I am the queen of being lazy (why else did I develop hundreds of Freezer Bag Cooking recipes? Ha), but there are times when a small amount of work can be worth it.
In this case Alistaire asked if we could do trail cooking during a short hike. Being winter, I was all for it.
His choice for our meal? Steak and mashed red potatoes. Gluten-Free and full of protein, which his food allergies call for. If you eat meat, living GF is quite satisfying.
But don’t worry, this is FBC friendly for the potatoes…I am not that crazy to hand mash potatoes on the trail….
Carrying fresh steak isn’t terribly hard. It is a first night out dinner. You can either freeze the steak ahead of time and carry it, or wrap it in an ice pack (a trick? Fill a gallon freezer bag with water, fold it over like a book, over a small baking tray. Once frozen you can stick the steak in between it. Dump out the water once thawed.) I choose to carry lightweight food grade disposable gloves for handling the raw meat (no need to wash up with soap after handling it), and I use a gallon freezer bag for trash (that empty ice pack……).
When you buy your steak(s) look for a thin cut, you want it to get done without it taking a long time. The longer it takes to cook in a backpacking frypan, the more chance you will burn the steak. The pans are often very, very thin and don’t carry heat like cast iron does at home. The steak we cooked was a Top Sirloin, with little fat in it, and about an inch thick.
You will want oil for the pan. I had coconut oil packets on hand, but preferably go for avocado oil. Virgin coconut oil has a sweet flavor, which while I liked it, not every is going to. Avocado oil is neutral in taste.
As for the cookset I used? I went old school. GSI Outdoors started making the Pinnacle set back in the mid 2000’s and still sells the same set. It was my go-to set for a long time. It cooks well, is super slick non-stick and it was lightweight enough for a 2 Liter pot setup. The dishes that come with it? No thanks. But it has a a good cooking pot, clear lid (with strainer holes) and a frypan lid. The frypan is a bit more dense than most sets that have this option. It also works well as you can leave that part behind if all you do is boil water or cook in the pot – and your weight goes down.
Super hot stoves are great most of the time, but if you are cooking actual food, you need a stove you can tightly dial in the flame with. Again, old school here: No stove I have used has been more beloved by me than my Snow Peak Giga Power. It is over a decade old, is still made – and still one of the best small “pocket” stoves you can buy. It can burn hot, but can also simmer beautifully.
Two tips: Use a fuel canister stabilizer, and preferably use a large canister (though I used a small canister), as it is more stable with larger pots. Normally I use a 1.4 Liter pot on this stove, which is fine with the small canisters.
Can you use chopsticks? If you can, the world is yours for flipping steak while cooking. I carry a set of To Go Ware bamboo utensils (and have for 15 years). The chopsticks are very durable and strong.
First: Make the potatoes. We went easy and used Idahoan Red Mashed Potatoes. Boil 2 cups water. You can put the potatoes in a quart freezer bag or use your cooking pot. Add the potatoes to the pot and stir well, cover tightly and insulate if cold outside. If in a freezer bag, add the water and stir really well to avoid clumps of dry mix. Seal and stash in an FBC cozy for 5 minutes.
Then heat the frypan over a medium flame till hot. Turn the flame down to as low as it can go, add in the oil.
I had lightly salted the steak on both sides earlier (wearing gloves), and added the steak to the hot pan.
With a small frypan, if it has a heavy handle (and this one does…sigh) you will need to keep a hand on the pan so it doesn’t fall over. Keep an eye on the steak, lifting the pan as needed above the flame. Let your eyes and nose be the judge of when to flip. I used chopsticks to flip it.
When I knew it was medium rare, I took it off the heat. I like medium rare, but Alistaire doesn’t. Using a pocket knife (that was clean), I cut the steak quickly into steak bites, and returned it to the pan, and put it back onto the stove.
I sizzled it up to where he liked the color and plated it up for him with mashers on the side.
And the pan drippings? Drizzle them over the mashers….