The big problem with tin cans is the weight.
I'm not suggesting you load down your pack with canned goods. Obviously you can carry more dehydrated food than you can canned goods. But you still have to carry some sort of pots and pans with you for cooking stuff. The advantage of tossing in a few cans is that they come with their own cooking pots. All you need is a pocketknife, open fire, stick, a piece of wire and a can of beans.
I choose beans for my standard take-along canned goods because I like to eat beans out of door. Out of doors is, after all, the best place to be if you're eating beans. If you've ever seen the movie, “Blazing Saddles” you know what I'm talking about.
You can get all sorts of varieties of beans nowadays. Beyond standard pork n' beans, you can buy everything from barbecued beans to vegetarian beans, beanie weenies, black beans, Navy beans, pinto beans and dozens of other types. If you want a hot, satisfying meal in just a few minutes, I highly recommend taking along a can of beans.
What You Need to Do to Cook Beans In a Can:
|Small fires are better for cooking.|
Build a small fire – nothing more than about a foot in diameter. You should be able to sit close to it. If you build a huge roaring fire for cooking, you'll wind up incinerating your lunch, burning off your eyebrows and roasting your fingertips, nose and any other protruding body parts. Build small for cooking. It's easier to control the temperature if you can get close to a low fire.
Do Your Pocketknife Work:
Make Your Bail:
Prepare to Cook:
Hang your tin can billy in the notch of the stick. Get close to the fire and dangle the billy over the fire. Don't cook over the highest part of the fire. Choose a place where the flames are low. Over coals is even better. If you're lazy, you can hang the billy in the center of the stick, drive a couple of forked sticks into the ground on either side of the fire and hang the billy so it dangles over a good cooking spot. This arrangement is called a cooking spit. If you want to impress a group of kids you're camping with, make one of these.
Since you don't want to litter the wilderness with your old cans, consider hanging the billy from your pack and reusing it for cooking later. Eat your beans or ravioli or spaghetti-o's early in the trip so you'll have the billy for boiling dehydrated stuff, boiling Ramen noodles or making mac & cheese. Then you save the weight of a cooking pot. You can even shove a raw potato into your can and half bury it in hot coals to bake the potato. When your potato is ready, you can, unlike with aluminum foil, use a stick pluck the billy and potato out of the coals by the bail, thereby protecting your fingers from being singed and avoiding dropping your potato into the flames accidentally. Don't forget to use a pot holder when handling the hot can or bail.
Camp food can get kind of boring and a few cans tucked into your pack can give you a nice treat to look forward to and help lift the morale of your group. I like to take along a can of vegetarian hot dogs. If you don't have space for nice fluffy hot dog buns, toss in a Ziplock ™ bag full of flour tortillas. Take along foil packets of ketchup, mayo and mustard for condiments. You can even get pickle relish in little packets. They pack easily and you only open what you use, so no refrigeration is necessary.
Trust me – a few cans of favorite foods are well worth the weight and cooking with a tin can billy is good retro camping fun! Your kids will think you're a genuine mountain man and a camping genius.
Joy of Camping: Campfire Recipes
Cooking in the Can by Kate White, Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2006
#1 Some rights reserved by emmaheff
#2 Some rights reserved by kalleboo
Illustrations (c) 2012 by Tom King - All rights reserved