Wilderness Cooking Basics

As with camping and stalking, a lot of books have been written on wilderness cooking. I highly recommend the Boy Scout Field Book, and the Cooking merit badge booklet. These can be purchased through authorized Scout distributers, or you local Boy Scout office.

I won't try to give recipes here. I would like to point out some techniques. You don't need a fancy set of cookware or utensiles to cook in the wilderness.

It is nice to have a basic set of cookware. With a boiling pot, frying pan, dutch oven, a knife, and a spoon, you can cook just about anything. You can duplicate these functions in other ways.

Wrapping your food in green leaves and burying it under a bed of coals, you simulate a dutch oven. Be careful the leaves aren't poisonous, though.

You can use a clay pot to boil water in. You can also use a watertight leather bag as a boiling pot by filling it with water and dropping in stones which have been heated in a fire.

Meat can be skewered on a stick and held over a fire or coals.

If you have aluminum foil, meat and vegetables can be wrapped up together and laid on a bed of coals.

Our ancestors rarely built bonfires. They kept their cooking fires small. This saved wood as well as helped control cooking temperatures.

Don't cut green trees or limbs for your fire. Green wood is difficult to burn and smokes excessively. And of course cutting green wood unnecessarily kills trees. There's nearly always some dead wood around if you look for it. Try to use hardwood like oak rather than softwood like pine. The hardwoods smoke less.

Obviously, you need to practice fire safety. Don't build a fire in excessive wind that can spread it by blowing hot ashes into dry grass, etc. Don't leave your fire unattended.

You can use a candle to help get the fire going if the wood is wet. Another great wet-wood fire starter takes a little advanced preparation. Start with a tuna or short cat food can. Tear or cut a long piece of corrugated cardboard as wide as the can is deep, and a couple of feet long. Tightly coil this cardboard and place it in the can. Carefully melt a block of parafin and pour it over the cardboard till the can is full. This can will burn for quite a while in the base of a damp firelay, drying out the wood and igniting it.