Preparing an entire meal in one pot over the campfire or portable stove is a tried and true operation for most anyone who’s camped out. Whether it’s adding boiling water to a pouch of dehydrated food stuffs or simply tossing everything together for a catch-all ‘hobo’ stew, one pot meals are as much about camping as are s’mores!
Besides relying on dried up food to soak up just the right amount of boiling water to provide close to just the right amount of flavor, there are two other methods of one-pot pouch cooking to consider.
The first is called Sous-vide which basically refers to a deliberate, exacting and time-consuming cooking process whereby a pouch of raw food is suspended in a pan of boiling water for up to several hours until it’s completely cooked. I don’t see that happening at a campsite kitchen – or even a well-appointed cabin.
The third way to cook with pouches is to simply prepare the meal component at home (spaghetti sauce, for example), freeze bag it and then toss it into a pan of boiling water to warm it up before serving. This lets the frozen block of food be your “ice” in your cooler until thaw time and it saves having an extra pan to deal with for meal preparation and clean-up.
The other important half of this one-pot meal deal is that the boiling water used to heat up the cooking pouch is also the same pot of water in which you’ll be cooking your pasta (spaghetti noodles in this example) or rice or whatever. The critical part of this dual effort is to judge the appropriate amount of pasta and water to begin with. I’ve found that it’s better to drop the pouch in the water and bring it to a boil thereby allowing time for the contents of the pouch to heat up. You can then quickly remove the pouch while you add the noodles, plop the pouch back into continue heating until the pasta is ready. Judging the amount of water to pasta ratio at the beginning means less water to bring to a boil and less to have to drain off.
Once the noodles are done, they can be plated, and the sauce portioned out as planned — with either individual portioned pouches, or spooned out from a group portion.
Like any technique or recipe to be used while camping, try out a new recipe or method at home first. It will enable you to make sure the preparation process – and taste – will work in your camp kitchen – and satisfy hungry campers. For this exercise in one-pot/one-pouch, understanding cooking/warm-up times helps make the campfire meal go with fewer hitches or delays.
You don’t have to use any special boiling pouches, either. The thicker, sturdier “freezer”strength bags work well for this style of cooking. Obviously keeping the outside of the pouch clean and being careful not to let the bag come in contact with the exterior of the hot pot is critical to your success. Bon Appetite cuisinier extérieur!