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Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work
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Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/25/2012 18:17:42 MST Print View

Hey friends,
On my last BP trip I actually finally went whole-hog and bought a food dehydrator. Followed some great recipes, packaged everything out, and felt very accomplished. I was looking forward to some great new eats on the trail.

I was using a Backcountry Boiler, which is of course not a device that can cook or simmer anything, but can only boil water. So, I boiled up an amount of water that seemed useful, eyeball'd the amount to pour into my freezer bag full of dried dinner, stuck it all inside my cozy ... and then waited and hoped.

The results were less than encouraging. Sometimes the amount was spot-on, and the food was great. Other times the meal took so long to adequately rehydrate that it was half-cold by the time I could eat it. Other times there wasn't enough water, so I had to boil up some more -- but I was hungry! Other times, I put in too much water, so of course ended up with a hot soupy meal where a firm one was expected.

Okay, so all this was understandable. Certainly I could have taken the time to measure out my portions more precisely (by weight I presume) and also to measure out particular volumes of water to put into each meal.

My question: is that what's required to make the FBC method actually work?

If not, then someone needs to offer their wisdom to me. How do you actually end up with food that's properly heated and rehydrated without controlling carefully for food mass and water volume? And if you do have to do that ... is it not a pain in the butt?

After I got off-trail, I spent a couple days in a hotel-like setting and had access to a conventional stove. Of course I ate through the rest of my FBC meals, and predictably had great success using the boil-and-then-simmer method (BaS): adding water, boiling, and then simmering until all the water was gone, and the food was properly rehydrated.

The BaS method, though, is more fuel-intensive and water-wasteful (at least slightly), and most importantly it requires a completely different stove device than what I presently have at my disposal. It would require obviously a 'real' cookpot of some kind, and likely then I'd add an Alc stove with a limiter of some kind.

But I don't want to do that, if there's some simple way for me to make my Backcountry Boiler handle the job. I really like this little piece of gear. I just need someone to clear up for me how to make the FBC method actually cooperate.

All make sense? Help me out someone.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/25/2012 18:43:06 MST Print View

With the gear you have, either do more careful measuring, following precisely recipes already tested, get a lot more experience doing FBC meals so your "intuitive" guesses become more accurate, or just accept that your meals will be less than ideal.

Or get a different stove/pot combo.

Using published, tested meals combined with measured ingredients is probably the best way to go.

And if you don't have one, get a cozy so the long soaks don't lose as much heat.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work" on 11/25/2012 18:53:01 MST Print View

Whar Steve said - Keep doing it and you'll get the hang of it.

Also, I always bring dehydrated mashed potatoes anyway, you can add them to anything as a thickener. Tastes good too!

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: re: how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/25/2012 18:55:36 MST Print View

hike further or more days and you'll care less what is in the bag. you'll probably inhale it and wonder where there is more :) half cooked, overcooked and soupy.. 5-6 days in it won't matter

at least have some sort of measure in your pot or water container so you can at least adjust for next time.

another trick is to have some instant potatoes to add in to thicken things up if you use too much... which is a lot better than not enough

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
FB cooking on 11/25/2012 19:10:21 MST Print View

I always recommend trying out your food at home before hitting the trail. I hate the idea of expecting a good meal ending up having to force a less than tasty gruel down my throat. It agree with Stephen about the experience issue. I used to get anal about using the exact amount of water then I realized every dinner I have requires one to one and a half cups of water. With time it has become somewhat intuitive. I pour some water in the bag, squeeze it a bit to mix it up, add some more water or pour a little out when I occasionally miss the mark. A cozy is a must or at least a piece of clothing wrapped around the bag while it re-hydrates.
You do have to take care that everything you dehydrate should be cut or come in small enough pieces to make it work. Angel hair pasta will rehydrate a lot quicker than regular spaghetti for instance.
Keep experimenting and you'll soon get the hang of it.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: FB cooking on 11/25/2012 19:30:38 MST Print View

Thanks guys, that all sounds like wisdom. I guess the safe bet for starters would be the adding-too-much-water + using-mashed-potatoes-as-a-failsafe approach.

Good to be reassured.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: FB cooking on 11/25/2012 20:24:41 MST Print View

yea, at least with extra water things cook a lot better. not enough water it tends to be undercooked and harder to fix

water on 11/25/2012 20:30:08 MST Print View

I find it best when doing rehydration, as compared to real cooking, to ALWAYS only add 2/3 to 3/4 the amt of water the directions say. Noodles dont absorb as much at lower temp as when you are boiling them. Even for Mountain House meals , this usually works best. You can always add more later, but you cannot take it away.

When rehydrating plain pasta , before adding sauce ingredients, (ala Ramen or mac-n-cheese), plan to pour off excess water before adding sauce ingredients. I make coffee from the extra starchy-water.

But as pointed out, try as much out at home as you can.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/25/2012 20:35:18 MST Print View

There is a Food,Nutrition and hydration sub forum further down with loads of good tips and recepies.
A good start is to add about the same ammount of boiling water as you have in dry food.
If you can , soak meat and some hard veggies like beans an hour or more before "cooking"
Just enough water to soften them . Some use a small separate container loaded up at lunch time .
Adding insulation to your cozy can help a lot.
In my case because we don't have bears and the like I can just wrap around it some spare clothing or in winter my sleeping bag
Obviously you must make sure your bag is 100% watertight...
If animals are a problem then you can drop the cozy into an aLosak or similar , then wrap more insulation.
(cous cous is an easy no fuss base)

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/25/2012 21:37:06 MST Print View

Thanks for the tips everyone!

You mentioned rehydrating or pre-soaking meat or hard veggies -- how does one do this when using a boil-only cooking device like the BC Boiler mentioned in the OP? If I soak meat or beans, then what I end up with is softened meat and beans which are COLD, and with no way to warm them up except by adding hot water to them. Seems like the best that I could end up with would be very wet, lukewarm food after that.

... right?

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
re: Fbc on 11/25/2012 22:43:35 MST Print View

He means use some cold water for those items that take a long time. You then add those and the needed hot water when ready to make the whole meal later.

Another tip is to scratch half cup marks on the inside of your pot.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/25/2012 23:30:11 MST Print View

As others mentioned -- practice at home. Also I write on each bag how much water to add.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Time/weight/volume - how to make freezerbag cooking actually work on 11/26/2012 00:37:33 MST Print View

Yes ,Michael can read my mind
Some add baking soda to the water, that is a known (well to me...) tenderizer but apparently it robs meat and veggies of some nutrients.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
simmering with wood on 11/26/2012 04:50:58 MST Print View

If you want to use wood as a fuel source and would like to be able to simmer you could go to a Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri Stove System w/Inferno insert. With the pot it is about half the weight of your Boiler and much more flexible as it can use other fuels too.