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Burn Ban Cooking in Texas State Parks

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It’s a dry statistic for camp-hungry Texans: over 200 of Texas’ 254 counties are currently under a burn ban, presenting challenges to those whose Thanksgiving holiday plans include a cook-out in a Texas state park.

Outdoor cooking rules vary from park to park. Some permit the use of containerized fuel (propane) stoves and/or charcoal grills with lids, but don’t allow wood or ground fires. Garner State Park has instituted a hybrid rule that allows campers to use wood or charcoal in barbecue pits or fire rings for meal preparation only with the understanding burning coals will be extinguished immediately afterward. Park rangers will be patrolling to enforce that policy.

Park supervisors advise planning ahead by determining what rules apply when making camping plans. According to Lindsey Davis, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Outdoor Family program coordinator,

“They need to know the burn ban level prior to their park visit, as that will directly affect what and how they can cook. They need to plan ahead and prepare — a core tenet of our outdoor camping program’s ‘Leave No Trace’ principles.”

Davis has some specific advice for cooking out within a burn ban area:

  • Use charcoal instead of wood to cook. With charcoal, cooking temperatures are easier to regulate.
  • Consider using Dutch Oven cooking techniques which can be used to prepare everything from pizzas and enchiladas to stews and cobblers.
  • Cooking with a propane-fueled camp stove is a safer, simple way to cook nearly any dish.
  • Minimize campfire impact by only building as large a fire as needed for the cooking purpose at hand, such as roasting weenies or heating s’mores over a campfire.
  • Know before you go. Determine what campfire and cooking restrictions are in effect at a given state park, inquire while making a reservation, visit the TPWD’s state park pages or call state park information at 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“You can still eat well during a complete burn ban if you plan ahead and get creative,” Davis contends. “Sandwiches and wraps work well, as do different kinds of salads.”

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  1. […] Certain kinds of camp cooking are allowed even in parks still affected by burn bans. These include using charcoal grills or using propane or electric camp stoves. For more information on cooking safely in Texas State Parks, see the previous post on Texas Tripper. […]