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Our ancestors have cooked and eaten meat for thousands of years with only primitive equipment (no pots, pans, etc). In a survival situation or when traveling with minimum equipment it may be useful to use similar methods. However, I have little experience in cooking in this way.

What good methods exist for cooking meat with minimal/no equipment (I'm sure there must be several), how should they be done and what are their pros/cons?

I'd also be interested to know about the historical usage of different methods if known.

  • 2
    Do you think it was really minimal? Some of the earliest archaeological funds are of food-cooking (or maybe serving) vessels, and there certainly was a time when humans did not cook yet but ate raw meat. But to go on to your question: if you want to be minimal, did you remember to bring enough time for these methods? Also, they are not really "without equipment", they use ad-hoc tools found around you (stones, branches, leaves) and may not be available in every habitat. – rumtscho Jun 10 '15 at 15:59
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    @rumtscho I think equipment you make when in a survival situation are OK here, I believe him to mean not having pots, pans, bbq, tongs, etc :) – Aravona Jun 10 '15 at 16:42
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    For example there's a difference between using a rock you have to find on the floor vs. using a knapped flint (available since the "stone age" pretty much by definition). Using "similar methods" is really difficult if you don't have similar equipment. I've never tried to skin and joint an animal with a rock, but I imagine that trying to do so will create a fine appreciation that a flint blade isn't "no equipment" :-) Technology is really old. – Steve Jessop Jun 11 '15 at 19:19
  • Don't know if this quite fits your question, but in an emergency, you can wrap food in foil and cook it with your car's engine. – Kevin Jun 11 '15 at 19:55
  • Do you have a knife? How much time do you have on your hands? – njzk2 Aug 14 '16 at 15:03
15

You can cook meat on a wooden skewer, piecing it like a kebab, and turning it frequently to prevent burning and to allow it to cook evenly. Similarly you can do this with two sticks and have the meat tied between the two. This is useful for smaller chunks, but becomes difficult with larger ones. You also will have to take care with dripping fat which can spit in the flames.

In the same way meat can be spit roasted, but you would have to prepare a spit out of logs for this which could be too excessive.

You can also cook meats on a heated rock, which is a technique still used in restaurants today for steak cooking. This should be easy enough if you have prepared a fire ring. A flat clean rock is best, and you can take the rock out of the fire to prevent spitting or over cooking.

You can leaf wrap the meat and cook it over coals (I saw this on TV done with a deer, over heated coals and covered by sand / dirt) and leave it for a few hours. - I'm almost certain I saw this on Time Team, but can't remember the era. This is time consuming but works similarly to a bbq, as the coals are no longer on fire.

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    It's worth noting that all of these techniques are described and illustrated in the Boy Scout Handbook -- older editions of it, at least. – Kevin Krumwiede Jun 12 '15 at 6:42
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    I did not know that, however we did a lot of these when I was a Girl Guide :) – Aravona Jun 12 '15 at 6:43
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If you have clay, you can form it into a sheet and wrap the meat with it. You cover the thing with hot coals and wait. When it is ready you break the shell and retrieve the goods inside.

Baking Meat In Clay

Alternatively, if you have flour you can do the same but with dough. The dough will be burned to char, but the food inside will be protected by the dough.

  • Seen this before as well with fish and Salt. Completely forgot this technique - nice addition! – Aravona Jun 10 '15 at 16:25
  • Thanks! Depending on the region, clay can be relatively easy to find. Flour however, not so much, but as an experiment, if you plan on camping, you could bring a small bag of flour just to try the technique. – sleblanc Jun 10 '15 at 17:03
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Fire pit is always a good one. Dig a hole. Build a nice fire and put stones in it until they heat up ( don't use stones from a river as they will burst). Drop the stones into the hole, add meat wrapped in leaves or rushes and fill the hole back in with the excavated soil. Leave for an hour or two and you will have beautifully cooked meat. Also works with sand ( Hawaiian style ) or water. To broil your meat make a waterproof hole (line with clay) drop some hot stones in and add your meat then cover the hole with branches covered with soil or sand to keep the heat in. We used to use all three techniques all the time on camping trips with Scouts - the younger ones (Cub Scouts) always thought this was really cool.

8

Here in Brazil, more specifically in the southern states of the country, we are used to make the weekly Churrasco.

It's basically a way of cooking meat with skewers (made of iron, but you can make it with wooden ones aswell). You pierce the meat with those bad boys and place them on top of a Churrasqueira. Inside the Churrasqueira, you have your ember and from time to time you must rotate the skewers to prevent burning the meat.

You can make an improvised Churrasqueira with either bricks, stones or with a half-cut barrel.

Churrasqueira

I don't know when the Churrasco was invented, but it's a long-time tradition of latin-american people.

Another funny fact: we have this tradition in the southern part of Brazil called Costelão (translates to big ribs for the lack of a proper word) where we gather with lots of people to eat... well, take a look:

Costelão

I assure you it tastes better than it looks :)

More informations on Wikipedia: Churrasco.

  • Maybe you want to specify how you can replace the Churrasqueira (I guess its the "oven") in the wild without using much equipment. – imsodin Jun 11 '15 at 13:37
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The most ancient form of simmering is to use a piece of supple tanned leather and some stones. It works with a plastic bag too.

You have to make a fire and heat 3-4 fist-sized stones in it. You also have to form a pouch from your leather somehow, e.g. By binding the corners to a stick and suspending it. A nylon bag doesn't need that, it can be laid in a soft pile of dirt or leaves which support it slightly without spilling. You put water, meat and the hot stones in the soft pot, and after sufficient time, you have a soup (may need to exchange the stones now and then for hotter ones). Interestingly, the heat is not enough to melt the bag, but the meat does get cooked.

It's a fiddly and long process, but it has the charm of feeling very primal, pre-metal-working style. If I were in a survival situation though, I would rather spend the time on getting back to civilization and grill the meat the quickest way I can, over open fire, regardless of culinary merits.

7

One technique that I remember from my old boy scout book was putting a steak directly on hot coals. Covering fish in clay and burying it in the fire is also a good technique.

If we allow ourselves to use string then we can use a technique called string roasting.

Open Fire Cooking Experiments

One person to study is chef Francis Mallman who cooks everything on an open fire. He mostly uses equipment but he has some techniques he uses that are very basic.

4

Alternatives to cooking are also a possibility. Pickling, for example. Or fermentation, as practised by the Inuit and other Arctic tribes.

  • Pickling would require equipment though, i.e. vinegar? – user2766 Jun 11 '15 at 10:35
  • I would expand on the two procedures, I don't think you cane assume that anyone knows them or how to perform them in the outdoors. – imsodin Jun 11 '15 at 13:38
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    Equipment for pickling is simply a container of edible acid. Vinegar, obviously. Lemon juice is another possibility, as with ceviche. As for making vinegar from raw materials, most vegetation will do this if you let it ferment as part of decomposition, so you just need a suitable container and time. Fermentation is a long-term thing, burying meat/fish and letting it ferment over time, so probably not ideal if you're lost short-term. If you happen to be stranded long-term though, it might be a possibility. Really I'm trying to point out that you don't necessarily need fire. – Graham Bartlett Jun 11 '15 at 15:15
3

There are a few distinct methods which require few or no tools.

1) Skewers : good for fish and small pieces of meat, especially more tender cuts which don;t require long cooking. simply thread the meat onto a sharpened green stick and support over the fire. Here a fire of hot embers with little or no flame works best. The larger scale version of this is spit roasting.

2) Cauldron : if you need to boil water or make soup or stew but don't have a metal cooking pot there are two techniques. Firstly A shallow bag made from leather or tightly woven canvas can, with care be used to boil water over a fire without burning as the water seeping through the material keeps it cool. The second method is to use any container which will hold water, even a natural hollow in a rock, fill it with water and place into it rocks heated in a fire.

3) Pit roasting/BBQ : this technique is still fairly widely used. You basically dig a pit, line it with rocks, light a fire, let it burn down to embers. Place your wrapped meat in the hole and bury. This can be an efficient way to cook large joints of meat.

4) Wrapping/steaming : wrap the meat well in leaves, seaweed and or/clay and place on hot embers, this will steam the food and works well with fish. Directly wrapping in clay can also peel off feathers, scales or spines and so save on some preparation time (results may vary) .

5) Ovens : if you have a bit more time you could make a simple oven from clay or stones. This is essentially a hollow which you light a fire inside alloy it to burn down and then rake or sweep out the ashes and place your food inside.

6) Hot rocks : you can fry food which only needs quick cooking such simply by laying it on reasonably flat smooth rocks heated in a fire.

7) Direct cooking : some things like shellfish, thick skinned roots and tubers and even some cuts of meat can be cooked by placing directly onto embers.

8) Hot smoking : still widely practiced, involves cooking food in the hot gasses from a low fire

9) Air drying : in some environments food can be cured simply by cutting into thin strips and letting it dry in the wind.

Points to note.

In most circumstances the best way to cook it with a fire which is burned down to a good bed of embers with little or no flame or by indirect heat such as heated rocks. This provides a much more controlled and consistent heat than an open flame. In some cases this may require having separate fires for cooking and heat light, or you can always transfer embers from your main fire to a separate cooking area.

Take care when cooking that the fuel and any plant material used for wrapping, skewering food etc is not poisonous.

Some types of rocks can explode when heated, this is a whole separate subject but in general avoid flints or stones taken from a river bed.

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