How to cook pizza over a campfire

by | Aug 23, 2022 | Food

This post may contain affiliate links.

You’d think that figuring out how to cook pizza over a campfire would be easy, but there’s a bit of a learning curve. Ross and I have done it enough times now that we’ve got the process down, but it wasn’t always that way.

The biggest problem with cooking pizza over a campfire

The biggest problem you’ll face when cooking pizza over a campfire is burning the bottom of the pizza (the dough). It’s really easy to do if your fire is too hot.

You might find that the bottom of the pizza is all black while the top still hasn’t fully cooked—often made obvious by the piles of unmelted cheese. Since a standard campfire doesn’t work like an oven, with heat evenly distributed around the pizza, the result is uneven cooking.

How not to burn your campfire pizza

The secret to a perfectly cooked campfire pizza lies in your ability to get a good campfire going. This takes both preparation and patience, because it’s not going to be instant.

You don’t want a raging fire with huge flames.

You do want a good bed of hot coals/embers.

A bed of coals or embers has virtually no flames—just a pile of burned down wood with a reddish-orange colour that are actively glowing and flickering. This is exactly what you want.

Campfire embers glowing bright reddish-orange.

Hot coals with no flames are ideal for cooking (not just pizza—but anything) because they create as much evenly distributed heat as you can get with a campfire. Flames, on the other hand, will end up licking the bottom of your cookware in very uneven and unpredictable ways, making them more likely to cause problems.

To get a good bed of hot coals, you need to start your campfire well ahead of time before you plan to eat. This could be up to an hour or more, depending on how much wood you need to process and how big your fire is.

Tip: If you can buy or bring your own wood, that’s even better. Hardwood like oak or hickory burns much better and longer than softwood like pine, and is great for getting a good bed of coals that can burn for a long time.

Here’s what you would do:

Step 1: Start by gathering your wood.

A pile of hardwood ready for processing and putting on the campfire.

You’ll need tinder/kindling and a variety of sizes of wood, from small twigs to medium-sized branches to larger logs.

Step 2: Clean out the fire pit to remove ash and any other debris.

A pile of burnt wood ash from a previous campfire.

If you’re backcountry camping, you may even want to rebuild the fire pit by gathering large rocks to create the circular shape of the fire pit, with the backside built up a bit more to help reflect heat back onto the cookware. Alternatively, you could build the fire pit up against a rock wall for a similar reflective effect.

Step 3: Build your fire—starting with tinder and kindling, then progressing to smaller and larger pieces of wood as the flames get bigger.

Gathering small pieces of wood shavings to use as campfire kindling.

As the wood burns and the flames die down, continue to add larger pieces of wood to maintain a good, hot fire.

Step 4: Be patient.

A campfire with flames at sunset.

The worst thing you can do is start a fire and then immediately start cooking your pizza over it.

As you continue to fuel the fire with bigger logs and allow the flames to die down, you’ll start to see more of that reddish-orange glow. You’ll want those coals to cover as much surface area as possible—the size of your pizza at a bare minimum.

How to keep your coals burning hot

It can be tricky to keep your coals going without completely reigniting the fire. We’ve found two techniques that work:

Method 1: Use a portable fire blowing tube to blow on the coals. We always carry one of these to help stoke the fire when necessary. Just point the end toward the coals and blow.

Depending on how hard you blow, you may or may not see some flames appear. At the very least, you’ll see the embers grow brighter and stronger in colour and glow.

Method 2: Add a few more sticks or small pieces of wood. This will cause flames to reappear as the dry pieces of wood catch fire, which means you’ll have to wait again until they burn down to coals.

As the wood burns down, you should start to see the embers getting hot again—if not, blow on them a bit more with the fire blowing tube. You want those coals to be as evenly distributed and hot as possible.

All the ways you can cook campfire pizza

Now that we’ve covered how to get a good fire going, let’s talk about how to cook your campfire pizza.

With a grill

A campfire with a grill on one side.

The simplest way to cook your pizza is right on the grill. If you have a portable grill or are using a campfire grill, just place your cookware on the grill and let it cook until the bottom is crispy and the cheese is melted.

The downside to using a grill is that it can be hard to get a good, even cook because it’s lifted above the heat. You may need to rotate your cookware a few times during cooking to ensure that the pizza cooks evenly.

Without a grill

Cooking directly over the hot campfire coals.

If you don’t have a grill, you can place your cookware directly on the coals. This is typically ideal if you’re using a Dutch oven or another type of heavy-duty cookware that can withstand high heat.

Place your cookware on the coals, being careful not to touch any flames, and let it cook until the bottom is crispy and the cheese is melted. As with grilling, you may need to rotate your cookware a few times during cooking to ensure even cooking.

Campfire pizza cookware

Two Dutch ovens beside a campfire with hot coals on top of their lids.

Wondering what type of cookware to use for your campfire pizza? Here are a few of our favourites:

A cast-iron Dutch oven is ideal because it’s heavy-duty and can withstand high heat. It also has a tight-fitting lid that helps keep the heat in, making it easier to get a good, even cook. You can even scoop up some of the hot coals and place them on top of the lid to help cook the top of the pizza.

A cast-iron skillet is also a good option. It’s not as heavy-duty as a Dutch oven, but it can still withstand high heat. You may need bring along a lid that fits, or improvise with some aluminum foil.

A stainless steel camping pan is generally what we use because cast iron is often too heavy to bring on our trips. It doesn’t retain heat as well as cast iron, so you may need to cook your pizza for a minute or two longer. Again, you’ll probably bring along a lid or cover it with aluminum foil.

Aluminum foil is your most lightweight option, but it’s also the least ideal. It doesn’t retain heat as well as other materials, so your pizza will take longer to cook. Plus, it’s not as sturdy, so you’ll need to be careful when handling it. The upside is you’ll have fewer dishes to wash!

What kind of dough to use

Pizza dough flattened out in a stainless steel campfire pan.

There are all sorts of different doughs you can use for your campfire pizza, from store-bought to homemade. It all depends on how much work you’re willing to do and your pizza dough preferences.

Here are the most common options:

Flatbread or pre-baked pizza crust is the easiest option because you don’t have to make dough from scratch—nor do you have to bake it. It’s great for convenience, but it’s not always the tastiest option.

Boxed pizza crust mix is a good middle ground because you get to make your own dough, but all you need to do is add water, knead it, and let it rise for a few minutes. This is much less labour intensive and time consuming that having to bring flour, oil, salt, and yeast to make from scratch—and then having to wait an hour or more for it to rise.

The boxed pizza crust mix is usually the option we go with. One other nice perk is that these mixes usually comes with a packet of tomato sauce. You can find boxed pizza crust mixes in most grocery stores or try this one from Chef Boyardee by ordering on Amazon.

Homemade pizza dough is obviously the best option in terms of taste, but it’s also the most involved. If you want to go this route, we recommend making your dough at home before you leave and then freezing it. That way, all you have to do is let it thaw when you’re ready to use it.

Campfire pizza toppings

Pizza dough in a stainless steel campfire pan with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni.

The great thing about pizza is that you can really make it your own. Whether you like traditional toppings or something a little more unique, there’s a topping for everyone.

Here are some of our favourite pizza toppings:

Pepperoni, sausage, and ham are classic meat toppings that are always popular. These are also typically cured meats, so they won’t spoil as easily if they’re not kept cool for a day or two.

Vegetables like onions, peppers, mushrooms, and olives are also popular toppings. These can be fresh or canned/jarred—whatever you have on hand. If you plan on having your pizza early on in the trip, we recommend pre-chopping any fresh veggies to make it easier. However, if you plan on having pizza a few days into the trip, you’ll probably want to leave your veggies in whole form (and kept cool) so they don’t turn to mush.

Cheese is obviously a must for most people. You can use any kind of cheese you like, but we recommend sticking with shredded mozzarella because it melts well and has a neutral taste that won’t overpower the other toppings. If you’re worried about the shelf stability of mozzarella because it’s a softer cheese, you can get pre-shredded mozzarella that’s been packaged in a vacuum-sealed bag. This will help it last a little longer.

Tomato sauce is another important component of your pizza. As we mentioned above, many boxed pizza crust mixes come with their own tomato sauce packet. If not, you can always bring along a small jar or can of tomato sauce. We like to go with pasta sauce because it’s already seasoned and has more flavour than traditional tomato sauce.

Helpful tips on how to cook pizza over a campfire

Cooked campfire pizza in a stainless steel campfire pan.

Most recipes tell you exactly what temperature to set your oven at and how long to cook your pizza for, but when you’re doing it over a campfire, it isn’t so simple. Here are a few tips to help you get the perfect campfire pizza:

Tip #1: Preheat if you’re using cast iron

If you’re using a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, preheat it for 10 to 15 minutes before adding your pizza. This will help ensure that your crust gets nice and crispy while minimizing your risk of burning the dough.

Tip #2: Carefully test the heat coming off the campfire

When it comes to how hot your fire should be, a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold your hand about six inches above the coals for five to six seconds before it gets too hot. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN DOING THIS.

Start by placing your hand higher than necessary and lowering it slowly. This will help prevent you from burning yourself if the fire is too hot. If your fire is too hot, your pizza will cook too quickly on the outside while the inside stays doughy.

Tip #3: Put a lid on it

If you’re having trouble getting your crust crispy and cheese melted, you can always put a lid on your skillet/dutch oven to trap in the heat and cook the pizza that way. In fact, we’d probably recommend doing it no matter what type of cookware you’re using to cook the pizza over a campfire.

No lid? Use tinfoil! It may not trap the heat in as effectively as a proper lid, but it gets the job done as long as you don’t have any gaping holes.

Tip #4: Check your pizza regularly

When it comes to cooking time, it really depends on how thick your crust is and how hot your fire is. We recommend checking on your pizza every few minutes to make sure it’s not burning.

You may also need to rotate the pizza a few times to ensure that it cooks evenly. This is where it helps to have a well built fire pit, a stable grill (if you’re using one), at least one handle on your cookware, and a pair of heat-resistant gloves to wear while handling it.

If the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is golden brown, it’s probably ready to come off the heat.

We hope these tips help you make the perfect campfire pizza! Happy cooking!

Popular posts

About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

Read more about our story.