Backpacking Bread—First Attempt with Banks Fry-Bake

I like to try out new backpacking recipes at home before hitting the trail, so today I baked bread in the Banks Fry-Bake that I was given on Christmas. Very successful, it was tasty and I learned things for next time.

I used the Basic Quick Bread from NOLS Cookery, because NOLS is pretty much the Church of the Fry-Bake. NOLS field-tested the Fry-Bake prototypes, then started using it for courses in 1979 and haven’t stopped yet. The Fry-Bake can be used as a skillet or as a backpacking dutch oven.

I made the Italian variation of the quick bread, following the recipe (roughly) to add Italian seasoning, granulated garlic, vinegar, and parmesan cheese. I substituted olive oil for the butter. Oil is a pretty safe substitute for butter in bread recipes and it is much easier to carry and to mix on the trail. Olive oil is also appropriate for an Italian bread.

I decided to restrict myself to utensils and techniques that would work on the trail, so I mixed the batter in the pan, using only my trusty Lexan spoon. No lumps!

Banks fry bake 1

To use the Fry-Bake as an oven, you keep your camp stove on low, then build a twiggy fire on the lid to bake the top. You can also use the “round the clock” method to get more even cooking on the bottom. Start with the pan centered on the stove, then offset the pan to one side, then move it around to heat different parts.

Banks fry bake 2

Voila! The finished Italian quick bread! Not very brown on the top, but cooked and browned on the bottom. It was a bit spongy, similar to foccacia, though foccacia is a yeast bread.

Banks fry bake 3

What did I learn?

  1. The Fry-Bake works! Even on a first try, this bread would be a hit in the backcountry.
  2. Clean-up is easier if you grease the pan or use parchment paper. I’ll probably do the latter, or both. That means mixing the batter in a separate bowl, not in the pan.
  3. Use an even lower setting on the stove, probably as low as it goes (see **Update** below). Start the “round the clock” right away.
  4. Use a bigger twiggy fire. Think of dutch ovens, where most coals are on top.
  5. Brush off loose ash before removing the lid. I was careful, but still got a bit of ash on the bread.
  6. Bring a plastic spatula, I’ll need it for cutting and serving the bread.
  7. Bring hot pads or some way to move the pan and remove the lid.


After using the Fry-Bake, I remembered to read the instructions. Duh. They say this about heat for baking.

For best results when baking, hold your hand 6 inches above your heat source (i.e. stove, coals, or fire); if you can count to 6, you’re OK. If you cannot stand the heat for 6 seconds, you will probably burn your baked goods on the bottom.

More Fry-Bake Recipes

More Fry-Bake recipes from NOLS.

Videos featuring Fry-Bake cooking.


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