The Perfect Campfire Ribeye

The Perfect Campfire Ribeye

Recipes and conversation with Kate Kavanaugh

For all of its butchering needs, Denver locals turns to Kate Kavanaugh, owner of one of our favorite spots in the Colorado capitol, Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe. Kate carries the very best meats in her tiny neighborhood gem and definitely knows a think or two about fixing supper out on the trail. Below, she shares her secrets to cooking the perfect skillet ribeye dinner – and the sunrise breakfast the next day! 

The Meal

The Perfect Campfire Ribeye

When I’m packing, I always pack light, but I do like to put all of my weight in one place: a cast iron skillet or small dutch oven. Don’t bring any other pans, this is the only one you need. Along with that bring some good salt, seasonal vegetables, and one great piece of meat. Also, consider prepping your vegetables prior to the trail, so that you can just toss them into a skillet. 

If your trip is over the course of a couple of days, we recommend freezing the steak and letting it thaw on the trail. If you're eating it on day one, have your butcher vacuum seal it and just keep an ice pack near it. We always recommend bringing a steak to room temperature before cooking. 

What you’ll need: 

  • 1.5” Ribeye (Grassfed and Finished, preferably fatty) 
  • Sea Salt 

In-season veggies, like: 

  • 1/2” Cubed Squash 
  • Brussel Sprouts (cut in half) 
  • Red Onions split roughly in quarters 
  • Thyme, rosemary 

How to cook: 

  1. Sprinkle sea salt over ribeye about 10 minutes before cooking 
  2. Heat skillet over fire or camp stove until smokin’ hot (where water would skittle across the surface).  
  3. Start by cooking ribeye on its side (the side that is 1.5” thick) for 2 minutes 
  4. Cook each side for 3 minutes, spooning any fat that renders out back over the ribeye.  
  5. Once the steak has reached an internal temperature of 123 degrees, pull and let rest 5-10 minutes
  6. Saute vegetables in the pan in the fat left over until golden brown 

Tricks of the Trade:  

Packing a meat thermometer while camping takes up very little space and virtually no weight. But we’re going simple, so let us offer this trick: Touch your thumb and forefinger together gently and feel the muscle below your thumb, the meaty part. This is medium rare. Now, touch your middle finger and thumb together gently, this is medium. Ring finger, medium well. Pinky well. You will feel that muscle tense as you move down through your fingers. When you’re cooking grass-fed beef, remember it has a tendency to overcook quickly and toughen faster. Try to stay under medium.  

When the meal is over, reserve any leftovers of meat and vegetables for tomorrow’s breakfast…. 

The Sunrise Hash

What you’ll need: 

  • Potatoes, grated 
  • Last night’s leftover meat and vegetables 
  • Eggs 

In the morning, heat the skillet, uncleaned, over the fire. Let it get smokin’ hot, once again. Put the leftover vegetables, meat, and grated potatoes in the pan and let them crisp at the bottom, tossing occasionally, When they are close to the desired crispiness, put eggs on top and cook either sunny side up or scrambled with the rest of the leftovers. Keep it easy.  

A Convo With Kate

What’s your earliest camping memory?  
When I think about camping I am always thinking about the bare minimum. How much can I repurpose, use multiple times, or how can I turn one meal into another. I want camping to be a time where I can be away from it all and keep things simple. That said, camping was something I never experienced until adulthood. My older parents were homebodies and had retired their outdoor adventures by the time I arrived. My first couple of times out camping, I was intimidated by the mountains of gear and the amount of preparation. I wanted camping to feel the way that I had always imagined it; this space where things are simpler and you get a chance to actually reconnect, whether that’s with the land you’re on, or your company, or yourself.  

What about meals on the trail? 
I was a vegetarian those first couple of years of camping and always felt like I wasn’t getting enough protein when we were packing in. It took me a while to learn to rely on pre-cooked beans and lentils that I could add to salads and stews that took too long to boil over a campfire. When I began to eat meat again, I savored the simplicity of a steak cooked in cast-iron skillet, fat reserved to make hash and eggs the next morning.  

Any experience that’s the most memorable? 
I cherished the connection with the land and getting this chance, especially as I camped in the plains, to have this relationship between the land that produced this steak, this animal that helped restore grasses, and to be able to be in concert with that.  

Read about Kate's food philosophy and her butcher shoppe: Bon Appetit | Fellow Magazine


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