How to cook over an open flame if you have no equipment

Doug Williams
 

You are off on an adventure into the wilderness – a getaway from everything – and you can hardly wait!  You have planned everything down to the last detail, packed everything you need, and are well prepared for any emergencies. But are you?

 

The second day into your adventure, having by now already depleted the ready-prepared meals, you search for your cooking equipment. You are keen to cook that wonderful fish you managed to catch, only to find that that particular pack is not there!  Disaster has struck: how are you going to cook without fire-lighters, implements, grills, or pots?

How to light the fire?

Preparing a fire

Preparing a fire

Your first thought would probably be to light a fire. The firelighters were, of course, also in the forgotten pack. But never fear – everyone knows the technique for starting a fire without them.  First, take the time to collect a good stockpile of dry wood and suitable kindling. Find a suitable piece to use as a base (the fireboard) and a smooth stick about 2 feet long to use as a spindle.

It takes lots of effort and energy to roll the spindle stick continually and quickly in the groove cut on the fire board. Do so until it creates embers, which will what you use to ignite the kindling. The little flame needs to be carefully and gently tended slowly but surely until you have a fire merrily blazing.

What to use instead of pans?

By this time you are probably rather hungry, and the thought of cooked fish is tantalizing. How to proceed, though, without cooking equipment?  Luckily for you, there are quite a few methods of cooking without the use of grids, pans, kitchen utensils, and the like.

A great way to cook your catch

A great way to cook your catch

The simplest is to choose a suitable flat rock that you place on top of the coals or right beside the fire. Ensure it is a dry stone, for it will crack if it contains too much moisture. While the stone is heating up, find and gently wash some suitable leaves in water while preparing your fish. Neatly wrap up your fish in the leaves, and tie these “parcels” with wet twine or neatly tuck in the ends.

Place your little fish parcel on top of your nicely heated flat rock, turning it every now and again and ensuring that no flames reach it (meat can also be cooked in this way). You may prefer to carefully place your fish parcels onto the coals, or even underneath them, once again ensuring that there are no flames reaching your parcels, which would quickly burn them up. It will not take long before you have a nicely cooked piece of fish.

The plank method

A different way to cook your meat or fish is by using the plank method. Split a few pieces from a reasonably thick branch to make some planks. Soak these planks in water for at least an hour before using them, which should prevent them from going up in flames.  Place forked sticks in the ground at both ends of your fire and lay green saplings across them to make a platform, on which you place the split plank pieces, side by side, to create a cooking surface. Now you can cook away happily, but do keep watch to ensure that flames are kept low, or they may well engulf your meal.

Make your own utensils

So that your fingers and hands do not get burnt, you can make tongs and chopsticks by cutting and shaping suitably small branches. You can use these improvized utensils to turn over your fish parcels, remove coals from your parcels, hold your bread over the flames, and also for eating your meal.

Help yourself with some mud

A good way to cook is to use mud!  Mix fine mud mixed with fine sand. Once the food has been flavored and/or stuffed, wrap it in leaves and cover it with the clay. Let the clay “pot” rest in the sun for a while to allow hardening and for any excess moisture to drain off, then place it on or under the hot coals to cook. One could also cook vegetables by simply preparing them with the meat and also adding them to the pot. One can dig a pit, place coals at the bottom, pack the pot or pots onto these coals, then cover all items with soil, which creates a slow-cooking oven.

Get refreshed with some liquids

Should you fancy some coffee, theoretically it is possible to boil water in a paper cup, for water boils at a lower temperature than that required to burn the paper. One needs to ensure, however, that neither flames nor excessive heat make contact with any portion of the container above the waterline.  If you take care, it can be done.

Coffee by the fire

Coffee by the fire

For your breakfast, paper will also do, this time a paper bag. Line the base of the bag with bacon strips and break the egg on top of it. Roll up the unused part of the bag, pierce it with a stick which you use to carefully hold your breakfast packet about 8 inches above the coals. Within 10 minutes, your breakfast should be ready!

If you have an orange or a grapefruit with you, you could cut it in half and scoop out the flesh to make a useful little pot. While ideal for cooking an egg, you can cook virtually anything in this little pot by adding water if needed and placing it on or near hot coals. This type of pot will not last for too long, but you should be able to use it more than once.

Be careful with the fire

What initially seemed to be a disaster could very well turn out to be great fun.  Having to use the things found around you in nature and being forced to use your ingenuity will surely make the food taste better.

Open fire cooking – Yummy

Open fire cooking – Yummy

While using these new methods of cooking over an open fire, be constantly aware that fires can be dangerous. Ensure that someone is always keeping an eye on the fire, and be extra sure that your fire is completely extinguished after use. After all, you do not want to be responsible for starting a wildfire, do you?

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