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Cooking tips and tricks to make you look like a rock star!

kettle over campfire close up

This year, I’m a troop guide for my council’s Wood Badge course. One of my goals as staff was to give the course participants some tips and tricks on cooking in camp as well as how to teach cooking skills to scouts in a fun way with insights on how to make the task of being grubmaster easier. For the second part I gave them the the article I posted on grubmasters. 🙂 For the first part, here is a quick and dirty list of “hard and fast” rules for cooking in camp. Enjoy!

 

  • A cook needs a watch.
  • Start with food which takes longer to cook.
  • Pre-freeze 1 gallon containers of water and use that rather than ice in your coolers. Ice will melt very fast and the water will seep into everything. Things like cheese will disintegrate quickly. Keep dairy and items next to that block of ice.
  • From a sanitary perspective use a smaller cooler for any raw meats to keep cross decontamination down. (Just another reason to pre-cook your meats. Canned meats are even better.)
  • Use latex or latex free gloves when handling any food and change them out between raw meats and then vegetables.
  • Butter makes the cooking world go around. J
  • Pre-cook as much as you can. It’s much nicer cooking in the comfort of your own kitchen than around a cook fire with your patrol members watching you and their watch at the same time.
  • Pre-cut everything you can. Chopping vegetables takes a lot of time and it’s messy.
  • Pre-season all sauces and meats if you can. The seasonings will take much better to your food given more contact time it has on it.
  • Use Tupperware containers for anything that can get smashed.
  • “If it went on hot, it needs to come off hot.” Wash as you go. Invest in a flexible spatula to help scrape out the loose particles. One of the best things you can do is have your cleaning station ready to go before you start cooking so your patrol members can wash items as you are done with them. Cleaning can take a lot of time at the end of the meal if there are a lot of dishes. Here is a great link about a proper wash station and what’s needed. https://www.freshoffthegrid.com/washing-dishes-while-camping/.  Make sure you wash dutch ovens with boiling water (and not soap). Once it has been scrubbed out with a scouring pad (hint use a metal spatula or tongs to work the scouring pad around the pot or pan in the hot water), drain it then use the stove to heat up the cleaned cast iron dry of moisture. After that, apply about a tablespoon of olive oil with a paper towel to all surfaces (inside first). Apply when hot.
  • Have all your utensils you need for the whole meal ready before you start to cook.
  • Stay away from large drink containers like a gallon of milk (other than that block of ice mentioned earlier). It takes up a lot of space in the cooler and you never will use it all on a single campout for your size of patrol. Buy only a little more than you plan on needing.
  • Stick with water, coffee and flavors to put in water rather than soda or sugary drinks. You need electrolytes if anything. Cold brew tea is good to go in minutes. Sun tea takes about 20 minutes or so.
  • Desserts don’t need to be complicated. You can go to Dollar General store and look in their baking section for pre-mix stuff like cookies or brownies. Make sure you pick the ones that require water instead of milk. They are much easier and you can always add favorites items like M&Ms to it. Grab parchment paper to act as a dutch oven liner so you can pour the batter on that. It will save you a lot of time cleaning. 
  • Carry a box of Ziplock bags for leftovers or you can use that Tupperware from above.
  • Here is a great link on how many charcoal briquettes to use on the bottom and top of a dutch oven given the size of the oven and temp needed. https://scoutingmagazine.org/2017/04/dutch-oven-cooking-primer/
  • Make an inventory of equipment needed per meal and look where you can reuse the same equipment over and over to decrease the amount you need to bring.
  • You will need lights/lanterns or a flashlight with a head band which will free up your hands to cook.
  • You will need at least one awning to cook under and then one to shelter your dining table.
  • You will need to pack out all trash so plan accordingly
About the author: tzizak
Tony Zizak is a long time scouter, Eagle Scout, and the scoutmaster of Troop 119 Ellettsville, IN. He has served on Wood Badge staff as a Troop Guide. He has been to scout camps across the country and was a certified Program Director, Aquatics Director and a Scoutcraft Director. As a youth Tony received his Vigil Honor and served as a Lodge Chief for Tseyedin Lodge #65. Reach out to him for any questions you may have on any of his articles posted

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