Can I Simmer Or Only Boil On Camping Stoves

So, you’re planning your next camping trip and wondering if you’ll be able to whip up some delicious dishes on your camping stove. But here’s the burning question: can you simmer or is it only good for boiling? Well, fear not! In this article, we’ll explore whether you can achieve that perfect low heat simmer on a camping stove, or if you’ll have to settle for boiling your meals instead. Get ready to uncover the secrets of cooking on the go!

Types of Camping Stoves

When it comes to camping stoves, there are several different types available to choose from. Each type has its own unique features and advantages, catering to different camping needs and preferences. Here are some of the most common types of camping stoves:

Propane Stoves

Propane stoves are among the most popular options for camping stoves. They are easy to use and provide a consistent and reliable source of heat. Propane stoves usually come with adjustable burners, allowing you to control the heat output for various cooking needs. They are also versatile and can be used for both simmering and boiling.

Butane Stoves

Butane stoves, similar to propane stoves, are portable and easy to use. They typically come with a single burner and are lightweight, making them ideal for backpacking or solo camping trips. While they are great for boiling water or heating up quick meals, achieving a low simmer can be a bit more challenging with butane stoves.

Liquid Fuel Stoves

Liquid fuel stoves, such as those that use white gas or kerosene, are known for their high heat output. They are capable of boiling water quickly and are suitable for cooking larger meals. However, achieving a low simmer with liquid fuel stoves can be tricky, as they tend to have limited temperature control.

Wood-Burning Stoves

Wood-burning stoves are an excellent option for those who prefer a more traditional and sustainable camping experience. These stoves utilize twigs, wood, or biomass as fuel, making them environmentally friendly. While they are great for boiling water and cooking meals, maintaining a consistent simmer can be challenging due to the fluctuating heat output.

Alcohol Stoves

Alcohol stoves are compact and lightweight, making them perfect for ultralight backpacking or solo camping trips. They typically run on denatured alcohol and provide a steady heat source. However, alcohol stoves are not known for their ability to simmer food. They are more suited for boiling water and simple cooking tasks.

Simmering vs Boiling

Before diving into the factors affecting simmering on camping stoves, it’s essential to understand the difference between simmering and boiling.

Definition of Simmering

Simmering refers to cooking food gently and slowly in a liquid, just below the boiling point. It involves maintaining a temperature where the liquid has small bubbles slowly rising to the surface. Simmering is often used for delicate foods that require gentle heat, such as sauces, soups, and stews.

Definition of Boiling

Boiling, on the other hand, involves heating the liquid until it reaches its boiling point and large bubbles rapidly break through the surface. Unlike simmering, boiling requires a higher temperature and is commonly used for tasks like boiling water, cooking pasta, or blanching vegetables.

Temperature Difference

The key difference between simmering and boiling lies in the temperature range. Simmering typically ranges from 180°F to 205°F (82°C to 96°C), while boiling occurs at or above 212°F (100°C).

Cooking Techniques

Simmering and boiling require different cooking techniques. Simmering involves controlling the heat to maintain a steady low temperature, while boiling requires bringing the liquid to a rapid, rolling boil. The choice between simmering and boiling depends on the specific recipe and desired result.

Factors Affecting Simmering

Simmering on camping stoves can be influenced by various factors. Understanding these factors can help you achieve the desired simmering results.

Stove Design

The design of the camping stove plays a crucial role in its simmering capabilities. Some stoves are specifically designed for simmering, featuring fine-tuned heat controls that allow for precise temperature adjustments. Others may have a less precise heat control mechanism, making it more challenging to achieve a consistent simmer.

Fuel Type

The type of fuel used in a camping stove also affects simmering. Propane and butane stoves, for example, offer better temperature control and are generally more capable of simmering. Liquid fuel stoves, like ones that use white gas, can often produce higher heat and may have limited simmering abilities.

Regulator Control

The presence or absence of a regulator control on a camping stove can impact simmering. Stoves with built-in regulators allow for finer control of the heat output, making it easier to achieve a low simmer. Stoves without regulators may have more limited temperature control, making it challenging to maintain a consistent simmer.

Heat Distribution

How heat is distributed across the cooking surface is another factor to consider. Some stoves may have more even heat distribution, ensuring that the entire cooking area receives a consistent amount of heat. Others may have hot spots or uneven heating patterns, making it necessary to adjust the cookware’s positioning to achieve a proper simmer.


The choice of cookware can also affect simmering. Some materials, such as stainless steel or cast iron, tend to distribute heat more evenly, allowing for better simmering results. Non-stick cookware, on the other hand, may not conduct heat as efficiently, resulting in less precise temperature control.

Adjusting Heat Output

Different types of camping stoves require specific methods for adjusting the heat output to achieve simmering.

Propane Stoves

Propane stoves typically come with adjustable burners that allow you to control the heat output. To achieve a simmer, you can gradually turn down the burner’s control valve, reducing the flow of propane to the burner. This adjustment will lower the flame’s intensity and create a gentler heat suitable for simmering.

Butane Stoves

Butane stoves often have limited heat control, making achieving a low simmer more challenging. One way to adjust the heat output is by manipulating the burner’s distance from the cookware. Raising the burner slightly can help reduce the heat intensity and create a simmer-friendly flame.

Liquid Fuel Stoves

Liquid fuel stoves usually have a knob or lever to adjust the heat output. To achieve simmering, you can gradually turn the knob or lever to decrease the fuel flow. However, it’s important to be cautious, as liquid fuel stoves can be finicky and require careful adjustments to maintain a steady simmer.

Wood-Burning Stoves

Controlling heat output on wood-burning stoves can be more challenging compared to other types of camping stoves. One method is to adjust the airflow by partially closing the stove’s vents. This adjustment can help regulate the fire’s intensity and achieve a simmer-friendly temperature.

Alcohol Stoves

Alcohol stoves generally have limited heat control options, making precise simmering difficult. However, one technique to adjust the heat output is to use a simmer ring or homemade windscreen with holes to partially block the flame. This method can help regulate the heat and create a simmer-friendly environment.

Cookware Suitable for Simmering

The choice of cookware can greatly impact simmering results on camping stoves. Here are some types of cookware that are suitable for simmering:

Non-Stick Cookware

Non-stick cookware is popular due to its convenience and ease of cleaning. While it may not conduct heat as effectively as other materials, non-stick pans can still be suitable for simmering. However, it’s important to maintain a lower heat setting to avoid damaging the non-stick coating.

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is known for its excellent heat retention and even heat distribution. It can handle high temperatures and is suitable for simmering and slow cooking. Using a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven on a camping stove can help achieve consistent simmering.

Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel cookware is durable and conducts heat efficiently. It can withstand high temperatures and is suitable for simmering on camping stoves. Stainless steel pots and pans are also easy to clean and maintain, making them a popular choice for camping cooking.

Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum cookware is lightweight and heats up quickly, making it ideal for camping. While aluminum may not distribute heat as evenly as stainless steel or cast iron, it is still capable of simmering. Just be mindful of adjusting the heat appropriately to prevent scorching or hot spots.

Tips for Simmering

Simmering on camping stoves can be a delicate process, but with these tips, you can achieve the desired results:

Use a Heat Diffuser

A heat diffuser, often made of cast iron or aluminum, can help distribute the heat more evenly and prevent hot spots. Placing a heat diffuser between the flame and the cookware can create a gentle and consistent heat, perfect for simmering.

Use a Lid

Covering the cookware with a lid can help retain heat and create a more controlled environment for simmering. The lid traps the steam, allowing the food to cook gently and evenly. Just remember to slightly tilt the lid to allow excess steam to escape.

Monitor the Flame

Keep a close eye on the flame while simmering. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a steady simmer. Too high of a flame can cause the liquid to boil, while too low of a flame may not provide enough heat for simmering. Finding the sweet spot requires constant monitoring.

Move the Cookware

If the camping stove has uneven heat distribution, consider moving the cookware around to avoid hot spots. This can help ensure that the food simmers evenly and prevents any scorching or burning.

Use a Simmer Plate

A simmer plate, also known as a heat diffuser plate, is a useful accessory for achieving consistent simmering. It sits between the heat source and the cookware, providing a buffer that regulates the heat flow. Simmer plates are particularly helpful when using stoves with limited temperature control.

Advantages of Simmering

Simmering on camping stoves offers several advantages over boiling for certain cooking tasks. Here are some benefits of simmering:

Precision Cooking

Simmering allows for precise control over the cooking process, ensuring that delicate foods are cooked gently without overcooking or losing their texture. It is especially useful for recipes that require slow cooking or developing complex flavors.

Retaining Nutritional Value

Simmering is a cooking method that preserves the nutritional value of food. By cooking at a lower temperature, essential nutrients are retained, resulting in healthier and more nutritious meals.

Enhanced Flavors

Simmering allows flavors to develop and meld together, creating rich and complex tastes. The longer cooking time at lower temperatures enhances the depth of flavors, making your camping meals more enjoyable and satisfying.

Safety Precautions

While simmering on camping stoves can be a great way to cook delicious meals, it’s important to take necessary safety precautions:

Keep Stove Stable

Ensure that your camping stove is stable and placed on a flat surface to prevent accidents. Use stable and sturdy cookware that sits securely on the stove.

Keep Flammable Items Clear

Keep flammable items, such as paper towels or plastic utensils, away from the camping stove. Maintain a clear area around the stove to prevent accidental fires.

Avoid Overheating

Monitor the heat and avoid overheating the stove. Excessive heat can cause damage to both the stove and the cookware, and can also increase the risk of accidents.

Proper Ventilation

Ensure that there is proper ventilation when using camping stoves, particularly if you are cooking in an enclosed space such as a tent. Good airflow helps prevent the buildup of harmful carbon monoxide gas.

Alternatives to Simmering on Camping Stoves

If simmering is not achievable on your camping stove, there are alternative cooking methods you can consider:

One-Pot Meals

Prepare one-pot meals that require minimal heat adjustment. Soups, stews, or chili recipes that don’t rely heavily on simmering can still be cooked on camping stoves.

Pre-cooking at Home

Pre-cook certain ingredients at home to minimize the need for simmering on the camping stove. For example, parboiling potatoes or blanching vegetables can shorten the required cooking time at the campsite.

Use of Insulated Containers

Utilize insulated containers to keep already cooked food warm without relying on constant simmering. This method can help maintain the desired food temperature during your camping trip.

Campfire Cooking

If you have access to a campfire, consider cooking certain dishes over the open flame. Campfire cooking often allows for more precise heat control, making simmering easier to achieve.


While simmering on camping stoves may present some challenges, with the right equipment and techniques, it is definitely achievable. Understanding the different types of camping stoves, adjusting heat output, choosing suitable cookware, and following safety precautions can help you achieve the desired simmering results. Simmering offers precision cooking, retains nutritional value, and enhances flavors, allowing you to create delicious and satisfying meals while enjoying the great outdoors.