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Experiment(s) With Knorr Side Dishes
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James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Experiment(s) With Knorr Side Dishes on 07/31/2010 08:46:21 MDT Print View

I manage to forget a lot of things learned from experience.

In preparation for my upcoming section hike of the AT, I was ruminating on wanting to extend my range of Knorr Side dishes cookec by the "dump boiling water into the bag and insert into cozy" approach. I had found that the best results previously were with bags labeled "Cooks in 7 minutes" or "8 minutes". So, I decided that the solution was a better heat retaining cozy. What I made was an Insul-Brite set of nested cozies.

I bought some "Cheddar Broccoli" pasta which has a 10 minute cooking time on the bag. I boiled up the water amount listed on the bag, dumped it in the bag and got it into the nested cozy setup.

After 23 minutes, the pasta was steaming, and pretty well cooked, but watery.

Then I began to vaguely remember that when cooking this way, one should use less water, maybe a half cup less than listed on the bag.

The experiment was to bring water in a pot to boil and then let it simmer for 8 minutes. Weighing the water before and after this simulation of conventional pot preparation, I found that the simmering time resulted in a loss of 3 1/2 ounces of water - just about a half of a cup.

In the sealed cozy setup, any vaporizing water is trapped inside the system.

So the reason for needing about a half cup less water for the boil - bag - cozy system seems to be that the standard kitchen pot recipe preparation boils off about a half cup of water.

I may try to look at extended cooking time dishes from the slower cooking kinetics associated with the boil-bag-cozy approach. A perfectly insulating cozy would tend to match the cooking times of the kitchen range top pot approach as listed on the bag.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Knorr on 08/03/2010 09:10:14 MDT Print View

James,
I'm interested to see more about how you use Knorr side dishes. do you boil them in standard ziplocs? Do you ever combine them with other ingredients? Do you use them as side dishes or do they pretty much make up the whole meal?

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Knorr on 08/03/2010 19:16:01 MDT Print View

I split the bags in half. I like the Mexican rice with a 3oz can of chicken thrown in. Then put in flour tortillas for fab on trail burritos.

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
Knorr Sides on 08/03/2010 22:37:07 MDT Print View

Funny how this came up. Last night I mixed up the Knorr Asian Chincken Fried Rice side as a taste experiment I've become a fan of the Knorr Sides in general. Those along with Santa Fe dehydrated bean, and Idaho instant potato concoctions make up all my evening meals. I make 3 meals out of 2 of the Knorr Sides and as Jim says you have to use less water. I only use the 7 minute simmer dishes. For me it just takes too long to cook any of the meals which call for longer than a 7 minute cooking times. Usually I add dehydrated or freeze dried meat to the mix and always dump in a 1/2 oz. of olive oil. Yes to the cozy though you could wrap the bag in a piece of clothing. I've made a number of cozies out of car windshield reflectors (lighter than reflectix) and incorporated some velcro dots to keep the cozy lid open while I eat out of the bag.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Agreed ... on 08/04/2010 08:28:38 MDT Print View

Agreed, less water when using in a FBC cozy. I ate a lot of Knorr sides this year on the AT --- yes, and Idahoan potatos and ramen, etc, and it's true for everything. Of course a person can repackage a Mountain house meal to eliminate the heavy, bulky, and sometimes sharp/pointy packaging; perhaps cut down the water a little less in that case as those are designed to be hydrated in essentially the FBC manner.

As an aside about cozies, I bought a cozy from Sarbar's site (http://www.trailcooking.com/store/cozies-and-accessories) before my PCT thru-hike in 2008 and have now used it continuously on two thru-hikes and it's still in fine condition. I just washed it yesterday after months of use and I'm sure it will hold up fine for the CDT next year. I don't see any point in making your own cozy unless you're incredibly cheap or just generally inclined to ...

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Agreed ... on 08/04/2010 13:17:57 MDT Print View

Brian..you bought one of the first runs :-) I still have the first one I sewed back in '07....and still use it!

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
Cozy on 08/04/2010 21:52:10 MDT Print View

Incredibly cheap? I take umbrage (though slight)! I accept the just generally inclined comment.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Knorr Sides disaster on 08/05/2010 00:35:58 MDT Print View

I tried a few, fetucini alfredo, mexican rice, chicken fetucini. Using about half the water recommended seemed about right when cooking fbc style. However, the noodles always came out super slimy and sticky and the rice always came out hard and over flavored. It was almost like fbc intensifies the flavors making everything seem too salty and rich. The Idahoan twice baked potatos came out right on but it was too rich to be eaten alone, i would need to combine them with sommething. getting close to my trips so i may have to give up and go with MH meals (again).

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Knorr Sides disaster on 08/05/2010 04:41:11 MDT Print View

> intensifies the flavors making everything seem too salty and rich.

You might find that the amount of salt and MSG is frightening. Their idea of 'what the average consumer wants'.

cheers

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Sodium on 08/05/2010 08:20:42 MDT Print View

Oh definitely....if you read how many servings are in a bag of taters or pasta it is scary. Kind of like realizing that a can of soup is "2" servings and each one is over 900 mgs of sodium!!!!

Sodium is one of the top reasons I make my own meals :-(

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Sodium on 08/05/2010 10:23:05 MDT Print View

Yeah, I grew up eating this kind of stuff. Spam, veggies from a can, rice a roni, etc. Now that I'm all growed up and am lucky enough to have a wife who cares enough to cook only wholesome fresh food, I cant stand this 'flavor and salt overload' anymore. Too bad I cant ask her to prepare some of the great recipes on your website, it's already enough trouble that I leave to hike so often. Back to the drawing board.

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
Salt/Knorr/Mountain House on 08/05/2010 13:24:58 MDT Print View

I noticed you used 1/2 the water called for with the Knorr sides. You might find that's the reason they didn't come out well and the flavor was so intense. If you go back to James original post he used 1/2 cup less than called for. I usually use 1/4 to 1/2 cup less.
I haven't been adding salt to my food for 20 years so I am fairly sensitive to it in food and haven't found the Knorr sides (the rice mixes) to taste overly salty. We are all different but I can't imagine the Mountain House meals work for you if your going by salt content. Their rice and chicken mix has 1080mg of sodium per serving. The Knorr sides have about half that amount per serving. For what it's worth look at the Mountain House info here.
http://www.mountainhouse.com/nutr.cfm

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Salt/Knorr/Mountain House on 08/05/2010 14:08:18 MDT Print View

Great topic. I always do boil and pour meals. For you nutritionists out there, is extra salt really bad for us given the amount of exertion?

For example after several days of desert hiking when it is relatively hot, when I get home my shirt is covered with a light salty crust from perspiration (often cannot afford the luxury of washing with water in the desert). This residue is salt/minerals. Also occasionally the heat will make feel a little weak and tired. Eating a few salty potato chips perks me back up to normal.

Thoughts aside from the fact that some people do not like the taste of the salt?

James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Cooking In The Korr Side Bag on 08/06/2010 20:36:09 MDT Print View

Adan, and others...

I cook the Korr dishes in the foil bag in which they are packaged. There is no freezer bag in this style.

I insert the Korr Side in a cozy and pour the boiling water into it, although I sometimes will only have the bag halfway into the bag while the water goes in.

When I used just a single cozy made from Insul Brite, I found that I could cook a 7 or 8 minute Korr Side dish nicely in a cozy but I had to allow it to sit in for something like 11 to 15 minutes. I also had to use less water.

The reason for less water is that the 7 or 8 minute stovetop simmer in the recipe on the package involved simmering loss of nearly 1/2 cup of water. When the package and cozy are closed up, there is no such water loss and as a result, if you used the full recipe amount (roughly 2 cups of liquid) you would get a wet soupy product.

Cooking is a thermally activated kinetic process. So, if the water temperature is reduced, it takes longer to cook.

In the cozy method of cooking, the boiling water cools somewhat from heating up the room temperature ingredients in the Korr Side bag. So, the cooking time must be extended to account for this.

In addition, the Cozy temperature is dropping because the cozy isn't a perfect insulator, and some heat diffuses through the cozy. So, it cools. And this too means that you have to add more cooking time in order for the (partly) cooked initial ingredients (mostly rice or pasta)to finish cooking.

If you use just a single cozy of the Insul Brite kind, it is nearly hopeless to try to cook a 12 minute Korr Side product because the time and temperature needed are almost not obtainable in a cozy because the heat leaks out with time, and you eventually reach a point where virtually no cooking is going on because the water temperature had dropped too much in the cozy.

By doubling the cozy thickness by nesting two of them, theory has it that you should be able to cook a 10 or 12 minute Korr Side dish by reducing the amount of water even more than for the 7 or 8 minute dishes (because the package recipe includes the amount of water that will simmer away in 10 or 12 minutes). Of course, the temperature still drops on heating up the room temperature ingredients and the temperature still drops from thermal conduction through the cozy, so you will have to use more cozy time for cooking than the stovetop time on the package.

I didn't repeat the experiment on 10 and 12 minute dishes, so other than the time I listed initially, I have no new information to give.

1) Too much water = soupy final dish

2) Not enough "cozy time" = undercooked with crunchies.

3) Poor insulation for a long cook dish = not a good dinner.

If you do freezer bag cooking, following the good Sarah, and use instant rice (which is precooked and subsequently dehydrated) or use cooked pasta and dehydrate it-- then the "cozy time" is way down to 5 or 10 minutes. Just follow her instructions in her excellent book and website. A single cozy is more than adequate for doing the style advocated by Sarah.

I often add foil packed meat (salmon, tuna, chicken, bacon, ham, dried beef,...)to the Korr package, and sometimes add dehydrated vegetables. Some of the commercial vegetables were dehydrated raw, and those kind of green beans will be a little "stringy" as they didn't fully cook in the time and temperatures inside the cozy.

If I dehydrate green beans, I buy frozen beans and microwave the whole bag according to instructions and then dehydrate the cooked product. Adding these to a Koor dish perks it up quite a bit.

I was primarily interested in finding out how to "cozy cook" those long cook Korr dishes that require 10 to 12 minutes of stovetop simmering. I have decided that there are so many great 7 and 8 minute Korr dishes available, that the gains from extra efficient cozies to fully cook these dishes isn't any longer a high priority for me. I can do it, but do I really need that particular variety in meal selection?

Edited by rocketman on 08/06/2010 20:37:25 MDT.