Outdoor Cooking Tips & Recipes

Duck cooked on the grill (photo by Mike Dale Wintroath/AGFC)
Duck cooked on the grill (photo by Mike Dale Wintroath/AGFC)

Fall is a popular time of year for camping and cooking in the great outdoors, whether on a grill, in a Dutch oven, or over the coals of an open fire. Of course, many of us cook outdoors during all of the other seasons, whether in our backyards or out in the wild.

Arkansas has tons of great places to fish, hunt, camp or pursue other outdoor activities. Enjoy eating well while you’re out there with these outdoor cooking tips and recipes for outdoor enthusiasts:

On the Grill

Cooking on a grill is probably the most popular form of outdoor cooking. The following tips and recipes are from Trey Reid, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He’s also the AGFC Arkansas Wildlife TV Producer.


Walleye on the half shell

Reid says this recipe can be done with lots of different fish, but walleye is darn tasty.

Filet fish as usual but instead of removing skin from fish, leave it intact. It serves as a sort of shell on which to cook the fish filet. Rinse filet in cool water and pat dry.

Put in cooler to keep cool while making a compound butter from one stick of butter that's been left out of cooler or refrigerator until it's soft, 1 tsp. of lemon zest, 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of pepper and 1/2 tsp. of dill (or other preferred seasonings).

Mix all seasonings with soft butter and use a sheet of wax paper to roll the butter into a cylinder, then return to cooler or refrigerator to firm up while cooking fish. Remove fish from cooler and season it with salt and pepper or other preferred seasoning blend and grill over medium to medium-hot fire (I prefer charcoal) with grill lid closed to trap in heat (allows fish to cook both from direct heat of coals/burner as well as convection.

Cooking time will vary depending on grill, thickness of filets, outside temperature, etc., but fish is done when it turns white and flakes easily when probed with a fork. Just before removing fish from grill, cut rounds of the compound butter and place on fish filets so they begin to melt during final minute of cooking. Remove from grill and enjoy.

Jerk Duck

This recipe is also from Trey Reid and uses a Jamaican jerk seasoning, traditionally used on pork. He thinks it works well with wild duck too with chunks of grilled pineapple as a complement.


8 mallard breast halves


8 bacon slices

1/2 cup ground allspice berries

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

8 garlic cloves

4-6 coarsely chopped habanero chiles

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme

1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 ounce dark rum (optional)


Brine duck breasts in three-quarters of a coup of salt mixed in a gallon of water in covered container or zip-seal bag for 24 hours in refrigerator.

Remove from container; pat dry. Wrap each breast half with bacon slice and secure with toothpick.

Mix remaining ingredients in food processor or blender until they reach paste-like consistency. Cover bacon-wrapped breast in jerk seasoning and marinate at least 12 hours.

Cook duck breasts on grill over medium heat; spoon remaining jerk seasoning on meat. Cook to medium rare - do not cook past medium (pink center).


1. You'll have a better grilling experience if you start with a clean grate, meaning you won't have to wrestle the meat off the grill when it sticks to residue from a previous grilling session. So start by cleaning the cool grate with a nylon brush. (For seriously messy grills with lots of gunk, consider a thorough cleaning with a more durable brush or stone cleaning device, but beware wire brushes, some of which may leave wire bristles on the grate.) Follow that by rubbing the grate with a paper towel lightly soaked in a high-smoke-point oil such as canola (400 degrees), corn (450 degrees), peanut (450 degrees) or rice bran (490 degrees).

2. Grill inserts are another option, but you lose some of the smoky flavor if you're using a wood or charcoal grill.

3. Always bring the grill up to the appropriate cooking temperature before placing the meat on the grill; this reduces the likelihood of the meat sticking to the grates.

4. When grilling fish, you also might consider a good fish-grilling basket or clamshell device, which holds the tender fish together and provides a slight barrier between the fish and the grill surface. But when cooking fish "on the half shell," the skin itself provides a good barrier between the meat and the grill surface, so I've found the basket really isn't necessary. But it does help when grilling fish when you haven't left the skin intact on one side.

In a Dutch Oven

The Dutch oven is the official cooking vessel of Arkansas, named so in 2001. You can cook a variety of dishes in these vessels – stews, casseroles, bread, dessert. Many of our Arkansas State Parks hold Dutch oven cooking workshops each year, so check those out in the Calendar of Events. Also look for workshops at AGFC Nature Centers and the AGFC Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program.

Hollie Sanders with the AGFC shared these recipes and Dutch Oven cooking tips. She teaches workshops as well.



Cornbread Deer Dogs with Wild Coney Island Chili

Chili Ingredients : Best to double the chili recipe

1 tbl. of olive oil
1 pound ground venison, venison sausage, or beef
1 rounded tablespoon of chili powder
1 tsp. of celery seed
1 tsp. of ground cumin
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tbl. packed light brown sugar
3 tbl. Tomato paste
1 tbl. Yellow mustard
3⁄4 cup beef stock
3⁄4 cup water

Cornbread Deer Dogs Ingredients :

1 box cornbread batter (Jiffy)
2/3 cup of milk
1 8.5oz can creamed corn
1⁄4-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
4-6 venison sausage links or brats (cut in half)

Pam spray or oil to coat Dutch oven lid for searing links
Method: Using a 12” Dutch Oven
Prepare 2 chimneys of charcoal
Sear venison sausages. This can either be done in the Dutch oven without a lid, cook over bed of coals until seared and then remove. Or you can place a Dutch oven stand in the coals and invert the Dutch oven lid onto the stand. This makes a griddle that you can sear the venison links on.

*Make the chili: Place a Dutch oven over a bed of coals, add ground venison to brown, then add remaining ingredients for the chili, cook until heated or bubbling hot. Randomly place the seared venison links, that you have cut into bite size pieces, into the chili.

*Make the cornbread : Mix the cornbread to package directions. Mix in creamed corn and cheese. Spoon or pour cornbread mix onto the chili (do not mix in, just spread it on top).

*Cover and Bake: Place lid onto the oven and add coals. For 400 degrees using 29 coals: 10 coals on bottom and 19 coals on top for 20 minutes or when cornbread is golden brown.

*Lid Lift : When it is done cooking serve a large portions into bowls. Goes great with a salad.


  1. Feet matter. A camp Dutch oven is different than a dutch oven that you might use in the home on the stove. Make sure your camp oven has cast iron feet on the bottom and a lip around the lid on top. This is important for charcoal placement.
  2. How it works. Using charcoal or wood briquettes placed above and below the Dutch oven will allow convection heat to cook up a meal.
  3. How many coals to use. Most recipes call for a 350 degree oven. To get that temperature I use the “three-up/three down” method. Take the size of your oven (that number is cast on the lid) and add three charcoal to that number. This is how many charcoal go “up” on the lid portion of the oven. Then take the size of your oven and subtract three charcoal to that number. This is how many charcoal go “down” underneath the oven. Each briquette is about 25 degrees so if your recipe calls for more or less than 350 degrees just remove or add a coal or two.
  4. Use your nose. The weather can affect cooking times. If its very hot or cool and windy your recipe may be done before or after the time allowed. Use your nose to help you judge cooking time. If you can smell the cinnamon rolls you are cooking you might want to check them!
  5. Time saver. If cooking for a group and you need to save time or you want an easy cleanup after eating, use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line the oven first; then just pull the liner out for disposal.
  6. Taker care. A Dutch oven will last for a lifetime and longer if you take care of it. After using, wash the oven out with hot water, use an oven scraper or a soft sponge to remove food particles and then dry the oven well. I spray a light layer of cooking spray in the dry oven and on the lid and then wipe it flush to give the oven a glossy look and added protection. To keep the oven from rusting you want to create a small crack between the lid and the oven so that moisture can escape. To do this use a folded paper towel until it is about the size of a domino and place it in between the lid and the oven. Than it’s ready for storage.
  7. Look it up. Got a rusty Dutch Oven? Youtube how to clean and season it. Need recipes? There are some great Dutch Oven chefs on youtube. Want to find friends in your area that Dutch Oven cook? Facebook search Dutch Oven groups.
  8. Don’t sweat it. Don’t allow intimidation to stop you from cooking outdoors in a Dutch oven. Dutch Oven cooking is easier than it looks. The more you practice the better you build your skills and the more fun memories you put in those cast iron pots! Happy lid lifting!