Backcountry Cooking Tips

Three backcountry cooking tips that will guarantee easy and tasty meals

Precook and dry your pasta. This will save you tons of cooking time in camp, as well as considerable fuel and weight. Simply cook your pasta al dente at home, then spread it on dehydrator trays and let it go for a couple of hours until brittle. In camp, all you have to do is add boiling water to the noodles, then cover and let sit for a few minutes.

Feed your inner carnivore. Drying your own ground beef is one of the easiest, most dramatic ways to change your dinner menu. It adds protein and texture to any noodle, rice, or instant potato dinner, and best of all, it satisfies that craving for meat that so many of us experience on extended backpacking trips. Start with lean ground beef , turkey or chicken. Brown it in a skillet along with any seasoning you like. Suggestions: for Mexican meals, mix in cayenne, and chili powder. For Asian, add curry, cumin and coriander. For Italian, go with oregano, basil, thyme. When the meat mixture is completely browned through, rinse it under hot water to remove any residual fat, then dehydrate it until the nuggets are very hard (about 5 hours). Break the meat up into fine particles for easier rehydrating, and add to your recipes.

Adapt your favorites. Maybe it’s your famous red pepper and Vidalia onion sauce. Or grandma’s Bolognese. Or it could be that spicy salsa you make from home grown veggies. Whatever it is, you can probably dehydrate it. Real, homemade sauces, dips, and spread taste just as good in the woods as they do at home, and they’re easy to adapt. All you need are the plastic tray liners that work with your dehydrator. (You can also cut wax paper to fit, but be sure to lightly coat the paper with cooking spray so your sauce doesn’t stick.) Spread the sauce in a thin layer and let it rip for 8-10 hours. The result is a featherweight leather that just requires hot water to reconstitute. Note: be sure to spread it very thin, to ensure even drying. To test, crack a piece of leather open. If it’s still sticky or tacky, keep drying.