Monday, October 22, 2012

Outdoor Cooking

Photo by @TammyLeaPhoto
I offer a word of caution when working around open flames. Be sure to have a fire extinguisher, water hose and shovel handy should the flames escape the pit. Carefully remove any hazards that may cause an individual to trip or fall in the pit area. Wear fire retardant clothing that will not combust if hit by an errant spark. NO FLEECE JACKETS! Heavy welding gloves are also invaluable. Lastly use your head and think, as there will always be unforeseen hazards. 

Those uninitiated with the art of cooking anything outside need to understand that cooking in this manner is an art form. Using a difficult to regulate heating source is a skill that I have honed over the years. Some of these acquired skills I would like to share in hopes that you pass this tradition on to your family and friends.

Maybe I am a bit of a caveman, but for me there is a primitive allure associated with cooking over the open flames of a wood fueled fire that cannot be duplicated by a kitchen stove or gas grill. It stirs something deep in my soul to gather firewood, build a fire pit and organize a strategy for the food preparation. Cooking outside for me is a labor of love, this is not LOW stress cooking this is NO stress cooking, a time for relaxation and reflection.

There are several good baked bean recipes out there in cyberspace and several I have mentioned in previous blog posts including: Hot and Spicy Baked Beans and Grandmas Bake Beans Enjoyed Outdoors. What I have not until NOW blogged in any previous post is my Grandmother’s actual award winning bake bean recipe. After much consideration, I have decided that I should share so everyone can enjoy it, after all, I know Grandma would have wanted I that way.

The secret to making great baked beans on a fire pit is time and temperature. Beans cook best with a slow, constant temperature . . . not necessarily an easy task over an open fire. With practice, however, even a novice will quickly learn to tame a raging fire and make it into a valuable cooking tool. Hmmm, I think I smell future blog post. 

Grandma’s Baked Beans
2 Pounds of Kidney Beans
4 Cups of Water
2/3 Cup of Molasses
1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Large Vidalia Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Packages of Salt Pork
2 tbsp. Prepared Mustard 

Put all ingredients in a Dutch oven and slow cook for 3-4 hours.

- Soak and par-boil baked beans ahead of time. They can be frozen as well if needed.
- Adjust fire to simmer the beans and make sure they do not boil over
- For a “kick” add 1 ½ Cups of “Sweet Baby Rays” BBQ Sauce and 6 tbsp. of finely chopped chipotle chilies
- Stir and monitor bean frequently
- Monitor bean doneness by checking the consistency of the bean about every ½ hour. Beans should be soft but not to soft.
When the beans are about 45 minutes from being done, you should start preparing the bread.

Bannock Bread 
1 Cup White Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 cup Dry Milk Powder
1 tbsp. Shortening
1/2 Cup Water

Put all ingredients in a 1 quart Ziploc bag and mix until no longer lumpy. Use a knife or scissors to cut out one corner of the Ziploc bag and squeeze the bag contents into a frying pan. Spread evenly with spoon.

- Try adding ¼ tsp. Sugar
- Coat your pan with olive oil or cooking spray for a non-stick surface
- Add water SLOWLY! Sometimes 1/2 cups is a little too much!
There is of course nothing better than washing down a hardy meal with a steaming cup of Maine guide coffee.


  1. We cook over the open flame often, and there is nothing more delicious than meals cooked this way! After long hikes, I like returning to the campsite for my hubby's babyback ribs (but I confess--he has the art; mine is devloping!). The campfire offers a delicious smoky flavor to all foods. Nice post, Steve!

    1. One of my favorite things to try when cooking outside is experimenting with different hardwoods and how they add flavor to what it is I am cooking. Hickory is an all time favorite for steaks and ribs while cedar is great for salmon and trout! Its always fun to try new things! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! That means A LOT coming from someone as talented as you are with the outdoor cooking! When you become a famous network food star you need to have me as a guest!!! :)

  3. "Maybe I am a bit of a caveman, but for me there is a primitive allure associated with cooking over the open flames of a wood fueled fire that cannot be duplicated by a kitchen stove or gas grill."

    Man, I agree! Every now and then, I'll try something a bit more modern like an ultralight stove, and it just doesn't measure up. Flavor, the experience - you lose it when you skip cooking over the fire outside.

    1. Our society, comes home from work and throws a hungry man dinner into the oven. We seem to have lost a connection with our food sources from the harvesting of he animal and all the way through to its preparation and cooking. For me, I always try and make time to cook over open flames . . . somethings are just worth the investment of time! Thanks for commenting!

  4. I thought you always said 4 cans of PBR tall boys, not 4 cups of water for your grandmother's bean recipe...

    Just because it is your website doesn't mean you can lie about important things like baked beans.

    1. HAHAHA! Shhhhhhh, don't give away ALL of Grammie's secrets! You boys from DownEast just can't be trusted!

  5. For several years, we would go on camping trips with a group of friends - most of whom would bring all sorts of camping "equipment." The one I never understood was the campstove. Seems to me, that the whole reason we go camping is to simplify things, at least for a bit, and what's more simple than cooking on a wood fire? I can see some benefit to having the camp stove - like if it's raining, but for most of the time, it just seemed to take something out of the experience to not cook over an open fire ;). We'd always be the weirdos who took two hours to cook a meal, because all of our meals were cooked over an open fire ;). But that's part of camping, too, right? Slowing down and not needing to hurry through the day. Long meal preps are a great way to enjoy a slower life, I think.

    1. WENDY! Long time no talk! Tell your hubbin his wood is rottin! LOL! Have him drop me a line if he is still thinking he might want it.

      I agree, nothing more simple than cooking over an open fire IF you got the time. The trick is getting people to slow down for long enough to cook them that MEAL! I remember on my visits to Australia, Europe and S. American that meals took HOURS to eat. Isn't that the way it should be?!?!?

      FYI, I mentioned your book in my "Christmas Gifts for Outdoorsman" a few weeks ago! Hope it drove some traffic your way!


  6. Stephen wells10/26/12, 9:55 AM

    Thanks for the great website and information. I sit for my Rec Guide license next week and I have found much useful information from your postings.

    1. Excellent! Glad that you found the site helpful! Good luck on your Rec. Guide License I am sure you will do great . . . just make sure to exude confidence in everything you say . . . ultimately that is what they are looking for in a guide! Drop me an e-mail when you get your License!


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