Cooking On A Backpacking Stove

So…you’ve got your stove up and running and now you need to cook something.  On your first few trips I’d recommend making your cooking experience as easy as possible.

Here are a few suggestions…

  • Stick with boiling water.  For the path of least resistance, make couscous.  Boil the water, then shut it off, then add the couscous.  This way it’s literally impossible to burn.  Just let it sit in the water with the stove off and the lid on and it will cook in minutes, even in cold weather.  From here you can add cheese, soup flavoring, butter, peanut butter, pasta sauce, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
  • Minimize your dish washing.  Making couscous?  Add that fresh cooked couscous to your bowl, then add the sauce and cheese.  This way you only have to clean the pasta sauce and cheese out of your bowl, and not the pot as well.  Of course, if you’re on your own your pot is probably your bowl as well :)
  • When you can, make it all in your bowl.  Oatmeal is the classic example here, weather your using instant oatmeal or plain old rolled oats you can add the oats to your bowl, then dump in some boiling water, and never have to wash the pot.  Besides, trying to cook oatmeal in the pot can be harder then you’d think…often resulting in a burned breakfast.
  • Bring a rubber spatula.  This is a little know trick that will revolutionize you back country dish washing experience.  Once you’ve cooked your dinner, ideally while the pot is still warm, take the rubber spatula and get all those last little bits into your bowl.  Then add a tiny bit of fresh water to the pot and scrape it all again with the spatula, drink this last bit of water (or thoughtfully dispose it) and you’re done.  This way you get every last calorie out of your food and save a ton of dish washing hassle.
  • Never use oil!  Some day when you’re ready you can break this rule, but for now all frying is off limits.  Greasy foods make greasy pots, and these are extra hard to clean.  Butter and cheese can go on bagels and save you a dish washing nightmare.
  • Lastly, have a backup plan!  Especially if you’re still getting the hang of your stove, bring some extra peanut butter or granola bars so you have something else to eat in the off chance you burn your dinner into oblivion.

And again…practice practice practice.  Then, someday you’ll be ready to make scones on your backpacking stove….

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