Guide: how to choose your food?
How to get the most of an outdoor meal, a coffee break, a few snacks on the go, in solo mode or with friends…
When you are far from the convenience of a real kitchen, outdoor cooking and eating should be kept simple and care free. There are lots of options when choosing cook pots, since they meet specific expectations during use. To pick the best type of cookware, first determine your needs, then look at the advantages and disadvantages of each and finally avoid some pitfalls.
Determine your needs
After giving them some thought, simply answer the following questions. Your first input may outline the style of cookware that you really need.
— Where do you intend using your pot?
Any reason is a good reason to use an outdoor cookset : weekend outings, for a hike trip or a trek in self-sufficiency mode. Ideal for sport events, hunting or airsoft parties. In the workplace, at the office, for car trips, on a construction site. On public transport, train, plane, boat…
All in all, you need to nail down the right cookware for you because options are different if you go solo mountaineering or if you spend your Sunday at a local lake with your kids. Try to answer questions about the place of use, packing/carrying system, how many you will cook for, some practical aspects (accessibility/comfort)…
The place of use should pin down the following specs:
— What is the frequency of use of your pot?
If you use your cooking gear every day, aluminum is not the best choice, you’re better off choosing BPA-free composite elements (like silicone) or food-grade 18/10 stainless steel. Why? Because they are more abrasion-resistant (scratch, cleaning) and above all because they are safer when it comes to very frequent use.
If your cooking gear is intended for exceptional use (week-long camping trips, festival weekends, business trips), then you should choose lighter and more « technical » materials like anodized aluminum or titanium.
The frequency of use should pin down the following specs:
- construction material
— What are your eating habits?
If you fix your meals at home and bring them with you wherever you go, then you should choose a different system all together than the one you would take to reheat a freeze-dried meal on location. A tall container like a bowl or a mug will be more suitable for soups or noodles while a flat plate will be more convenient for grilling recipes.
Your eating habits should pin down the following specs:
- shape and capacity
Something to know about: some pot models are compatible with only one cooking mode, or even one particular stove. That’s the case with JetBoil pots for example.
Need an example ?
« I spend my weekends observing plants and animals in the woods. Sometimes I take a coffee break and most often I make camp for a night next to a warm fire in solo. »
Place of use :
- heading out into nature, woods
- coffee break
- bivouac/cooking over a wood fire
Frequency of use :
- short trips (2 to 3 meals)
Eating habits :
- coffee break
- outdoor cooking / grilling
One of the best possible gear solutions suitable for this outdoor scenario :
The Stanley vacuum mug (0,47 L) is ideal for short trips. It keeps your beverage hot for more than 2 hours (up to 24h for this model!). You’ve got here a discreet coffee break with no need for some heating system. The recipient serves as a mug, making it a simple and efficient short trip solution !
For your cooking over wood fire, a food-grade 18/10 stainless steel system just makes more sense. A natural flame (wood fuel) is more difficult to control than a flame from a gas burner.
Another option is to combine a metal pan with a silicone plate, so you’ll be able to eat a hot meal without burning your fingers. The lack of comfort in a bivy can have a decisive impact on your gear choice, opt for a multi-use (lunch, breakfast…) system with a stable base that can sit directly on the ground, like for example the X-Bowl by Sea to Summit.
If weight is a major factor, then you can opt for titanium or anodized aluminum systems, there are very lightweight and convenient sets like this Terra Solo Cook Set by Optimus that weighs only 200 g !
Important, cooking over burning wood and an open flame will leave soot on your pots, and restoring them to the original sheen can be quite challenging. To protect the look of your cookware, use dry wood while avoiding resinous wood as well as direct flame contact.
A few tips :
- Mix wood ash with a small amount of water and you’ll get an excellent natural detergent with no impact on the environment.
- A stone directly heated over an open flame then dropped into a pot full of water will bring a small quantity of water to a boil.
Pitfalls to avoid
Every offer incurs pitfalls. More so when it’s an attractive offer…
There are stainless steel pots on the market that are not made of 18/10 stainless steel so they are not intended for food use.
The same problem occurs with some anodized aluminum products: if the price is too low, then there is a risk on the quality of the anodizing treatment. Beyond an early wear of the coating, your health may be at risk. Aluminum can quickly degrade, dissolve and be ingested.
Even though it’s tempting, don’t succumb to aesthetics. A great pot doesn’t necessarily mean a nice pot even though more and more brands (like Sea to Summit for example) are working hard on the design and ergonomics of their products.
To quote André Gide, « To choose is to forsake », in other words, when you select you also reject. I would add to that motto and in all modesty that it’s all about compromise. With the help of this guide, you are now able to make the choice that suits you best. And if, like me, you want to make the most of your outings, you can also consider diversifying your outdoor gear to combine cookware items as you wish !
But above all, don’t forget that eating is a moment spent to feel better, find pleasure and share time with others.
On top of that