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Cooking Fish - Ultralight Style
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Justin Gunn
(biggunn) - F
Cooking Fish - Ultralight Style on 02/17/2005 14:40:13 MST Print View

What does your UL mess kit include when you plan on eating fresh fish in the backcountry? What are your favorite techniques for cleaning, seasoning, and cooking your catch?

Justin Gunn
(biggunn) - F
How best to prepare my catch? on 02/17/2005 14:56:41 MST Print View

I'm interested in incorporating a lightweight fly rod and reel into my kit for use along the JMT and elsewhere. I'm curious to know what else I'll need to bring in order to suppliment my menu with some fresh fish.

For instance, will I need to bring a lightweight frying pan in addition to my 600 ml mug? Or, what's the best way to prepare the fish in foil over a fire? Then again, most parks do not allow open fires, so is there a way to do it with an alcahol stove?

Also, what is the best method for cleaning the fish? Does anyone have a favorite knife to use? What should I bring in the way of seasoning? What other considerations should be taken in bear country?

Keeping the ultralight ethic in mind, what would be the bare bones (pun intended) additions to my kit in order to enjoy fresh fish in the backcountry. The last thing I want to do after spending several years learning to lighten my load, is have to lug around a whole new mess of heavy gear in order to incorporate the catching and eating of fish into my trekking adventures.

I know I have an awful lot of questions, but I know you all have a lot of great insights. What do you think?

Nicholas Pandiscio
(npandiscio) - F
Cooking Fish on 02/23/2005 08:36:14 MST Print View

I've never cooked fish over a backpacking stove before. When I am planning on fishing on a backpacking trip, I generally do it in an area where fires are allowed.

My favorite way to cook trout is to gut it and leave it whole (filets waste too much good meat.) Then I usually rub the inside with a little olive oil (from an eye drop bottle) and a bit of salt and cayenne pepper. Then I stuff the cavity with a generous mixture of dried onions and parsley, which I soak in water ahead of time to reconstitute. I sprinkle more cayenne pepper on the outside of the fish, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes over a small campfie (flipping it regularly so it cooks evenly and doesn't burn.)

If you make a fire, you can minimize impact by using small twigs no bigger than a pencil for fuel. Allow these to burn completely to ash, then douse with water and wait a while to make sure it is out before scattering the ashes.

joe forte
(jforte5650) - F
sounds good on 02/23/2005 12:34:16 MST Print View

I agree with cooking trout whole... a very easy way to cook it, and eliminates the need to bring a filet knife. You can clean a trout with just a 2" pen knife. My recipie includes butter, lemon juice, and oregano. Lets keep this going.... I'd like to hear more!

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Baking trout over an alcohol stove on 02/23/2005 13:09:10 MST Print View

If a fire is allowed I just season the trout and broil it using a light weight telescoping aluminum back packer’s grill.

Frying fish requires not only the frying pan you mentioned, but also a significant amount of oil or grease for each meal. The oil is not only heavy to carry, it is difficult to clean up, and it is hard to dispose of.

A much quicker, lighter, cleaner, and bear-proof method is to bake your trout, using a BakePacker Ultra-light (4 oz) , a 6” diameter, 2-quart titanium or aluminum kettle (7.3 oz for aluminum), and the alcohol stove you mentioned. See

Place 1-2 trout in a 1-gallon Glad Food Storage Bag and bake. This solution will add a few oz to your gear, but will also allow you to augment your camp fare with a large range of other baked goods in addition to fresh fish. It bakes up to 1 1/2 cup dry mix which serves 1-2 people.

The fresh trout or game fish recommended for this device is as follows:

1 tsp. flour
2 T butter
1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
2 small trout, cleaned, remove heads (1 pound)
3 lemon slices
Optional: 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Add teaspoon flour to bag. Shake and coat. Arrange open bag over grid. Salt and pepper inside of fish (also garlic powder). Sprinkle small amount of parsley inside fish. Add fish to bag (one layer). Sprinkle with remaining parsley and dot with butter. Add lemon slices. Close bag. Boil/Bake for12 minutes.

Any small pocket knife or Leatherman is adequate to clean a trout. I use a small Swiss Army knife blade. Reference the URL for cleaning instructions with pictures.

In bear country merely place the used Storage Bag, you cooked the fish in, plus bones in an odor proof zip-lock bag until you can dispose of it or bury it away from where you are camping.

Justin Gunn
(biggunn) - F
Great info, everyone! on 02/25/2005 19:56:38 MST Print View

Terrific. Now we're talkin' fish! I'm curious, though, about the last post. When you mentioned "bake or boil," did you mean that you can simply boil the fish in a bag? If so, then a slightly larger pot would do the trick. The question then, of course, is for how long must one boil the fish, as an alcahol stove can only sustain a boil for so long. I'd guess a canister would be better in that case. That is, if you can boil the fish in the first place.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Bake not boil on 02/26/2005 20:49:50 MST Print View

The fish are baked, not boiled, using the procedure I mentioned. They are much more moist when cooked than if done in a conventional baking oven and hence the confusing term “bake/boil” was used.

For the best baking efficiency and least weight to carry, use a pot that is approximately 6 inches in diameter or slightly larger. The lowest weight is achieved using a titanium pot (less than 6 oz and $44.95) such as the Evernew Nonstick Titanium Pot - 1.3 Liter, I use a slightly heavier aluminum pot that is exactly 6 inches in inner diameter and weighs 7.3 oz, but only costs $10.95. This same pot is also used for other cooking. You can see the pot that I use at

It only takes 12 minutes to bake two small trout. The 12 minutes occurs after the 1” of water, covering the BakePacker, starts to boil. This amount of time should be achievable with one filling of your alcohol stove. If not, boil the water with the Bakepacker in the bottom of the pot. Add the bag, with the fish in it, add additional alcohol and then run your stove for another 12 minutes.

You can eat the fish in the bag and not have dinner dishes to clean. I don't think that the solution can get lighter or easier than this for areas where fires aren't feasible.

Edited by richard295 on 02/26/2005 21:13:08 MST.

Troy Baker
(tjbst47) - F
trout on 03/29/2005 21:05:11 MST Print View

I gut the fish with a blade on a small leatherman, which by the way, the pliers are really handy for removing hooks. Also, if I catch a fish I might want to eat later, I cut some fishing line and string it through the gills and tie it to a branch. That way, if I catch a bigger one, I can release the other one without much harm. To cook it, I just put it in my 0.9L pot with a little water and I find it quite tasty without anything added. If you have time on the JMT, you should drop down to the Kern River near Kern Hot Spring for some great fishing. Artificial lures only, spinners work great. Its one of my favorite spots, maybe I'll see there.

Randall Miller
(speyguy) - F

Locale: Cascadia
grilling trout on 04/27/2005 20:14:15 MDT Print View

I use to always cook my fish in foil with some lemon pepper. Over the years, I found that I enjoy my trout grilled. I like to see the outside skin get nice and crispy. The foil technique works great but the fishes own moisture tends to steam the fish as opposed to a baked method. A small piece of chicken wire is very light weight and makes a good ultralight grill. I'd like to know more about Richards method mentioned above but I'm confused on how the baking works with the water.

Cooking Fish - Ultralight Style on 04/27/2005 21:34:26 MDT Print View

Gut the fish. Leave the head on.
Take a stick and put it through the fish's mouth and into the tail. Then you can roast/grill your fish. You can burn the stick when you are done.

not baked, poached on 04/28/2005 00:58:18 MDT Print View

I believe the correct term for "baking" in water (it's not baking) is 'poached' - not to be confused with illegal acquisition of game.

bake vs. poach. on 04/28/2005 04:36:46 MDT Print View

Perhaps "baking" is the correct term if the fish is NOT directly immersed in the water? If the fish IS in direct contact with the water, then perhaps "poaching" is a better term. Not sure if it's cooking temp related, or the distinction is direct CONTACT with water. Better yet, perhaps "steaming"?


"Poaching (cooking)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Poaching is the process of gently simmering food in liquid, generally water, stock or wine.

Poaching is particularly suitable for fragile food, such as eggs, poultry, fish and fruit, which might easily fall apart or dry out. For this reason, it is important to keep the heat low and to keep the poaching time to a bare minimum, which will also preserve the flavour of the food.

Eggs are generally poached in water, fish in white wine, poultry in stock and fruit in red wine."


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Baking is the technique of cooking food in an oven by dry heat applied evenly throughout the oven."


Since the heat is relatively dry (a sealed bag with the only moisture coming from the food being cooked), perhaps "steaming" is a better term?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Steaming is cooking by steam.

Steaming is a preferred cooking method of health conscious individuals because no cooking oil is needed, resulting in a lower fat content. Steaming also results in a more nutritious food than boiling because fewer nutrients are destroyed or leached away into the water."

Does it really matter if it tastes great & it's more difficult for bears to catch the scent of?

Great Idea, Richard!!

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
bake vs. poach on 04/29/2005 02:22:20 MDT Print View

I own a bakepacker and am very pleased with it. The instructions say that:

"The BakePacker is not a steamer. Each small compartment of the aluminum grid functions as a self-contained heat exchanger. When the water in these compartments is boiled, the rate of heat transfer from the water to the plastic is very high. Higher, in fact, than a steamer, double boiler or an open pot of boiling water. Thermal engineers refer to this phenomenon as 'the heat pipe phenomenon.' The ability to transfer very large quantities of heat with small temperature differences is the main feature characterizing the heat pipe. The Bakepacker, then is a cluster of heat pipes that move large amounts of heat at a relatively low temperature (212 degrees F at sea level). The net result is that you, the camp chef, can now bake many things including cakes, muffins and quickbreads in a simple cook-pot."

So they claim that the heat is from the alumimum grid, technically a dry souce of heat. Whether this is what actually happens is anyone's guess. I can tell you that the results are often light and fluffy, but without a crust (like eating just the inside of a pancake).

I made an even lighter bakepacker using the bottom of a pie tin, with holes punched every 1/2". I lay this on top of 2 Z-shaped aluminum strips 1" wide on their side (creating stability and the so-called heat pipes). I have found the results to be identical for baking. And I shaved 3 1/2 oz, and it all folds flat at the bottom of my pot, creating much more useable storage space.

Since my custom setup has far fewer 'heat pipes', I am inclined to beleive that I'm just steaming the stuff.

Edited by jcarter1 on 04/29/2005 02:24:24 MDT.

steam vs. bake (or is it bake vs. steam?) on 04/29/2005 03:42:47 MDT Print View

For the purposes of this thread's recent discussion only:

You're baking IF the water vapor content (steam) of the food is escaping.

Yes, frying, roasting, broiling, grilling all allow steam to escape, but those cooking methods are beyond the scope of this thread's recent discussion.

You're steaming IF the water vapor content (steam) of the food is trapped or contained in contact, or in the same "air" space as the food.

So, if the food is contained in a pot or plastic bag, or a bowl with plastic wrap sealing it, for example, and little or no steam is allowed to escape from the bag, then you're steaming. It's a simple as that.

Temperature is NOT the issue. A pressure cooker is steaming the food at elevated temperatures depending upon the pressure.

Corinne Retzignac
(coriretz) - F
cooking and cleaning fish on 05/10/2005 04:43:53 MDT Print View

Hey Justin.
I'm not a light backpacker, but I can definitely tell you how to prepare: find the fish's hole (near the tail), slit up to the gills, wash it all out, gills included. Best to do it as soon as the fish is dead or you get a nasty musty smell to your fish. AS for cooking it, if it's trout or salmon you can cut it up and steam it in your Snowpeak 600 titanium mug. As for seasoning, you can pick up some "Adobo" (latin american) seasoning. Yum yum. By the way, this is Corinne ( Drop me a note with your new address, punk. ;-)

David Ambrose
(FlyingCoyote) - F
Re: How best to prepare my catch? on 07/01/2005 09:51:18 MDT Print View

Great thread, everyone. Lots of tasty info.

I have some questions to add to the mix...

I'm a newbie fisherman (used to fish when I was young and only recently picked it back up, for backcountry meals... so please forgive me if I'm totally missing the obvious here) How do you scale your fish, or do you? I read recently an article that mentioned packing mud around your fish and laying it in your campfire coals to cook. When you crack off the dried mud, the scales fall off with it. I haven't tried it yet though.

Also, how small is the trout you'd toss back without even considering it as part of the meal?

Todd Homchick
(upricon) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Mountains
Re: Baking trout over an alcohol stove on 08/17/2005 15:41:45 MDT Print View

Richard's the man. I too use a Bakepacker. Remove the outer ring to lighten it up even more. Best part, keeps everything real clean. I just stuff the Trout's cavity with a clove of garlic, dried herbs, some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Jason Smith
(JasonS) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Poaching with a cozy on 08/17/2005 16:40:24 MDT Print View

I am very new to fishing and was wondering if individual here thought it would be possible to poach fish using a freezer bag and a pouch cozy. Basically get the pot up to boiiling, add fish, then pour both into bag and seal up the cozy.

William Stoddard
(mstoddard) - F
cooking fish on 08/17/2005 20:04:30 MDT Print View

Reynolds Wrap has a foil out named "Release". It is treated on one side with a no-stick surface, and it works well in grilling fish. Lemon pepper seasoning, with paprika or Old Bay seasoning, a few slivered almonds or pecans, and the fish will be memorable meal.

Brian Schroeder
(Endoverend) - F
Another (untried) idea on 08/26/2005 10:28:23 MDT Print View

First I should say that I own a Bakebacker and have generally been pleased with the results. I do wonder about the health aspects of eating something that has been cooked in plastic that has been heated... it is hard for me to imagine that at least some nasty volatiles must get into your food..... I try not to cook in aluminum for similar reasons, but do wrap things in aluminum foil, believing it might be the lesser of two evils.... besides I don't like the skin of trout so I am at least not eating the part of the trout that is in contact with the aluminum.

So nere is an idea that I have not tried but I think would work..... Put some 1/2" to 3/4" sized stones inside your pot, covering the whole bottom. Then put water in to the level of the stones. Wrap your cleaned fish in foil with your favorite spices, lemon, onions, etc. as noted in some of the previous posts. Place on top of stones, cover with the pot lid and steam heat until done.

Advantages over Bakepacker: no plastic, cheaper, fits any size pot, lighter.

Anyone try this?