If you want to get started on trail cooking, turn to page 318 of The Boy Scout Handbook (14th edition, page 336 in the 13th edition). Choose one ingredient from each column, scale the amounts, and you are on your way.
Since the 11th edition Scout handbook in 1998, the cooking chapter has included a great “choose your own stew” recipe. It might have been in the 10th edition, but I don’t have one of those handy.
The 11th and 12th edition have slightly different lists, so I’ve combined both to make one table. I’ve also split vegetables out into their own column, since they are not really the same thing as cheese or nuts.
Choose one item from each column. The amounts are for a single serving.
|3 oz.||3 oz. can or packet||According to package||3+ oz.||1-2 oz.|
|Spaghetti||Chicken||Gravy mix||Broccoli||Cheese (2 oz.)|
|Macaroni||Tuna||Spaghetti sauce||Green beans||Nuts (1-2 oz.)|
|Rice||Onions and/or peppers|
General cooking approach:
Before you put the pot on the stove, put in all the ingredients. Add enough water to cover the ingredients, plus a little bit more water, about an inch. Some ingredients will float, so add water slowly until the level reaches the top of the ingredients, then put a spoon against the side to mark than and add an inch more above that level. You can always add more water later as things cook.
Bring to a boil, them simmer as long as the instructions say for the starch.That will be enough to heat the other ingredients and meld the flavors. Add cheese and/or nuts at the end.
How do you bring vegetables? For a weekend trip, buy bags of frozen vegetables and keep them frozen until you pack up. Put them inside a fleece cap or jacket to keep them cold. If you will be building a campfire, wrap them loosely in newspaper and use the newspaper as firestarter. You can add the vegetables to the pot still frozen. Try broccoli, peas, green beans, corn, spinach, beets (my favorite), or mix them up. It is hard to go wrong with vegetables.
When you get tired of pasta and rice, try lentils. Those are tiny beans that cook quickly. Red or yellow lentils will cook in 10-20 minutes and make a very filling stew. A rice and lentil stew does not need meat to be a nutritious meal, so try that combination, too. Or you can get wild and use filled pasta, like tortellini.
Let’s use this method for a dinner where six people from your patrol are on the outing. We will multiply each single serving size times six.
Macaroni: 3 oz. × 6 = 18 oz. Macaroni comes in one pound (16 oz.) portions, so we’ll use one pound. We will use some starchy vegetables (peas or corn) to fill in the extra carbs.
Chicken: 3 oz. × 6 = 18 oz. Canned chicken comes in several sizes: 3, 4.5, 9.75, and 12.75 ounces. Two 9.75 ounce cans would be just right, but buy a combination of cans that is pretty close. Choose cans that have a pull tab, so that you don’t have to carry a can opener.
Sauce/seasoning: Lawry’s Spaghetti Spice and Seasoning is widely available. It says it serves 5, which is pretty close. The package says to add a can of tomato paste. That is kinda heavy and needs a can opener. You could use the spices without tomatoes, or get a tube of concentrated tomato paste (about $5), or bring a can and a can opener. I think any one of those would taste good.
Vegetables: 3 oz. × 6 = 18 oz. Frozen vegetables are in 14 or 16 oz. bags, so you might want to add two bags. Maybe a starchy vegetable like peas plus a green vegetable like broccoli or green beans. Spinach is surprisingly good in a stew, try it. Sliced bell peppers can be tasty. You can also find tasty vegetable mixes, like peas with pearl onions.
Cheese or nuts: We already have a pretty good stew, but if you want to add cheese, I’d choose some aged hard cheese that keeps well on the trail, like parmesan or asiago. 6 ounces of grated cheese should be fine for the patrol. For nuts, choose between sweet nuts like pecans or savory nuts like pine nuts. Peanuts go with everything.
What does it cost (A Scout is Thrifty)? Let’s check out the Safeway website and see.
|Golden Grain macaroni||16 oz.||$1.00|
|canned chicken||25 oz. (two 12.5 oz. cans)||$10.78|
|Lawry’s seasoning||one packet||$2.19|
|C&W Peas with Onions||14 oz.||$3.09|
|C&W Sliced Peppers||14 oz.||$3.09|
|Total plus tax||$21.76|
|Cost per serving||$3.63|
That is pretty cheap, even including a lot of extra chicken (A Scout is Hungry). If you added a $5 tube of fancy tomato paste it would still be about $4.50 per person.
Now let’s cook. Here are the detailed steps for feeding your patrol:
- Shoo all of the non-cooks out of the kitchen. The only thing they can do is distract you or knock over the pot (I’ve seen it happen, it isn’t pretty). Ask your Patrol Leader to keep them busy and out of your hair. This is a good time for a game.
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Keep scrubbing for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
- Put all the ingredients except the cheese or nuts into a large pot. Empty the juice from the chicken into the pot, too. That is tasty and you carried it to the camp. Use it.
- Add water to cover, then about another inch.
- Put it on the stove and wait until it boils.
- After the water comes to a boil, reduces to a simmer (slow bubbles), and start a timer. Cooking time for the macaroni should be 9-11 minutes, which is enough to heat everything else. If you don’t have a timer, taste every couple of minutes to see if the macaroni (or rice) is tender. The frozen vegetables will be thawed as the stew is brought to a boil and the canned meat is already cooked.
- Stir occasionally. If the stew is hard to stir, add more water, about a cup at a time. A juicy stew is better than a scorched stew.
- Call the patrol to dinner.
- Everyone washes hands, cooks wash again.
- Say grace; I prefer the Worth Ranch Grace.
- Serve up and dig in.
That sounds good to me. Make it your own and eat well on the trail.
Our Scouts have tried two versions of this stew at a Troop cook-off event and they were both big successes. Simple to make and they were done on backpacking stoves for extra points. Thanks for sharing these recipes.
Great! On backpacking trips, we’ve used dried tortellini from Trader Joe’s. It won’t compete with fresh, but it tastes good in the outdoors.