With the right knowledge, you can recreate most of the cooking methods you use in your kitchen in hiking conditions. After all, people have been cooking on open fires for much longer than on gas stoves.
It’s probably the most common way to cook food on a camping trip. Moreover, it is also the most useful, since cooked food retains the most vitamins and minerals. If you want to cook meat, boil it and save all the fats and other energy-rich components. Just don’t cook it for too long because all the nutrients will evaporate. Veggies should also be cooked as little as possible to keep the nutrients “alive” in them.
According to the physics, the higher you climb the mountains, the longer it takes to reach temperatures that kill the parasites and bacteria contained in food. Therefore, if you are at high altitude, do not try to boil water because it will take too much time and fuel. Do this only in cases of extreme necessity.
If you don’t have a pot, you can boil water in a hollowed-out log or any other recess by throwing hot stones there. For example, some Turkey caves have ancient Christian shelters, where people that studied Christianity, hid from the persecution of the Romans. They lived in inaccessible caves and catacombs dug in the steep slopes.
Those shelters are almost unexplored. And there are many pits in the ground where Christians cooked their food. If you make a fire (outside the cave), heat up some big rocks and drag them inside (wearing gloves), you can boil crabs there. All you have to do is throw some hot rocks into the small holes filled with water, and the crabs were soon ready. I can assure you that I wasn’t the first person to do this procedure in those caves.
You can cook anything you want, but it is better to cook pasta, rice (brown), and vegetables in this way. You will need pots and racks to hang it over the fire (most of the camp pots will deform if you put them right on the coals). Build a simple high bar with forks over the fire and hang a pot on it.
You can also boil water in a vessel made of birchbark. Hang it over a gentle fire and it will not catch fire below the waterline.
Boiling water in hiking conditions is vital, so practice before you go camping. If you’re not alone, make a little challenge. Each member of your team should get some firewood and start making their own fire. The winner is the one that has boiling water first.
Stewing is the boiling of food in a small amount of liquid on low heat, something between boiling and steaming. It is used if you have little water or want your vegetables soft. You can cook eggs and fish in this way. Pour some water on the bottom of the pot. Wait until it boils, put the food in there and stew, turning it upside down for a few minutes. Stew until the fish is ready and starts falling into pieces.
Languishing is cooking food in water that has been brought to boil and then maintained close to boiling point. In this way, very tasty and healthy dishes are cooked, especially those made of root vegetables that can be seasoned by various spices and herbs. Let your imagination dance! Scouts have to constantly invent something new, especially in cooking. It is also very good to eat fruits over low heat, although most of them need brown sugar (or honey) to make them delicious.
You can get great meals while you’re languishing, but it takes a lot of time. You also need to keep an eye on the fire all the time so that it doesn’t become too strong, and portable camping stoves aren’t very suitable for this. Make sure that your vegetables or fruits are languishing instead of boiling, otherwise, they will overcook and become completely tasteless.
Cooking in a frying griddle pan covered with oil may seem the easiest way to cook food in hiking conditions. In fact, frying food can be a real challenge, since it’s not easy to ensure the heat is even. For this reason, it is better to use a camping griddle pan, but even if you have it, it may be difficult to cook enough food for the entire group. Frying is also the most harmful way to handle food, so use it only for Sunday meals and for ham/tomato sandwiches (God, I’ve had delicious sandwiches on hikes!).
No one wants you to make cakes in a hiking environment, but the method – cooking with the help of the dry heat of the oven – can also be used in hiking.
Of course, you will need an oven for this. There are several ways to build it. The simplest is a piece of foil. Wrap the potatoes in it, bury them in coals, and you’ll soon have a beautiful baked potato. You can make an improvised oven. Don’t forget, however, that in the field you won’t be able to control the heating process, and the only experience will let you know when the dish is ready.
This is one of the oldest varieties of camping ovens. It can be used to bake anything from vegetables to animals.
Dig a pit in the ground (2.5-3 feet deep) and the diameter you need, depending on what you want to bake. Set the bottom and walls with stones. Make a strong fire and cover the pit with two large flat stones, leaving a gap between them for air circulation so that the fire does not go out (don’t forget the fire triangle!).
When these stones become very hot, remove them (carefully, with gloves on), remove the ash from the pit and put herbs, grass or leaves over the stones covering the bottom of the pit. Don’t use leaves with a very strong or unpleasant smell because your dish will absorb it and have a bad flavor.
Now it’s time to put the groceries in the “oven.” If you want to bake a piece of meat (with skin), place it skin down. If you bake vegetables, pour a little boiling water into the oven at times to keep the air moist.
A large oven of this type stays hot for almost a whole day.
This oven (sometimes called “umu”) is very similar to the Bedouin oven, it is very popular and also uses rocks buried in a pit oven. Wrap vegetables, fish or meat in leaves, put them in a pit on hot stones and cover them with sand or dirt. Do not cover this “oven” with a stone “lid”. The food is baked in its own juice and tastes very tender.
It’s good to bake thin slices of meat or bread using this type of oven. Find two large flat stones, place a few small cobbles on one of them so that the large stones do not touch each other, and cover the top with a second flat stone. Make a strong fire around them, and when they get hot, stick meat or bread between them and wait for them to bake.
If you have two durable pots, make an oven out of them fast. Put one of them on the hot fire coals and put your food in it. Place a second pot on it, putting a whole shovel of red-hot coals in it. Your products are evenly heated on all sides and will be ready very soon.
Dig a pit under a normal fire, put your food there, wrapping it in foil if you have one, or cloth so that it does not get dirty on the ground, throw dirt and coals and ignite fire again. In such conditions, the food will be cooked for several hours, but it will be very soft (especially meat).
Grilling or Use A Griddle
A popular way of cooking on an open fire when food absorbs some smoke from it. This is how you cook a BBQ. It is good for small pieces of meat, fish, chicken, some vegetables, e.g. tomatoes or mushrooms and, of course, toasts. It is true that the spit with food on it has to be turned all the time, but this is still one of the fastest ways to cook food.
2 Grilling Methods
- Find a long green stick (without resin), sharpen its ends with a knife, put some meat on it and keep it over the fire. The “skewer” should be long enough to allow you to sit at the right distance from the fire. You don’t want to get burnt!
- This fantastic read at TheHomeDweller, tells you how make a grill grate (or even a griddle if you have some true weaving skills, jk). Find some long, straight twigs (they don’t burn as fast as dry ones). They should also be thick enough so that by the time they start to burn, the meat is ready. Place two logs of the same size on the sides of the fire and put your “skewers” on them. Skew pieces of food on them at right angles, and they’ll cook faster.