Children Open Flame Cooking

Teaching Your Children How to Cook: It’s Important That They Know How

About 53 percent of Millennials say they eat at restaurants at least once a week, compared with 43 percent of Generation X or baby boomers, according to a 2015 survey of 3,000 adults by Morgan Stanley.

Americans in 2014 spent more money on food consumed in restaurants, school lunch programs and at sporting events than they did on food prepared and consumed at home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

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Turkey Frying Safety Tips

Turkey Frying Safety Tips: Stay Safe This Thanksgiving

Just in case you have forgotten, the following is a reminder. Every year deaths are attributed to turkey frying, but injury and death can be prevented with some common sense and attention to detail and by knowing the facts.

In the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving there are television ads warning of the dangers of turkey frying, the Allstate Insurance ad comes to mind. Despite all the warnings on television and warning labels on fryers, people still manage to ruin their turkey, destroy their fryer, burn themselves and in some cases even burn the house down.

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Backyard Basic Survival Skills

5 Basic Survival Skills You Can Practice In Your Backyard Now

Most of the survival reality shows would have you believe that you could awaken one day to find yourself in the middle of a jungle or in a vast wilderness area with nothing but the clothes on your back, and with shoes in some cases. You may be expected to survive with nothing more than flip-flops, a piece of Styrofoam and your PJ bottoms.

Of course, the shows are all about ratings. The reality is however, that you left home for a mountain bike ride and the tire blew out 12 miles from home and the fall makes it hard for you to walk. A few hours day hike turns into a nightmare of days wandering lost, or you got lost on a hunting trip, camping trip or your vehicle breaks down in some remote area. This is how you end up lost or stranded in most cases.

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Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken Without the Beer

The concept behind beer can chicken is that the beer in the can is heated to create steam, which not only flavors the chicken it also helps keep the meat moist. The steam will carry the flavors from the heated brew into the chicken. The question is then, why just use beer? You can create your own recipe and with an empty can you are on your way to creating beer chicken without the beer. Many of you that love chicken have experienced dry chicken, in particular the breast meat. There is a way of roasting the perfect chicken, and keeping it moist at the same time.

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Cooking Bread Over Open Flame

Cooking Over an Open Flame: The Basics

Thousands of years ago, humans consumed raw meats and fish without any apparent digestive problems. Animals were killed or trapped, maybe skinned or maybe not, but nonetheless the meat was consumed raw without any preparation whatsoever.

Then fire came along and food preparation was changed forever. Fire changed the flavor of foods, and once flame and food came together, they stayed together.
How did early humans come to realize that foods cooked over flames tasted much better than raw foods?

A Lightning strike may have created a forest fire, and once the fire ran its course, humans may have discovered smoldering carcasses of animals among the charcoal. Of course, food was never to be wasted so the animals were probably dragged back to their shelter and consumed.

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8 Great Powerless Cooking Options

Powerless Cooking

If the power went out right now, what would your cooking options be? Would the single tree in your yard start quivering as you lustfully looked upon it thinking of a warm meal? Your pantry might be stocked with a year’s supply of food, but with no way to cook it your dinner’s will be dull. Lucky for you, this article from Food Storage and Survival lays out many powerless cooking options. Check out:

8 Great Powerless Cooking Options

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Cooking During a Crisis: Some Basics


Cooking: The Basics

As a Prepper, you may think you have bigger things to worry about. You are concerned about a terrorist attack on your city, or a 10.0 magnitude earthquake, a super volcano or an armed invasion by another country. In your mind, there are literally dozens of things to worry about before you even think about cooking. However, if you cannot cook during a crisis people may go hungry including you.

Some people may make the mistake of assuming certain things will be the same during a catastrophe as during a normal day. During a disaster, you will not be able to pop a dish in the microwave, or run to a fast food restaurant or even to a grocery store.

Pre-prepared meals will be a distant memory. You will be cooking from “scratch”. You will have to be able to make a meal with what you have on hand in your cupboards and pantry. This means you need to know how to cook.

Cuts of Meat

You may have heard the term “eating high on the hog” and it can apply to beef and other animals as well. Butchers in years past sold and priced cuts based on how far the cut was from the hoof and horn, so the best cuts, the tenderest cuts would be the rib and tenderloin on an animal. Muscle meats are worked the most making them the toughest cuts but if cooked the right way the so-called lesser quality cuts can be as good as any tenderloin. It is all in the cooking method.

Tough cuts need to be cooked slowly with moisture while more tender cuts need to be cooked fast and hot to seal in the natural juices. Steaks are best cooked fast over a flame and roasts covered and cooked slow.

You may not be able to use an oven or a cook top range unless the range is gas and you have a supply.  This means cooking on a gas or charcoal grill or over an open campfire.

Cast iron Dutch ovens are ideal for all types of cooking to include baking. You can essentially cook anything in a Dutch oven. Leave the lid off to sear steaks on the bottom or cover a roast and cook slowly. Certain cast iron ovens are designed to where you can put hot coals on the lid and place directly in a bed of hot coals. Use this method to bake breads, biscuits and to cook large roasts slowly or to make stews with leftover vegetables and meats.

Ingredients What Should You Have

You should be growing your own herbs right in the kitchen or in your garden plot. Herbs such as thyme, sage, basil, mint, chives and others grow well inside the home in a windowsill box. Outside you can grow garlic, dill and green onions, for example.

You can of course stock up on dried herbs and spices, and for the most part, if they are less than a year old, they make acceptable substitutes when fresh herbs and spices are not available. Black pepper and iodized salt are staples that everyone should have and salt has what is considered an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. You will know when pepper has lost its potency. You can use peppercorns or buy it already ground.

Honey has an indefinite shelf life and it makes a great substitute for sugar and is healthier.

Cooking oils are an important part of cooking and most have a shelf life of one year if unopened. Peanut oil by most accounts is one of the better all around cooking and frying oils because it can withstand higher heat without breaking down.

Lards are used for baking and some still use real lard for pan frying foods that do not have any natural fats in them. Pre-heat your pan and oil before adding any foods. Crisco is a suitable substitute for real animal lard and much better health wise. Use Crisco for frying, baking and in other recipes that may call for shortening or lard.

Flour is a staple and it is shelf stable for years if sealed well. All-purpose flour is just that, it can be used for any baking recipe or for breading meats and fish for baking or frying.

Yeast is needed for baking bread if you expect it to rise. There are self-rising flours that do not need yeast but it is recommended you do not use this type of flour in some recipes. To keep from stockpiling various types of flour use all-purpose and have plenty of yeast on hand for baking breads.

Sugar of course is also a staple used in many different recipes and for baking in particular.

You should also have apple cider and white vinegar, along with baking soda and baking powder, do not get the two confused, as some tend to do.

Baking soda has many uses around the home besides for baking. It can be used for brushing teeth and general cleaning around the home. Baking soda is sometimes used to “sweeten” sour drains and garbage pails. It can also be mixed with water and taken to help relive certain stomach ailments, but follow the directions on the package carefully before taking.

What is an article on cooking basics without a recipe? Here is one that is easy to master, will allow you to show off your baking skills, and may very well help you out during a crisis because without bread there is not life as some may tell you.

Easy Bread

Make sure all ingredients and your mixing bowl and other utensils are at room temperature. This recipe does not require you to activate the yeast separately.  If you use hot tap water, the water will be cooled by the other ingredients and the mixing bowl enough to where it does not kill the yeast.

Six (6) cups of all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups of tap water temperature should be between 125 and 130ᵒF (51.6-54.4ᵒC)

Three (3) tablespoons of sugar

Two (2) Teaspoons of salt

Five (5) Teaspoons of yeast

Three (3) Tablespoons of butter

Mix the dry ingredients (no need to sift the flour) then cut in the butter until the mixture begins to form crumbles then make a hole in the center of the mix and add the water. Work the mixture by hand. You can dust your hands with flour to help keep the mixture from sticking to your hands. Once mixed well put on a flour-covered surface such as a counter top or baker’s board.

Now comes the hard part, kneading and you will need to work the dough for up to 15 minutes and this is best done by hand. Keep in mind during a crisis you will not have the use of electric mixers or bread machines.

Why do I need to work the bread dough so long? You have to mix the gluten, water and proteins together until they bond. This process creates a structure to help contain the gases created by the now activated yeast. This is what causes the dough to rise.

Your dough is ready when it stretches and does not tear when pulled on. Once ready, it must set in a warm place to rise. The room temperature should be at least 70ᵒF/21ᵒC if not you need to cover the dough with a warmed not wet cloth.

The dough must double in size. Once doubled cut into sections and place in greased bread pans or some other baking container.

You can bake this bread in a Dutch oven. The only drawback if you can call it that is the bread will be in the shape of the container. However, the crust will be crispy using this method. Pre-heat the Dutch oven with the lid on at 450ᵒF/232ᵒC for 10 minutes.

Grease with Crisco or spray the inside with cooking spray. You can place the dough ball on parchment paper (must be baking parchment and not waxed paper) and lift the paper and dough and place in the pot. This may make it easier to remove the loaf once baked.

You can bake bread this way using hot coals by covering the lid and placing the oven in hot coals. The crust will not become as crispy this way however.

Bake with the lid on for 15 minutes then remove the lid to allow the crust to brown up. Cooking with the lid on allows steam to penetrate the dough. Bake another 25-20 minutes until the color is golden brown.

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Smoking Meats It is Just a Matter of Time

Meat Smoker

Temperature and time is crucial to ensure your meat comes out perfect regardless of the cut you use. Traditionally meats are smoked at temperatures ranging from 185ᵒF (85ᵒC) to 300ᵒF (148.8ᵒC). The temperature is sometimes increased near the end of the cooking process.

What you may not realize is that the meats can only absorb so much smoke and after about three hours, the meat will stop absorbing the smoke. At this point, it is all about the heat. You can of course surround the meat with smoke the entire time, but usually this will not “increase” the smoke flavor and may in fact give the meat a bitter taste.

Anyone that has sliced smoked meat knows about the smoke ring that is about a quarter inch into the meat. This is how far the smoke can usually penetrate when using whole cuts versus thinly sliced meats. The smoked outer layer is what acts to help preserve the meat.

“Low and slow” cooking break down the connective tissues and collagens within a cut of meat. This process renders out of the fat, tenderizes the connective tissues in the meat, and breaks it down into basic sugars giving the meats a sweet flavor.

Smoke absorbed into meat acts as a preservative. Wood smoke has antibacterial properties and thus smoked meats can be considered preserved or cured in some cases. In years past people used smoke to keep the flies and other insects away when they cooked their foods over open fires. They soon discovered however, that in addition to driving off pests, the smoke added flavor to the foods and that meats did not spoil as quickly.

If you want to smoke meats so they do not have to be refrigerated you would cut the meat into thin slices so the entire piece is allowed to absorb the smoke. This process will also dry the meat out. This method removes the moisture from the meat proteins, moisture that bacteria needs to survive.

If you smoke to preserve meats, you would smoke at a lower temperature, 200ᵒF/93ᵒC and use the indirect cooking method. Indirect cooking means the meat is not placed over the heating source or it is elevated enough above the heat source. You do want the meat to cook, when curing meats with smoke you want it to dry out (dehydrate) essentially.

Types of Wood

Hardwoods are used for smoking meats and the wood is ready for smoking when well seasoned, in other words, it has low moisture content usually 20 percent or slightly less. The moisture in the wood is turned into steam, so you can imagine if you used wood with high sap content. The sap would change the flavor and usually never for the better. This is one reason you would not smoke with pine or other woods heavy with resins.

Wood with lower moisture content means the fibers are separating and breaking down and is not suitable for producing heat or smoke.

Everyone has his or her own ideas on what wood produces the best flavor. Some prefer hickory while others like apple, oak, cherry, or maple. Some claim that there is no difference in flavor regardless of the wood used, while others swear they can tell the difference. It all comes down to personal preference however. There really is no right or wrong way of smoking as long as you adhere to the basics of temperature control and that you use hardwoods well seasoned and always cook low and slow.

Types of Smokers

Typically, meats are smoked using the indirect cooking method, and some charcoal grills will have a heating chamber that is offset just for this purpose. This means the meats are placed in one chamber and the heat source in the other. There is usually a damper in between the two to control the flow of smoke and heat. The heating chamber will also have dampers so you can control combustion by allowing more or less oxygen, and thus increase or decrease the temperature.

Wet or dry smoke, it is up to you. To wet smoke, you would place a pan of water near the heat source so the water is allowed to heat and this means the moisture rises and surrounds the meat to help tenderize it, or as some claim to help keep it tender.

Once again, some claim they see no difference while others would not dream of smoking without a pan of water near the heat. Many models of smokers will include a pan just for this purpose. You can add apple cider vinegar, apple juice or any type of juice, as well as, cut up apples or other fruit to add flavor to the steam. Some may even add some well-aged Kentucky Bourbon to the water.

You do not need to rush out and purchase an expensive smoker to achieve professional results. In fact, you do not need to rush out and purchase any type of smoker unless you want to of course. You can smoke over an open flame, use your charcoal grill or even your propane grill or smoke in a pit you create in the ground.

To smoke using a typical charcoal grill you would build a small fire on one side of the grill and place your meats on the other. You can make the fire using charcoal but you will need wood chips or chunks to create smoke. Soak the wood in water for several hours or even overnight if using larger chunks. Wet wood will create smoke and the moisture helps keep it from flaming up, allowing for heat that is more consistent.

For open flame, cooking you can enclose an area, to include the top, using metal tin roofing or other easy to mange metal material. It is important that you have a way of containing the smoke around your meat. Leave one side open, but have a sheet of metal to place over the opening when not attending the fire. You can hang the food for smoking large cuts or construct a rack that is elevated well above the heat.

You do not want to create flame. You want the wood to smolder and produce some heat and plenty of smoke. Use the draft vents on the grill lid or sides to control the combustion. When you stop seeing smoke billowing from under the lid, add some more wood that has been soaked in water, or in any flavorful liquid of your choice. Be careful when using wood chips soaked in bourbon because of the combustion factor.

To smoke meats using a gas grill ignite one burner or one side of the grill and place the meat on the cold side. Pre-heat the grill per manufactures instructions before placing meats or chips on the grill. Place soaked wood chips in a small clean can such as a tuna fish can or wrap in aluminum foil. Puncture some holes in the foil so the smoke can escape. The chips will go on the hot side. Once you stop seeing smoke replace the chips. Have several packets of chips pre-wrapped for an easy change over.

A smoker pit as defined by today’s standards is simply a container or enclosed area in which to smoke in such as a grill designed specifically for smoking foods.

You can of course dig a pit and place hot coals in the bottom and place meats slightly elevated over the coals and then cover the pit. Many cultures still cook this way today. You will have to devise a way to elevate the foods by using grates or stones, or you could place the meats directly on the coals wrapped in foil or some other protective layer. You would need to place holes in the foil to allow the smoke to seep into the meat.

This method of cooking relies on the hot coals and having enough combustibles in the pit so you do not have to add wood during the cooking process. Literally, cooking in a pit is not an ideal way to smoke but it is an option. This method is designed to cook foods over many hours even overnight.

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