Like many outdoors enthusiasts, I experience the “accumulate, shed, accumulate, shed” cycle when it comes to gear. You buy, make, fix up or receive as a gift a nifty item and then add it to your regular gear loadout. Then it happens again…and again. Before you know it, your pack has grown heavy and bulky and it’s once again time to scrutinize your gear choices and get back to basics. After realizing that I was deep into an accumulation phase last autumn, I started working to reduce, lighten and de-bulk-ify my pack. I’ve now gotten to a point where I’m very happy with my reduced (thought not minimalist) kit, and I will be covering it in its entirety in an upcoming post. In today’s post, though, I’ll focus on the category of my kit which has experienced the most dramatic, and almost complete, change: my cook kit.
As of last autumn, my cook kit contained:
- Basic cook pot
- Non-stick frying pan
- Buddy burner and accessories
- Folding fire grill
- Kuksa cup
- Scrub brush
- Dish soap
- Sausage roaster
- Ikea hobo stove
- Alcohol stove
- Consumables (olive oil, honey, salt/pepper)
It’s a pretty versatile kit. It’s also a heavy and bulky one. On occasion I used all the different items, but not frequently enough to justify taking it all with me on every trip. After finally coming to my senses, I decided to pare down my every-trip cook kit to a reasonable minimum based on the foods I cook and how I cook them (crazy idea, I know…). The remaining items were either put into the “infrequent or special use” category or cut out entirely.
My new basic cook kit:
Conveniently, it all fits inside the pot and lid:
Lots of changes! You’ll notice that I haven’t listed any stoves at all. This is because I use fire for cooking nearly 100% of the time. I have used my various stoves over the years, but in most cases, it wasn’t necessary. I used them just to use them! You’ll also notice that I included the Swedish mess kit I purchased a few weeks back (more on that later).
Infrequent- or special-use items:
Items from this kit will come along if the situation requires it, e.g. if I won’t be able to make a fire for some reason (hot and dry conditions in the summer, for example), if I’ll be cooking for a group etc.
I mentioned above that I shed some items entirely. This included a dedicated water kettle (the mess kit lid now handles this), dish soap (I always end up using ashes or sand instead) and the buddy burner and its accessories (just didn’t need it).
Regular readers will know that I bought a Swedish mess kit pot and lid a few weeks ago to try out. I picked this up because I thought it would have a few advantages over the set I was using. First off, the lid can be used as, well, a lid for the pot, allowing for faster boil times and cooking (my other pot doesn’t have a lid). The lid itself can also be used as a second smaller pot or frying pan. The lid and pot lock together pretty solidly, protecting the contents I can stow inside. The overall package is also a more convenient shape and size for stowage in my pack. Now, these are great reasons to make the change, but I wasn’t about to replace my tried-and-tested pot, kettle and frying pan with this mess kit without testing it in the field beforehand. My recent trip to the old farm woods provided the opportunity to do just that.
One of the most basic functions of any cook kit is boiling water, so that’s what I did first. In preparation for making instant oatmeal for breakfast, I threw some water in the pot and hung it over the fire. The water boiled in no time. No surprises there.
When lunchtime rolled around, I used the lid/pan to fry up a nice big chicken breast which I had prepared at home.
I stuck a piece of wood through the D-rings, which made for a nice long handle. After heating up some olive oil, I placed the chicken breast in the pan, flipped it over to make sure both sides were coated with oil and then held it over the fire, flipping it over after a few minutes to do the other side as well.
Test number two was a resounding success! The chicken fried up nicely and did not stick to the pan at all.
In case you’re interested, here’s the recipe for Weekend Woodsman fried chicken:
- Mix some breadcrumbs with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil and a little chili powder on a large plate.
- Whisk an egg and some milk in a bowl.
- Dip tenderized chicken (or other meat) in the milk and egg mixture, lift out and let drip off.
- Thoroughly coat the chicken with the breadcrumb/seasoning mixture.
- Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of your pan (to medium-high if cooking on a stove) and fry the chicken, flipping it over after the bottom has turned golden brown.
My final test for the day would be baking. I brought my regular bannock mix with me and made the dough as usual. Beforehand, I sprinkled some of the dry mixture on the bottom of the mess kit pot to keep the bread from sticking to it. The raw dough was then placed in the pot and hung over the fire. It was flipped occasionally to ensure even baking. This shape of container isn’t ideal for baking, but it gets the job done.
All this testing isn’t exhaustive, of course, but it was convincing enough to me. I’ll continue using the Swedish mess kit as part of my regular kit and see how things go!
In case you’re interested to know, here’s how I cleaned the mess kit after cooking. To clean the pot after making the oatmeal, I simply used snow to scrub the inside.
To clean the lid/pan, I wiped out as much oil as I could using snow and then added some ashes from the fire and a little snow. Then I used some spruce sprigs to scrub it clean. Worked nicely!
As always, let me know what you think!