The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)

Part II. Bushcraft Cooking Methods

Chapter 5. Cooking in the Wild

“There is no technique, there is just the way to do it. Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?”

—Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

When I’m in camp, I don’t necessarily break out a recipe book in order to make some tasty rabbit stew. I just use what I have on hand. So don’t think you have to follow my recipes exactly or use the same ingredients I use. Think of the recipes in this book as a guide, not a rule. Here are some of my most important tips about cooking in the wild:

·        Recipes are interchangeable. If you have a recipe you like for cooking red meat, then you can use it to cook raccoon.

·        Think of opossum as pork. Whatever you do with that white meat, you can do with opossum.

·        You can treat birds like chicken or turkey. If you’ve got a favorite chicken recipe, it’ll probably work on a duck, too.

Chuck Box Contents

The chuck box is your kitchen cabinet in the woods and is also your storage for these items when not in use. They have been known to Scouts for years as the patrol box and have also been called the grub box. This, along with the hearth, is the center of the camp cook’s operations. This box was traditionally made from wood and is divided into smaller storage areas, sometimes with sliding boxes to be used as drawers when stood on end. Many of these boxes have folding or detachable legs to get them up higher for comfort in working, and the lid folds down to function as a work surface. See Figure 5.1.

9781440598524 Chuck bo

Figure 5.1 Chuck box

Containers and Serving Ware

·        Dutch oven. A 2-quart version will feed 2 people.

·        Steel skillet. An 8" will be good for 2 people; add 2" per person.

·        Water container. This can be a canvas bucket to save space and should be at least 1 gallon per person.

·        Measuring cup. This can be a dedicated device or improvised from your personal kit if graduations are on your cup or it is exactly 8 or 16 ounces.

·        For serving, personal vessels can be used from backpacks or you can keep 1 small cup, bowl, and plate for each in the camp party.

·        Eating utensils. Each member of the party should have a fork and spoon; these can be individually carried or kept as part of the chuck box.

Cook Utensils

If you are using cast-iron cookware, be sure to use wooden utensils, not metal, as metal can scratch the cast iron.

·        Stirring spoon

·        Serving spoon

·        Spatula

·        Whisk

·        Camp knife

·        Oven mitt

·        Ladle


·        Cutting board

·        Leather gloves

·        Lid lifter for the Dutch oven

·        Trivet (a 6" version works well for most needs)

·        Marinade syringe

·        Natural bristle scrub brush

Foodstuffs for the Chuck Box

Most of the things I carry on the trail for quick cooking are in dry form. This saves water weight in the pack, and then water is added from a more localized source.

·        I always carry beef and chicken bouillon powder. It’s light and adds great flavor to soups and stews.

·        Stews and gravies can be thickened using potatoes, evaporated milk, or powdered eggs. Be flexible; if you don’t plan to use evaporated milk for other cooking, then don’t bring it. Plan on using potatoes or powdered eggs in your stews instead.

·        Self-rising flour should always be carried as this avoids the need for yeast.

·        A seasoning mix or Old Bay can be used as a replacement for any other series of spices and even for plain salt. It also works for making jerky and for smoking meats, so it is a good resource to carry.

·        Animal fats can be used to replace oils and lard. Remember that the fat of wild game will be similar to another animal of the same meat coloration, so opossum is most similar to suet and deer and raccoon are similar to lard.

Common Substitutions

If a recipe calls for an ingredient you don’t have with you, you may be able to find a reasonable substitute in your pack or in the environment around you. For example, chicory or roasted dandelion root can be steeped to make a good coffee substitute.

Simple Ingredient Substitutions




Beef or chicken broth

1 cup

1 tablespoon soy sauce + 1 cup water less 1 tablespoon


Any amount

Cheeses with similar texture and moisture content like Cheddar, Colby, and Monterey jack can be used interchangeably, as can cheeses like Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano



1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (1 square) is equivalent to 1⁄4 cup cocoa powder; 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips is equal to 1 cup other flavored chips or 1 cup chopped nuts or 1 cup dried fruit

Cream of . . . soup

1 can

Any cream of . . . soup can be interchanged—cream of mushroom can be substituted for cream of celery; cream of chicken can be used in place of cream of mushroom, etc.

Corn syrup

1 cup

11⁄4 cups granulated sugar plus 1⁄3 cup water; or 1 cup honey

Dried fruit

Any amount

Raisins, dried currants, dried cranberries, and pitted prunes can be used interchangeably


1 whole egg (about 3 tablespoons)

21⁄2 tablespoons powdered egg plus 21⁄2 tablespoons water; or 3 tablespoons mayonnaise


1⁄2 cup

1⁄2 cup butter is equivalent to 1⁄2 cup less 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or 1⁄2 cup shortening or lard

Flour, self-rising

1 cup

7⁄8 cup all-purpose flour plus 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt


Any amount (cooked)

White rice, brown rice, wild rice, barley, and bulgur can all be used interchangeably



1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs is equivalent to 2 teaspoons dried herbs


1 cup

11⁄4 cups granulated sugar plus 1⁄3 cup water


Any amount

Substitute the same amount of water or juice


Any amount

Most nuts are interchangeable in recipes

Oils for baking

Any amount

Any equivalent amount of fruit purée, such as applesauce

Oils for frying

Any amount

Any equivalent amount of lard or shortening


Any amount

Green onion, chopped leek, chopped shallots, or regular onion can be used interchangeably

Sugar, granulated

1 cup

1 cup brown sugar or 11⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar or 3⁄4 cup honey or 3⁄4 cup corn syrup


1 teaspoon

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

Tips and Tricks

·        If you have room in your pack, aluminum foil is a handy item to have along. Wrap some leftovers in it, place in hot coals, and in 15 minutes you’ve got a nice warm meal.

·        Use disposable water bottles to carry liquids, like vegetable oil. For smaller amounts of liquid, use the small plastic containers meant for carrying on shampoo and soap. These are readily available at drugstores.

·        Test out recipes and substitutions at home before hitting the trail. This can help you make adjustments before you leave.

·        For shorter trips, consider packing premeasured ingredients for each meal in a storage bag. This simplifies the cooking process, and you won’t have to pack in measuring cups and spoons.

·        If you camp a lot, dehydrating food at home can help you save on weight and bulk.