Crew 506 Philmont Cooking Technique

Cooking is very easy if you do it using the "Crew 506 technique." Our crew developed a cooking technique last summer on the Appalachian Trail that worked very well, and which our Phil-ranger considered one of the most innovative techniques he had ever seen. He turned it in to the staff on his evaluation of our crew, so it may become official Philmont policy!

Philmont currently emphasizes "One pot cooking" where all the dehydrated ingredients are essentially combined in, duh, one pot. This technique has many advantages but some disadvantages as well. At Philmont, our crew noted lots of side items discarded in porch swap boxes, like green beans or mashed potatoes that crews had evidently decided just would not work mixed with the beef stroganoff, etc. Ergo, food is wasted or the nutritional value of it is lost to the camper. Given the limited nature of the diet, we found that consuming everything was helpful to maintain regular, firm bowel movements, including green beans, corn, etc. The issue is mixing them in a single pot. Even the new, trendy "turkey bag technique," still tends to mix many not-normally-together foods in one bag. That can make meal times somewhat of a morale suck. I know, some Phil- psychos will probably say "Why come to Philmont then? Suck it up and mix your cheesecake with the stroganoff and be a man about it while carrying a packboard wearing a wool sweater and a bearskin sleeping bag." But our intent was to live comfortably as possible even in the backwoods, and that means enjoying meals. The fact that we use less water and generate no additional trash while avoiding the cleaning of a pot...well, I didn't come to Philmont to scrub pots.

Our crew's technique saves time and water, and is faster to clean up than most methods we’ve seen. It encourages total menu consumption. The principle is simple: No Phil-Food requires extended simmering or cooking: It only needs to be re-hydrated with boiling water. Rehydration does not need to be done in the pot. For purposes of illustration, I'll use the Supper # 6 Stroganoff, mashed potatoes, Bread Sticks and Snackin Grahams.

Step 1. Light the stoves. We put two Coleman stoves side by side in the fire ring and rest the 8 quart pot, filled most of the way to the top, on the stoves and resting against the metal bars that cross the fire ring, for stability. (Two stoves with full bottles lasted all the way to Day 5. We had two spare bottles, and refilled the empty ones on our day 6 food pickup at Baldy Town commissary.) Tightly cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil. This gives enough water to do all the dinner re-hydration, plus for coffee for advisors and dish water. (SEE ILLUSTRATION 1 BELOW.)

Step 2. Get out the clear bags. Notice that the Phil-bags are heat sealed on one end, and have perforated bottoms on the other end. Turn the bag upside down so the end with the holes faces up. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO CUT THE END WITH THE HOLES! Carefully cut along the end with the holes from one side of the bag to the other. Remove the contents of the bag and roll the bag down a bit to give it some strength. You will usually need two bags to be used for the entrée, and one bag for the side items.

Step 3. Gather logs or rocks and arrange a support structure into which the empty bags are placed. The rocks/logs need be big enough only to hold the bag upright when the contents are placed inside it. These will be the re-hydration bags. Do not use rocks that have been used for porta-potties (Phil-vets, you know what I mean, and it goes without saying, but my boys told me to tell y'all that.)

Step 4. Open the smaller, usually white plastic, bags that holds the main entre. For beef stroganoff, the instructions on the bag say each two diners need 16 oz. of boiling water. With 3 bags of stroganoff in each of two of the re-hydration bags, we calculate that 16 oz. per pouch means a total 48 oz. of hot water per re-hydration bag. (SEE ILLUSTRATION 2.)

Step 5. Pour the side items, in this case mashed potatoes, into separate re-hydration bag(s). Usually all of the side items fit into one bag.) Calculate the amount of water needed to re-hydrate these. (SEE ILLUSTRATION 3.)

Step 6. Once the water in the pot is in a rolling boil, cooks sanitize last night's washed dishes by dipping mesh bags with bowls and spoons into the boiling water.

Step 7. Once the sanitizing is 100% complete (when in doubt, sanitize) get a small measuring cup (preferably with a spout), gloves and an empty, non-smellable Nalgene. Hold the Nalgene with gloved hands as it will get hot. Cooks retrieve the appropriate amount of hot water for the recipe, measure it into the Nalgene and pour it into the re-hydration bags. Once the right amount is poured, roll the bag shut and let it sit for between 5 to 8 minutes in most cases. Stir the contents before rolling it shut. (See ILLUSTRATION 4.)

Step 8. Use remaining big bags to organize cookies, breadsticks, etc into a buffet line, then tell everyone to come sanitize hands, retrieve bowls/spoons and then all say grace. By this time, the contents should be re-hydrated and ready to serve.

Step 9. Campers come down the line while cooks portion out food to each. The buffet line keeps it organized, encourages portion control and gives a nice "homey" feel to the meal. Encourage everything to be eaten.

Step 10. Once all contents are eaten from the hydration bags, roll them up tightly as part of trash. Beans/corn, etc., need to be sumped because there was always too much water when cooked by the recipe. Use remnants of big pot of boiling water in one pot, add some to a smaller second pot then some purified water to make enough warm water for dish washing, done per Philmont procedure with green scrubby, etc..

ILLUSTRATION 1: The Grubmaster and Assistant Crew Leader light the stoves under the observation of the Navi-guesser and the Nine-Toed Klutz. Note the pot, on the right, is filled, covered with foil and ready to go on top of the stoves once they are lit and running hot. Also, see the rock "corrals" up against the log in the background.

ILLUSTRATION 2: Grubmaster and Crew Leader doing the "ciphering" to determine how much water we'd need. Note the water sack in the background. Keep everything close and keep non-cooks out of the area for safety and sanitation purposes. Chef's hats are cool, but Philmont eats anything paper.

ILLUSTRATION 3: CJ, Crew Grubmaster, and Mr. P. lay out the buffet line using 2 logs for bag support. Main entree bags on the left, then green beans, breadsticks and cookies. This was taken in Ute Meadows with Supper 7.

ILLUSTRATION 4: The Grubmaster and the Crew Leader carefully add boiling water to the re-hydration bags while the assistant Crew Leader (r) stands ready with the measuring cup to pour more water. Note the rock/log corrals to keep the bags upright while re-hydrating. The Crew Fart-meister on the left is working up a good one.

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