You cannot complete Cooking merit badge at home, but you can make a solid start on it. Plus, your parents will be thankful for you taking care of several meals.
Cooking is a core life skill. Our younger son was in Scouts before this merit badge was required for Eagle, but he learned to cook in our kitchen and on campouts. Later, he taught it to younger Scouts in his patrol. When he moved off campus in college, he was cooking for the seven people in his house, and teaching one of them to cook instead of serving expensive take-out.
The central requirements of Cooking merit badge are to plan and cook several meals in each of three categories. Two of these categories can be completed at home. The third can be planned at home for trail cooking.
- Cooking at home: Plan three full days of meals (three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners) plus one dessert, prepare and serve one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, and one dessert.
- Camp cooking: These meals must be prepared and served “in the outdoors”. This can be a back yard or park, but no running back into the kitchen to get stuff that you forgot. Plan five meals and prepare three of them.
- Trail and backpacking meals: These meals must be prepared and served “while on a trail hike or backpacking trip”. A Scouting trip is not required, so these technically could be done on a family trail hike. California’s current public health order only allows hikes for exercise or well-being, so I believe cooking on a hike is beyond the allowed activities.
For camp cooking, one of the meals must be cooked “using either a Dutch oven OR a foil pack OR kabobs”. These methods pretty much need a wood or charcoal fire. The other methods require a fire or a light-weight stove. If you don’t have a backpacking stove, you might be able to use a patrol stove or borrow one from another Scout or an adult leader.
When using a stove, follow the BSA chemical fuels safety policy from the Guide to Safe Scouting.
To learn the basic techniques of cooking, I highly recommend How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman. This very detailed Amazon review explains why this book is so good.
The Cooking merit badge pamphlet recommends The Scout’s Backpacking Cookbook. I don’t agree with that and my review explains why.
The 2014 edition of the Cooking merit badge pamphlet recommended ground poultry and canned food for backpacking and trail meals. Those are both terrible ideas. I don’t know if that advice has been fixed, but I’d get backpacking meal ideas from the Backpacking merit badge pamphlet instead.
For both home and trail cooking, take a look at the Cooking chapter in your Scout handbook. The BSA one pot stew in that chapter is a tasty, easy recipe.
Finally, I’ve posted quite a few food and cooking resources on my blog.
Enough warnings and caveats and suggestions. Get cooking, and bon appétit!
You can find the requirements on the BSA site (PDF) or at the US Scouting Service Project (with a worksheet).
The Cooking merit badge pamphlet is available online from the BSA.
For more posts like this, check out the Scouting at Home category on this blog.
And rehydrating a Mountain House doesn’t count a trail cooking.
And rehydrating a mountain house is not a backpacking meal