasant taste on the food, and it’s highly flammable so it can be unsafe to have too close to kids.”

Start the grill right. Load the grill with about 16-20 briquettes to start, Mayhew says. Nestle two or three fire starters (made of paraffin or wood) among the charcoal and light with a longneck lighter — you should be able to find fire starters near the charcoal at the store, Mayhew says.

Keep the lid open. “Remember, fire likes air,” Mayhew says. “Keep the lid open until the charcoal acquires a gray ashy coating, which should take about 20-25 minutes. The more air you give the fire, the hotter it will get.”

Clean the grill each time. You can easily dump out the ash pan under the grill after every use (after it’s cooled) and rinse the grease trap, if there is one, to ensure that the grill is operating at maximum efficiency, Mayhew says.

Campfire Cookout Recipes

With safety and cooking tips covered, it’s time to get cooking. Sliders and bacon-wrapped hot dogs might be old stand-bys, but here are a few other recipes you—and your kids—don’t want to miss this cookout season.

Grilled Quesadillas

Adapted from Earth Origins Market


Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup of olive oil

Kosher salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 zucchini (thinly sliced lengthwise)

1 red bell pepper (cut into strips)

1 red onion (sliced)

12 corn tortillas

1 cup (about 8 ounces) grated cheddar

Sour cream



Bring grill to medium-low heat.

Whisk the lime juice, olive oil, salt and garlic together. (Alternately, place in a sealed container and shake until combined.)

Toss veggies in dressing and grill until tender.

Place tortillas on grill. Top half of the tortillas with a handful each of melted cheese, leaving a slight border at the edges of tortillas, so cheese doesn’t ooze out onto the grill.

Once cheese is melted, top tortillas with grilled veggies and another plain tortilla. Flip quesadillas and grill until golden and crisp on each side.

Quarter and serve with sour cream and salsa.


Grilled Bacon Fluffernutters

Adapted from


6 slices bacon

1 bag of large marshmallows

4 slices whole-grain bread

¼ cup of creamy peanut butter


Preheat the grill to medium, then fry bacon.

Meanwhile, toast 6-8 marshmallows over the grill.

Coat bread with butter or bacon fat and place it on the grill. Toast on each side.

Spread two slices of bread with the toasted marshmallows and the other two slices with peanut butter.

Place bacon on top of the peanut butter and press the sandwiches together.

Slice in half and share.


Looking for something sweet but healthy? Try out one of Mayhew’s favorites, a fruit kabob. Spear pineapple chunks, strawberries and peaches and grill on medium-low heat for just a few minutes.

Let the kids craft the cookout menu and help out with the process while you man the grill. After all, everything tastes better when you’ve helped to make it. Happy campfire cooking!

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