Cooking on a Stick

1:27 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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So I want to start a thread that I think a lot of folks out there can help with…cooking on a stick! I would venture to bet that whether you consider yourself a big mile UL backpacker or a primitive skills survivalist most of us have done it in some form before…but the true potential of such a simple act can often go unappreciated…and I would like to give cooking on a stick the attention I believe it merits!

A simple marshmallow roasted on a stick will make you the hero of children…and a ball of dough fire-baked on a stick can do the same for adults. I frequently take a special cup of floured-mix with me on trips…or better…waiting in a cache (flour is kind of heavy!). If you have ever smelled baked anything on the trail then you know the kind of awesome that is…particularly if you’re keeping things light and simple with rehydrated (put here your choice of mush). On those occasions that the weather will not allow a fire...I drop the flour-mix into soups and stews to make dumplings…the perfect kind of warm and hearty on the very day you want it most! It also allows you a little more cushion for the occasional zero…or the ability to extend your trip just a bump. In short…a fire-baked “extra” is a wonderful luxury for both the gram-counter and the one-mile-super-camper alike.

In addition to biscuits and hushpuppies…I have also stick-cooked the familiar sausage and marshmallow…but I would really like to take this idea to the next level. To do this I am asking TS folks to help me compile a list of foods for a stick-cooking menu. To keep things as creative as possible there are very few ground-rules...and it is the spirit of the request not the letter that matters (spirit = a relatively easy treat that can be cooked on an open-fire alone or with a quickly fashioned tool). A great example of what counts is Rambler’s Apple-Pie on a Stick (apple + spice + stick + fire)…as an added bonus…the apple is as good raw as it is cooked…if the forecast has rain.

11:01 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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In Boy Scouts (1968) we learned to cook rolls on a stick by taking Bisquick (a still popular bakery item in the grocery store) mixed with water (or milk) and rolled into a long dough rope then wrapped around the end of a green stick with the bark peeled off. Then hold it over a flame from camp stove or fire and turn till evenly cooked. The stick shrinks a bit and the roll slides off easily. Then the hole where it was on the stick makes a place for butter,jelly or honey,etc. Small bits of cooked sausage can be added to the dough mixture for added taste, also cooked egg chopped, or bits of cheese. All should be cooked first as the baking time for the roll won't be long enough to cook the egg or sausage inside.

I have made these countless times since the late 60's. 

One can also cook on a flat rock/stone that has been placed in the coals. Take two slices of bacon place them in a X on the rock, take a slice of bread and take part of the center out about 2 inches in diameter lay this centering the hole on the middle of the bacon X, then break a egg into the middle hole of the bread. The rock cooks just like a fry pan, the cooked bacon/grease keeps the whole from sticking to the rock and you have a bacon,egg and toast breakfast.

An egg can be fried in its own shell by chipping a small hole in the ends of the egg, slide a green stick thru and break the end sticking out the opposite side to use later to lift the egg off and lay in light coals next to the fire. Wait just until the eggs shell is completely blackened and lift it out, peel like a boiled egg and its a oval fried egg!

11:11 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Since the early days in North America flour has been used to make camp bread, biscuits, and pan de campo with a liquid or water or milk and some salt. Baking powder is often used, with some kind of fat. Lard was common for centuries and still makes the best fry bread and biscuits. Old-timers still mix the ingredients in the top of the flour sack.

Bannock on a stick was a favorite of the Voyageurs and people of the North in general. Sometimes raisins, or spices were added for variety. There is something about hot bread in the wilds that still hits home.

At our Nevada Day celebration in October, we will be making yeast bread in Dutch ovens on a fire and following the Basque traditon. When the bread is done we cut a cross in the loaf and give the first piece to the cow dogs.

1:11 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine said:

Since the early days in North America flour has been used to make camp bread, biscuits, and pan de campo with a liquid or water or milk and some salt.

One of my favorite haunts when I lived on the other side of the country was a place on top of a mountain where the native folk had ground acorns every fall.  The rock formations were pitted where they had worked the nut meat with smaller stones by hand. Darn right there have been folks eating bread out there since the early days.

As for cooking on a stick, nothing beats fresh fish! I have had some back country veggie kabobs that weren't too shabby though.  Only harder items survive long in the pack so no tomatoes or mushrooms but some squash, peppers and onions. I carry a small bottle of oil and a couple tiny containers of spice blends that I use on my fish if I get lucky.  The same stuff works on the veggies and a little wood smoke adds some flavor no matter what is on the stick.

1:22 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:Only harder items survive long in the pack so no tomatoes or mushrooms,

Soft items like tomatoes,mushroom and berries can be carried in small plastic Tupperware containers.

I like fresh small potatoes to cut up and onions too to roast and mash together with fresh garlic bulbs in the field camps

3:28 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Anyone know of a good supplier of alum reflector ovens? There is one small Canadian company somewhere.

3:52 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Great replies so far!

Gary and ppine...we are on the same page...I have never seen or used the dough-rope method...I typically make a ball and spear it with the end of a green stick...but the rope method sounds fun and interesting.

As far as what to put into the dough...I have used filled it with reconstituted peppers + onions + garlic + brown sugar + cinnamon + cranberries + maple syrup...lots of fun stuff...so ideas about things to put in dough are very welcome.

Super impressed Gary that you've cooked an egg-in-the-hole on a rock...but that is certainly in the spirit of the request. I also like the baking the egg in the shell idea (though I find transporting raw eggs a big hassle)...does it take a measure of practice to put too small holes in an egg to get a stick through...or is this someth9ing I can count on being successful my first go?

Lonestranger...vegetable kabobs sound delicious...a great way to add some color and flavor to a meal...and I imagine with a couple of chunks of sausage stuck between some of those vegetables I have an easy no-clean meal! I'm not super crazy about carrying fresh vegetables with me backpacking too often...but I think my next short trip into the backcountry might involve some kind of a kabob if the weather is clear...backpacking or not.

Lonestranger...can you explain more about how you cook different fish on a stick? I sometimes fish on canoe and kayaking trips...so it would be nice to have a few ways to cook fish on an open-fire that does not take a lot of time.

3:56 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Ppine...I just commented on that topic in the thread titled "tasty trail cooking" (I think that was the title)...look down near the bottom of the thread and I list two-suppliers + two (one easy and one difficult) ultralight DIY relfector oven projects.

5:30 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Baking on a canoe trip is something I do often. I use a 10 inch aluminum dutch oven, though I have used the now hard to find Bendonn Oven. I have made bannock on a stick but the type of stick is critical for taste. I have also made a whisk using diamond willow to froth soap berries for indian ice cream.

Bannock is something I use for "travelers" for lunches. An hour of baking can produce enough travelers for four or five days for two.

5:39 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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In Scouts we used home made reflector ovens and made pies,cobblers and bread. They were made from used square big cans as oil came in, cut in half diagonally with a shelf wired in the middle and held up with rocks against the fire. 

8:21 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Erich...a whisk using Diamond Willow...I would love to see this demonstrated...I always want a whisk when I bring pudding mixes...but never want to carry a whisk...so I just mix it in the bag...with less that desired results I might add.

Also...we are listing so great baking ideas generally...and I will certainly open a thread on baking...but for this specific thread I was wanting ideas that can be done from the seat-of-the-pants. What I mean is...let us imagine that I have the ingredients...but I forgot the stoves and things...how can I use the fire to cook those ingredients using no more than a few minutes to devise a tool with what I have on or around me.

Keep the good ideas coming...my menu has already been elevated...a whisk...really?

8:34 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Joseph said: (though I find transporting raw eggs a big hassle)...does it take a measure of practice to put too small holes in an egg to get a stick through...or is this something I can count on being successful my first go?

Use a sharp point like a thin bladed knife and crack carefully. There are egg containers for carrying them like the one below:


6-cup-Egg-Containers-Suitable-to-Camping

I have cooked fish on a stick, take the fish filet and a forked stick, the bend the  points of the stick into the fish, let go and it holds the fish out to lay over the coals, turning often till done.

And a whisk can be made again by a forked stick, but find one with more than two forks.

I often camp primitively and use rocks,stones and sticks to both hunt and cook with. An oven can be made with stones piled forming a box area then the baked item is put inside and hot coals are placed around and on it like when using a Dutch Oven. Sandstone often works well in slabs tho sometimes one can find rocks that are flat enough to use for the sides.

6:38 a.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm surprised at how often the fire rings at deep back country camps have grates these days.  If I get lucky like that I'll just lightly oil inside and out then use my spices on the inside of the fish.  Cooking right over the fire requires several turns but the skin becomes crispy and peels right away from the flesh.

If there is no grate I plant a short stick in the ground for each fish around the fire and hang the fish head up from the sticks.  This method cooks much slower so not my favorite if I'm hungry and in a hurry, but less chance of over crisping if you forget to pay attention for a few minutes. It helps to rotate the fish around the stick to even out the heat but you have to be careful they don't fall off once the meat is fully cooked.

Both of these techniques work well with smaller fish.  Where I go I tend to catch trout or landlocked salmon which are very similar to a brown trout I'd say.

I liked your idea about adding sausage to the veggie kabobs Joseph and making a meal out of them. Not sure I'm brave enough to carry meat into bear country, but it sounds tasty!

9:10 a.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Ppine, in Canada there is the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Company in Ontario. They ship up here; I just purchased a German made cross cut saw to give my chainsaw a break. They also sell reflector ovens and other "traditional" items like that.

12:10 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Joseph, I'll see if I can dig one up to show you. Basically, a nice flaxible and straight piece of willow branch about 1/2 inch across is cut in the shape of a cross at one end. The cuts are about 1 1/2 inches deep. Then small willow twigs are forced down each two of the cuts, spreading the branch into four quarters. It helps if the end of the branch is sharpened slightly to a bit of a point after the cuts are made.

12:57 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Lonestranger...if I am intentionally going fishing I would bring a fillet-knife...but to the gasp of many I'm sure...I usually only carry a small "key-chain" Swiss army knife. Let us imagine that I was able to catch some brook-trout or other small fish without a pole (fish-trap...net...etc.)...could I cook the fish the way you suggest by the head without filleting them...or should I just spear through them with a stick and cook them like a marshmallow...what would you suggest?

I like black bears...I know they can kill me too...but the brown ones are WAY scarier to me. I bet I taste delicious...so I go veggie in brown bear territory. On the bear-chart someone posted recently I was looking for when it is best to panic and cry if charged by a bear...apparently never?...which is a shame because that's about the only reaction I am confident I could muster if a brown bear charged me!

Erich...I think I know what you’re saying...but if you can find some photos or videos that would be great...it would make my Jello-cheesecake dessert a lot smoother!

So...I did a little searching just to keep the ideas flowing...and I saw that someone suggested taking an orange (which can be eaten without a fire)...cutting it open and filling it with brownie mix...then throwing it on some coals...that sounds basically yummy to me! The other idea I came across...but this is going to bend the rules a bit...I have seen this demonstrated on youtube and so I believe it works...but apparently you can cook bacon and eggs in a paper bag! I rarely carry raw eggs and meat...or a paper bag...so this is not an idea I would likely use...but I thought it might help generate ideas?

1:12 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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I've heard of the orange idea, even for eggs. Never tried it.

Does it impart orange flavor into whatever's cooking inside of it? Don't know how I'd feel about citrus-flavored eggs.

Probably better for baked goods?

1:31 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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jrenow said:

Lonestranger...if I am intentionally going fishing I would bring a fillet-knife...but to the gasp of many I'm sure...I usually only carry a small "key-chain" Swiss army knife. Let us imagine that I was able to catch some brook-trout or other small fish without a pole (fish-trap...net...etc.)...could I cook the fish the way you suggest by the head without filleting them...or should I just spear through them with a stick and cook them like a marshmallow...what would you suggest?

use...but I thought it might help generate ideas?

 If I was going to fillet the fish I would wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil and set that next to the fire, but the trout and salmon where I usually go are best cooked whole and then pulled apart.  If I caught a really big one I'd run a stick through the mouth and under the spine and wedge it over a rock, but most are small enough to just hang close to the fire. 

I guess they could be cooked like a hotdog on a stick though but they tend to fall apart as they get done so you'd have to be careful you don't drop it in the fire.  I like cooking next to the fire better than over because you don't lose food if it falls over, it just gets crunchy.

1:48 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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I would like to eat at LoneStranger'e fire.

A few year ago we had a Lewis and Clark party. People came in costumes and it was 2005. Two hundred years to the day. We read out of the journal.

On the menu was roast buffalo in a Dutch and planked salmon.

I used some left over cedar fencing and used roofing nails to secure the salmon fillets to the boards. Then I listened to my Dad's description of watching local Indians cook salmon when he was a kid on the beach near Seattle. We built a low fire of fruitwood like plum and apple from the yard and leaned the boards together over the fire. It looked like the peak of a roof. With a low narrow fire you can cook for any number of people. When the salmon was milky white it was done and the best I have ever cooked.

1:55 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks Lonestranger...I've never cooked fish on an open fire without foil...but I think I would venture to try it now...and as ppine suggested...i want to eat fire-cooked fish with you!

ppine...let us assume I do not have any planks of cedar around camp...is there another wood (bark?) that could be used siilarly?

I think this thread is working out great so far!

8:40 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Joseph, one of the issues lies with the particular wood. Cedar is nice because it imparts a nice flavor, as does apple or pear. Willow has a lot of moisture, but also has a bitter taste to me. I have read of weaving a grill of sorts, with fish or other meat woven inside(the grill has a bottom and top) but I've never tried it.

11:08 a.m. on September 20, 2013 (EDT)
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man you guys are killing me....there is no better fish than fresh fish on a campfire. I work in the foodservice industry have had some fancy meals from chefs in my time. But nothing has ever come close to a good camp fire meal (especially fish that was swimming just moments before).

2:41 p.m. on September 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Red alder is the choice wood for cooking in the northwest. In a pinch the species in the Genus Populus will work - aspen, cottonwood, poplar, etc.

Anyone ever try birch? Avoid all of the conifers. Maybe maple.

11:19 p.m. on September 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Maple is great and also makes nice coals. I'm not sure about cooking on a cottonwood plank, ppine. I've cooked bannock on some and I thought is imparted a rather stinky odor. Birch is the best for coals and firestarting. Whenever I find a dead birch, I take some time to strip the bark.

8:39 p.m. on September 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Compared to conifers, aspen or cottonwood will still work. What do you use in the far North when spruce and aspen are the main choices?

12:44 a.m. on September 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Live Birch bark works good too for fire starter, it generally has dead bark curled on the outside. 

Boiled pine,juniper,cedar and pinyon as well I am sure of other simular tree needles makes a nice firestarter. Be sure to boil them in a pot/container you do not plan to use for anything else as it will leave a hard residue on the inside. Add more needle as the old ones become boiled out. After the water simmers away pour the sap onto dried tinder,wood and whatever other fire tinder you have. The sap dries and makes whatever you are using to start your fires explode into flame with little effort.

12:21 p.m. on September 23, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine, aspen poplar would be my first choice for cooking on, as spruce and willow are the only other common trees where I usually trip. Birch is good, but isn't quite as common. 

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