Last time we asked the question “Why the BBQ on Friday?” And the answer? Raw meat. Raw meat spoils waaay faster than cooked meat. Properly cooked meal, which has been cooled down carefully and stored safely has a much longer “cooler life”. So on to a brief discussion of pre-cooked meals.
For people who are good cooks, have food allergies, or just want to be able to eat specific dishes, there are many excellent options for camping. Remember those vacuum bags that we mentioned last time, well those waterproof lovelies can be safely used to freeze pre-cooked meals from home and then used to reheat them in camp.
If your brain draws a blank when you think of precooked meals, let me mention just a few of the very successfully reheated meals that we have had in camp over the years.
Beef Stew, Chili, Chicken Pot Pie filling, or any thick soup. Simply freeze in a plastic container and once the food is solid, pop it out of the container, place it in a vacuum bag, vacuum the bag, label, and place back into the freezer until you are ready to use it. Pre-freezing the very wet contents make it easier to vacuum the food well and avoid freezer burn if you store the food for a while. We often do a big bunch of frozen dinners after Thanksgiving or a big roast and use them for both home and camping. I love to use the disposable plastic boxes that come with pre-packaged cold-cuts for freezing wet foods. The sides of the boxes slope outwards slightly, which makes it easy to pop out the solid blocks of food. The blocks will also melt more slowly than thinner flat packs of food. We know from experience that a full container, with lots of chunks of meat, is enough for two of us for dinner, so a dinner for four is two large blocks.
Turkey and gravy, or Pot Roast and gravy, or Roast Pork and gravy. Just put the pre-sliced meat into the bag and add gravy. The safest way to do this is to pre-freeze the gravy and put the block of gravy in with the meat right before you vacuum it. Be sure to label – sometimes it is NOT obvious what the food is. We have had a couple of “creative” meals at an event where someone forgot to read the labels on the bags and two things looked alike.
Lasagna! Lasagna is one of those things that really does freeze and reheat well. You can make your own from scratch or use pre-frozen lasagna (be sure that it is fully cooked). Lasagna reheats well in a boil and seal bag. The one drawback is that it takes a LOT longer to reheat than some other foods, but it is yummy.
Vegetables? We use frozen peas a lot when we camp. Just put half a bag of frozen peas, or other vegetables, into a vacuum bag, vacuum it, and label. You can even add a couple of tablespoons of butter or seasoning, so that the vegetable comes out “completely ready”.
Now we are not just eating the frozen dinners for supper – honestly that would NOT be enough food when I am camping. I get HUNGRY, and therefore next time we will discuss: Convenience Foods that are Worth Using.