Camping Recipe: The Pocket Dinner

23 Mar
2012
Posted in: Food
By    3 Comments

This is not so much a recipe as it is a suggested order of events. Pocket dinners are more of a trial-and-error kind of thing. They’re elusive and mystical and can’t be easily replicated. At least that’s what I keep telling myself, because our first attempt at pocket dinners fell more on the error side of things. Here’s what you need to make pocket dinners, the luxury feast of campers everywhere:

Ingredients

  • Established campfire with a good bed of coals
  • Tin foil
  • Tongs
  • Hamburger meat (I think higher fat meat works better in this application)
  • Veggies
  • Butter
  • Seasonings

Steps

  1. When purchasing veggies, think through how long they take to cook and pick things that should be done about the same time as the meat. For our first attempt, we chose potatoes, garlic, Brussels sprouts, and carrots.
  2. Start your campfire early, because you need a good, even bed of coals to ensure a well-cooked pocket dinner. You don’t want to try to cook with burning logs, but it can be done in a pinch, as you’ll see below.
  3. When assembling the packets, layer the ingredients in order of their required cooking time. I sliced the potatoes and put them on the bottom in a single layer. Next came the garlic, then the quartered Brussels sprouts, and then the halved carrots. The meat goes on top, so its delicious juices can permeate everything below. We also added a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and dried oregano (which I have become obsessed with, even though the FDA tolerates a disturbingly large number of dead bugs in the mix).
  4. Wrap the packets well in at least two layers of tin foil — the fire tends to peel back the edges a bit and it’s important that you keep the steam and juices inside.
  5. Put the packets in the coals and wait, rotating if there are any warm spots. I can’t tell you how long it’ll take until they’re ready, because the cooking time is dependent on a million outside factors, like the air temp, the size of your fire, and the amount of ingredients in the packet. Just check every few minutes (after ten minutes or so) and leave them on until the meat is cooked through.
  6. Deposit contents on plate and enjoy!
  7. Over time, you’ll learn to perfect the pocket dinner. I hope.
Our campfire pit was too well cleaned, and we didn't have enough wood to create a good bed of coals.

Our campfire pit was too well cleaned, and we didn't have enough wood to create a good bed of coals, so we improvised this little oven structure. The flaws should be obvious.

Because we didn't have a good bed of coals, we had to keep moving the pockets so they didn't catch on fire.

Because we didn't have a good bed of coals, we had to keep moving the pockets so they didn't catch on fire.

Clear tin foil -- now that's an invention that would make it much easier to check the cooking progress.

Clear tin foil -- now that's an invention that would make it much easier to check the cooking progress.

And the result! Very well done meat, perfect carrots and Brussels, and half-cooked potatoes and garlic!

And the result! Very well done meat, perfect carrots and Brussels, and half-cooked potatoes and garlic!

  • Camack53

    looks yummy!

  • Gary C

    My first experience with the pocket dinner was when I was going for my Boy Scouts merit badge in outdoor cooking.  Lets say it was a few years ago.  Anyway I did a similar preparation and popped into the camp fire.  The result was a burned to a crisp unedible mass that was no where as attractive and tasty as yours.  I got the merit badge anyway due to a technicality in the requirements that specified the method of preparation and cooking but said nothing about actually having to eat what you cooked.  Thanks for the tips.

  • Barb

    Like Gary, I made these in scouts as well.  I think I also remember trying to make them in the fireplace during the winter.  Great memories.  And just like shish-kabobs, potatoes do best when they are par-boiled.