We’ve been camping on Thanksgiving for years and years now. But first, a moment of silence for all those who have winterized their campers and think they can’t still use them.
Okay, thank you.
Back to the subject at hand. Camping Thanksgivings have been entertaining ways to celebrate the holiday in our household for years. We always seem to find some victims, er, friends whom we can talk into spending this holiday with us in a campground somewhere. We’ve been to the beach, developed campgrounds, the woods and more.
We love camping and we love Thanksgiving and we’re thankful for our RVs.
But, of course, preparing the traditional goodies isn’t all that easy. So here are some tips we’ve developed over the years to make Thanksgiving an RV-friendly holiday.
Go with friends
The more people you can talk into going with you, the easier this is going to be. We can usually coax others into bringing some sort of dish so we don’t have to overload the entire RV with improvised ways of making traditional, and non-traditional, Thanksgiving fare.
This also makes the whole thing more fun, as well.
But what about the dishes? Let’s get into that.
If you can’t convince a bunch of folks to go with you, you can still have some of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey if that’s your thing. We’ve made just the turkey breast in the RV’s oven and that oven is actually not as bad as it gets a reputation for.
The secret to doing a turkey breast in the oven is the same as doing an entire bird anywhere – brining. Brining is a salt and spice blend mixed with water that the turkey gets to bathe in for a day or so. This really keeps the bird moist when it gets to the heat and also imparts some great flavor.
I’ve used brining kits from Savory Spice Shop for years with great success. But your RV’s fridge is probably like mine – too small if you’ve got a big turkey to brine. So I just use a portable ice chest for this.
Time to get creative…
I put the turkey in a new, clean, kitchen garbage bag with the proper brine based on that bird’s weight and then seal up the bag. Then I drop it into the ice chest and fill that chest with ice. Of course you’ll want to be sure that the temperature in the ice chest doesn’t go above 40°F to maintain food safety.
When it comes time to cook, I rinse the bird off with the outdoor shower on my RV.
If I am doing an entire bird, I’ll bring my propane barbecue with me. My barbecue has four burners so I just light the outer two burners and it becomes an oven. You’ll want some sort of a roasting pan and those single-use pans are fine for this.
It’s incredible how well this method works. It doesn’t take very long, but the turkey just comes out spectacularly well.
We also have friends who have done this in a smoker like a Traeger. You can actually accomplish this even if you’re off the grid by supplying power to the Traeger with a Jackery such as the one I wrote about here.
We’ve also camped with friends who are chefs who have used a Sous Vide cooker and an ice chest to make one heck of a great turkey. This was featured on a podcast last year.
Of course, there’s nothing better than biscuits cooked in a cast iron pan. This can be done over the campfire if you keep an eye on things. Just follow your normal biscuit recipe and monitor the pan for temperature.
A Dutch oven and charcoal work well for this, as well.
In fact, if you have access to more than one of these delightful ways of cooking, you can do things like green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and many other side dishes this way. If you heat up a bunch of coals and have a way to hang those Dutch ovens, it’s truly amazing what you can do with that.
In fact, we’ve made pizza, casseroles, biscuits, and so many other things using this method. Lately, we’ve taken to using our Dutch oven over a propane fire pit as a nod to the fire risks in Northern California. It’s worked out extraordinarily well. We had a blacksmith friend use several long metal rods and make a tripod from which we can hang the Dutch oven.
After getting the rods joined together at the top, sort of like a chain, he then sharpened the bottom of them so they don’t slip out from under the pan. It transports easily but is really stable. It’s pretty slick!
I’ve also seen these kinds of things on Amazon but nowhere near as nicely done as this. Hint: the legs are made out of the metal rods they use at the ends of a vineyard.
One more thing
I’ve also seen people at adjacent campsites doing some creative things for Thanksgiving. Those include a group of younger campers who brought a spit from a barbecue and powered it with a battery. They then skewered a roast and cooked that over a wood-burning fire in a campground. It was also delicious because, well, I had to beg off a piece.
Oh, and the last thing to mention. Do not talk politics, religion, or any of those other subjects ‘round the campfire. Trust me on this one.
Also, I like to bring craft beers with me and share with my fellow campers, who also appreciate a good and sometimes unusual brew. But if you bring and share a bunch of these, I can tell you that your wife and your buddy’s wife do not appreciate that spitting a spray of Fireball over the campfire makes you a fire-breathing dragon.
Yes. I do still think it’s funny. No. She still doesn’t.