Can Cookin’

How do you have a quick hot meal without hauling or digging all sorts of supplies out of storage?  Or, what is the next best thing to cooking over a fire—without having to build a fire?  I call it Can Cookin’, and it’s as simple as this…………

Cooking on a clean, empty aluminum food can over a lighted sterno can.

First, you need to carry a few sterno cans.  You know, the cans typically used under chafing dishes.  Back in the day, Fondue was done in a little pot over a can of sterno. I have experimented with that technique, but find when cooking outside, there is too much air flow to heat the pot well. One sterno can typically lasts about 2 hours, or estimate 5 meals.

Second, you need to have an empty, clean aluminum can.

I find that the best cook top surface to use with sterno cans is one of those 21 ounce aluminum cans of baked sweet potatoes—they are about 3 ½ inches high and are 4 inches across.  If you use a taller or bigger can, it will be more difficult for the sterno flame to reach and heat food.

Third, punch a few “air holes” in the aluminum can–use the can opener end of a bottle opener.  This will optimize the ability to heat the surface of the can by allowing some air in.  Two or 3 around the top of the side, and two or 3 around the bottom of the side should be plenty.  You don’t want too much air or it will blow out the sterno flame.

Fourth, light the sterno and place the can over it—and start Can Cookin’ your meal!

Here are a few ideas for can cooking just to get you started thinking.

Dinner in a Can—

Yep, you can cook anything you want to eat straight from the can!  I have cooked Spaghetti Os, Black Beans, Bushes Baked Beans, and Progresso Soups for quick meals on the go, in the dark, at the rest stop or when I don’t feel like getting the whole outdoor kitchen set up.  Open the can almost all the way around, leaving enough attached to be able to  bend the lid back and use as a handle.  Cooking times vary, but the can is usually heated through in about 12 minutes or so. When it’s hot, carefully lift it off with the cushioning of a folded up paper towel or mitten.

 Coffee—

I make Turkish coffee using Can Cookin’ when I don’t want to deal with pulling out a stove.  My Turkish coffee pot fits perfectly on top of the can, and it slow cooks my coffee to perfection in about 10 minutes, every time.  If you are not into Turkish coffee, you could simply boil water in it, and add instant coffee, tea or hot chocolate.  Ahh nectar of the gods.

Breakfast Sandwich—

I have a cute little egg poacher with a lid—works great to make a perfectly sized egg and cheese biscuit or bagel on the cook can in about 12 minutes.  Just crack an egg into the bottom of the poacher, stir it up, season as you like, then cover. The important step is to keep the lid on until the egg is almost done, then position a cheese slice on top of the egg and cover for the last minute or two.  When it’s done, you simply turn the poacher over and drop your creation ‘cheese first’ onto the top slice of your bagel or biscuit.  ShaZam!

Chicken and noodles—

I carry a big ceramic soup cup that fits perfectly on top of my aluminum can.  It is just deep enough to boil a package of ramen noodles and wide across the bottom to heat up well.  I cook the noodles, then drain most of the water, and add a can of drained chicken and heat through.  It heats up best when the soup cup is covered.  Cooking time will range between 15 – 20 minutes.  But when it’s done, yum yum good!

Can Cookin’ isn’t meant to be the end all for eating on the road, but it works slick for a quick meal, and can springboard to other ideas for primitive meals in a pinch.  In all cases, make sure when you are done cooking your meal, never try to lift the can with your bare hand. Extinguish the sterno pot by carefully lifting up the can with either a couple sticks, a fork or tongs through the air holes, and then covering the sterno with its lid.  Wait for all items to cool before transporting.

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