It’s morning. You just spent the night in a sleeping bag, counting stars until you nodded off. Dawn’s golden light fills the forest, nature begins to stir. You feel the first pangs of hunger, reach for your breakfast and prepare to sink your teeth into…a plastic-wrapped granola bar.
Kind of ruins the moment, doesn’t it?
Take back your morning with The Campfire Bacon Egg and Cheese, a harmonious mélange of salty, gooey, porky goodness, cooked in cast iron over an open flame.
Of course, this kind of advanced breakfasting requires a bit of technical know-how. So we tapped an expert, Mark Bollman. Camper extraordinaire and CEO of American-made outfitter Ball and Buck, Mark’s been cooking his signature one-pan BEC for years. So we headed up to his Berkshires campsite for a hands-on tutorial of his masterful sandwich artistry.
“Keep your eyes peeled for slow-burning hardwoods”
First things first: fueling the fire. We need to source the proper wood for the job. Mark’s advice, “Keep your eyes peeled for slow-burning hardwoods”—like an Oak, Ash or Sassafras. These are going to be the best bet for establishing a base of warm coals to cook over.
Remember, fire means smoke. And smoke has a flavor of its own. “The fire’s going to naturally kick off smoke. You can’t fully control it. So you get, whether you like it or not, a much more intense smoke flavor,” Mark says. “But you know, what doesn’t kill ya.” Makes you stronger? You bet.
“When I’m sitting in the kitchen, I can do the bacon then sit it on a plate to rest, so it’s not going to get as cold. I have a toaster oven for the English muffin. It’s just much easier to stage,” Mark says, elaborating on the difference between cooking at home versus the great outdoors. “You have to be a bit more calculated and efficient with everything out here.”
The major difference is time. You won’t see this recipe quote exact measures of minutes or seconds, because the temperature of an open fire will fluctuate and is, by nature, unpredictable. “A stove will hold the same exact temperature infinitely; fire is probably never going to maintain a temperature. It’s a much more engaged process for sure,” Mark says.
“It’s a much more engaged process for sure…”
The fluctuating heat source is what makes a cast iron skillet key. Unlike steel, cast iron will more evenly distribute heat across its surface, and will also retain heat for longer.
But when you’re cooking a whole meal in a single vessel, space management is key. You’ll want to keep one edge of the pan closer to the fire to serve as a hotter cooking area, and one edge farther away to serve as your warming area.
“The biggest challenge is going to be cooking different things, at different speeds, at different temperatures and keeping them all warm enough, without mixing the ingredients,” Mark explains. “So you want to get the bacon done first because it’s raw meat. Once that’s done, you can layer the other items in at the same time.”
The Campfire Bacon Egg and Cheese
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Pinch of rosemary
- 1 large egg
- 1 English muffin
- 1-2 strips of thick-cut bacon
- 1 slice of American cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Machete (optional…but enthusiastically recommended because, really—who passes up an excuse to go full Crocodile Dundee?)
- Build your fire.
- Allow it to burn long enough (typically 10-15 minutes) to establish a coal bed.
- Place several large pieces of wood over the coals.
- Rest cast iron skillet on top of wood.
- Add bacon to the inner edge of the skillet closest to fire.
- Once browned, move bacon to outer edge, furthest from the fire.
- Crack egg over inner edge of the skillet.
- As the egg cooks, warm closed English muffin in the outer edge of the cast iron, next to resting bacon.
- Flip egg with machete (“carefully,” Mark advises) and top with cheese.
- Open the muffin by hand and toast it over open flame.
- Layer your breads, meats and cheeses.
- Get on in there.
“You have to be a bit more calculated and efficient with everything out here.”