Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Thoughts on no-cook food
Display Avatars Sort By:
Nall Fnk
(nfink) - F
Thoughts on no-cook food on 06/02/2007 11:48:54 MDT Print View

Over a winter of working outside, I have started to develop methods to phase out the need for a fire or stove. I discovered my body has a built in microwave that operates while I am hiking. Okay, so this is not particularly new technology, but I’m working on better ways to utilize it.
Here’s an example of a typical recipe:
At home, pre-cook quesadillas. Don’t get overzealous with the nice fatty cheese – keep them thin, and cut them into small pieces. Arrange in packaging to maximize surface area.
When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 37C climbing some fun hills. Put the package against the skin of your lower back, tucked under your waistband and insulated by your pack. Bake for ten minutes at an average hiking pace, turning once.
To consume, only take out one piece at a time and keep the package warm against your body. When eaten this way, the food stays about as warm as it usually is when eaten at home.
Personally, I see little advantage in heating foods above body temperature anyway. True, they will not warm you up in the same way, but adequate and thoughtful use of insulation should negate the need for that. What’s important to me is that it does not make you cold or lower morale, and I find a piece of food at body temperature just as satisfying as one above.

Obviously this does not work for meals that require water. I do still miss soup because the volume of water tricks me into thinking I have consumed a lot more than I really have, but just keeping well hydrated, even on cold water, while hiking and active can keep me feeling full and happy. And when on nice, warm sunny days I can still eat my powdered milk muesli in a bag.

This style of “cooking” completely eliminates my need for any cooking gear, which offers weight savings and, more important to me, a simplified gear list and reduced bulk. I really don’t miss the chore of cooking – it seems I always need the warm food to take away the chill I got while cooking it. I’d rather spend the time going more leisurely on the trail, writing more in my journal, and taking better pictures.

I have not used this style much yet, so don’t take it too seriously.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
The human microwave on 06/03/2007 17:41:35 MDT Print View

Hi Niall,
I can't really tell if you are serious or not, but on the off chance that you are I would suggest that you may have to share pieces 2 thru n with a host of lil' critters that
will be licking their chops at the prospect of gnawing their way through your innards for dessert. Lots of luck.
If you've suckered me in, I'll be happy to chuckle along with you. Either way, let me know, huh?

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: The human microwave on 06/03/2007 18:20:15 MDT Print View

If you pass me whilst hiking and I smell those Queso's on you, you better share them with me!!! I am a big guy and love them!!!

Kidding of course. fun read.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: The human microwave on 06/03/2007 18:26:27 MDT Print View

There won't be anything left to share 'cause Yogi'll get there first.

Nall Fnk
(nfink) - F
Not as crazy as it sounds on 06/03/2007 19:31:02 MDT Print View

Nope, I'm not really kidding. Shoving your lunch down your pants is an old sourdough trick. Unlike the sourdoughs, I vacuum package my food and it - and my body - stay clean.
It's not necessary or useful when temperatures are much above freezing, but when it's cold out, and even in July it often is here, it makes a big difference.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: Not as crazy as it sounds on 06/04/2007 10:53:54 MDT Print View

he's right, this is an old trick. i have heard of hardcore trail bakers actually rising their bread dough underneath their shirts. Niall, no reason your idea won't work. you just have to be content with body-temp food. i eat no-cook a lot, but i do like to carry a tiny stove for hot cocoa.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Not as crazy as it sounds on 06/04/2007 16:48:12 MDT Print View

Hi Niall,
Interesting idea, but I wonder still wonder about bacteria. Some of them are anaerobes which would do quite well in a vacuum package. Another question: How do you stay comfortable with a non-absorbent plastic package tucked into the small of your back while exercising strenuously? I'm thinking of moisture/heat buildup from a skin comfort perspective, as well as interference with your pack.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Not as crazy as it sounds on 06/07/2007 14:18:47 MDT Print View

My question is about breakfast: the hot morning meal can be nice/critical depending on how the night went, and keeping food warm in the sleeping bag probably isn't advisable in the "Northern Alberta Rockies". (I'm a Calgary boy originally.) Do you just eat a cold+dry breakfast and rely on the "body microwave" for lunch and dinner?

I'd love to hear some of the foods that work (or don't work) for you using this method. My girlfriend will only eat powerbars that have been in her bra for awhile; she can't stand them at ambient temperature or cold. It's a good tip for the winter; if only I could get my head past the idea of eating an energy bar that had been in my gotch all morning. :)

Nall Fnk
(nfink) - F
Re: Re: Not as crazy as it sounds on 06/07/2007 19:44:42 MDT Print View

I am not concerned much about bacteria in the package. The weather is usually not very warm, and I have found that vacuum packaged cheese will easily last three days. It's true, my diet will get more spartan as a longer trip progresses, but that's why I'm investigating new ideas.

As for breakfasts, that is when this pays off the most. I need to get moving fast in the morning to prevent chill I shove a bar in the drawers when I take down my bear bag and then get moving to warm up. In about half an hour I am warm enough for a short break to have "first breakfast", which is consumed before I get a chill. After that, when and how I eat is dependent on the weather. In warm weather I'll lounge around, in cold weather there are more frequent short breaks.

When it comes to meal ideas, I'm fairly limited. That's kind of why I started this thread. I'm a huge fan of peanut butter. It sounds gross, but one thing I will take is a mixture of peanut butter and trail mix, in a gooey vacuum packed mess. Heat it up against the body until runny and eat with a spoon. Definitely not for everyone but mmmm, peanut butter. I love it.

I haven't tried it, mostly because I don't know how well it will keep, but I understand real mayonaise has a wonderfully high fat content. Should make a great dip for pringles, warm or cold. And baking muffins?? Sounds awesome. I haven't really tested it, but some dehydrated food, maybe even ramen noodles, could be prepared this way if packaged in a bag with a good seal (think aloksak) and carried carefully. I am pretty sure this would chill me too much and take too long to heat, though.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Thoughts on no-cook food on 06/07/2007 20:21:47 MDT Print View

Most stuff would be ok for short periods. Melted cheese does change once it is melted then chilled back to cold. You do run a risk of food poisoning though.

Mayo is good to use on food. But make sure you are using the packets only. You don't want to take the stuff out of jar. That is just tempting the toilet gods ;-)

A number of things can be "cooked" with no heat. A good example is ramen, precooked and dehydrated pasta, couscous, etc. All it needs is a good sitting for 15 minutes to an hour to be edible. One could then warm the food as you describe ;-)

And back to that mayo.....when I did the Wonderland, halfway thru we hit Sunrise. I was starving by that point. I ate and ate and ate. And the grossest thing? I dipped onion rings in mayo. I consumed maybe 1/2 cup of mayo in that sitting. I craved oil that badly. So yes, it can be good stuff.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: Thoughts on no-cook food on 06/07/2007 20:49:04 MDT Print View

I tried the no-cook thing in the past. What I found was that for me a cooked warm meal was far more appetizing than a cold/tepid one. Food that isn't appetizing is food that is hard for me to eat. I packed out more food than ever on these occasions. I generally run OUT of food and beg from my buddies... now THERE is a SUL trick to save weight on food! Underpack and then beg on the last day. Haha!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: Re: Thoughts on no-cook food on 06/07/2007 22:53:04 MDT Print View

Just call me "Moochieta". That is my nickname on some trips :-D As in looking pitifully as your hiking partner brings out tortillas, till they offer you one to go away. UL at it's finest!