Jennie Tai
Campfire Hiking Recipes Steak

Campfire Recipes: Skillet Steak & Potatoes

All the serious backpacking hippies are shaking their heads at me right now. One of the most important things in backpacking (according to just about all the ones I’ve met) is that you only carry what you need, because you’ll be carrying it for hours, days, weeks or months at a time. No one needs steak and potatoes for dinner every night, obviously – but if you’re doing a short hike, I believe it’s worth making your meal at the end of your day something you can look forward to, so – I’m going to post this for anyone who thinks all backpacking meals begin with packaged ghosts of dehydrated dinners past, and end with groaning bellies. Backpacking doesn’t mean you have to eat dinner like an astronaut, squirrel, or starving college student (I’ve seen some backpackers live off raw instant ramen for up to three days). It just depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice on your trip, but – you need to enjoy a decent meal in the wilderness, underneath the stars at least once before you die.

… and no, this was not my very first backpacking meal, I swear. My very first bpm was a bag of dried chicken and rice, rehydrated with boiling water, followed by a nuun tablet. Three weeks after that, I went on a shorter backpacking trip and decided to make this meal for dinner instead. It was one of my favorite things about that hike, because I’ll never forget taking long exposures of the red moon, the city lights from the knob I slept at; and getting to eat slices of dry-aged ribeye and crispy red potatoes between shutter releases. I’ll never enjoy steak from a restaurant, or from home the same again.

So – all you backpacking hippies eating their fourth stick of jerky or granola for dinner can judge me all you want … I can’t hear you over my sizzling skillet of steak and potatoes. 😉

Campfire Steak & Potatoes

Dinner | 11 lbs added weight to pack

Preparation & Gear:

  1. To prep the steak & potatoes

    1. Marinate, seal and freeze the steaks in a plastic bag
      Use a ziploc bag or a vacuum sealer (what I used).  Vacuum sealing the steaks not only consolidates space in your backpack, but it also reduces the risk of spoiling the meat from aerobic bacterial growth (mold).
  2. To pack for hike

    1. For the steak
      1. Tongs & Scissors (2.2 lbs)You’ll need tongs to flip the steak, stir the potatoes, and scissors to cut open your package (if you choose to vacuum seal it).
      2. 10.25″ Cast iron skillet (5lb 6oz)
        You can cook the steak on a lighter grill, or pan to reduce half the weight- but… if you’re as much of a steak snob as I am, then you don’t cook steak on anything but skillets (again, hate all you want, hippies).
      3. Fire starter stick & matches
        Your steak is going to take about 15-20 minutes to prep and cook, so you probably won’t want to waste much time trying to start a fire. Bring a firestick to make it easier for on yourself.
      4. Ribeye steak (2 slabs, 3 lbs)
        Source carefully. You don’t want to get sick in the middle of nowhere, so now is not the time to buy the bargain cut from Walmart. Consider investing in an organic farm, and a good , dry-aged cut. I bought mine from DC/Northern Virginia’s local butcher, Red Apron.
      5. Red potatoes (1lb)
        I picked potatoes, because it’s a vegetable that’s hard to overcook if you’re looking for a side that can be cooked in the same skillet as your steak (unlike mushrooms, corn, spinach, etc).
    2. Optional items
      1. Kitchen sink
        I wish I had brought this the first time around. I didn’t think about the final part of cooking – cleaning, and used my one towel to wipe off the grease and grime off my utensils before putting them back in their bag. Because a lot of things weren’t properly cleaned, some things I brought were chewed (including the side of my camera bag), I’m assuming because steak juice somehow made its way over to it. Bring a mini kitchen sink so you can clean everything before putting it away for the night.
      2. Dish towel (or multiple towels)
        Again, I ended up using my own quick-dry towel (meant to wipe sweat and dirt off me) to clean some of my utensils, so it would have been nice if I’d brought a separate towel for it… Because of this, I ended up feeling so hot and dirty I found myself hopping into a stream after the hike just to rinse off. It was not warm.
      3. Campfire Oven Mittens
        These mitts are designed to handle campfires and are ultra-light for backpacking. I wish I’d brought something like these so I didn’t have to wrap both my hiking socks 20x around the handle in order to maneuver the skillet around the fire.

Total added pack weight: ~11lbs

What’s great about choosing steak for your backpacking dinner is that even if you were home – you’d want to consider cooking your steak at room temperature anyway (ask Bobby Flay), so if you freeze your steak overnight, then take it out and let it thaw as you hike – it’ll be ready to go by the time you finish your hike and setup your fire. The night before my hike, I seasoned and vacuum sealed my steaks, put them in the freezer, took them out the next day and put them in a cooler while I drove to the trailhead – then let them naturally thaw throughout my hike.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Steak

    • Two 1.5lb slabs of boneless dry-aged ribeye
    • Extra virgin olive oil (enough to thinly coat both sides of each steak)
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme
    • Minced garlic
    • Salt & pepper (seasoned to taste)
  • Potatoes

    • 1lb of quartered red potatoes
    • Extra virgin olive oil (enough to thinly coat both sides of each steak)
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme
    • Salt & pepper (seasoned to taste)

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl
  2. Coat potatoes and ribeye with olive oil
  3. Sprinkle and pay dry ingredients on to each side of the steaks, and sprinkle the rest on potatoes in a separate bowl
  4. Vacuum seal each steak individually in their own package and freeze overnight
  5. Vacuum seal potatoes and refrigerate overnight
  6. Place the packs in a cooler on your way to your hike’s trailhead
  7. Take the packs out of the cooler and put it into your backpack
  8. When you’re ready to cook, place your skillet over a campfire
  9. When the skillet is hot, use your scissors to cut open the package of potatoes, and pour into pan
  10. Fry the potatoes until they’re soft and golden brown, using your tongs to stir every 20-30 seconds (10-15 minutes)
  11. Shove potatoes to the side of the skillet to make a space for the first steak,.
  12. Open the first pack of steak and use your tongs to place the first steak on the skillet
    Note: You may want to keep an eye on keeping your fire alive, because after 10 minutes – your fire may die down. If you don’t hear the pan sizzle when you put the steak down, then your pan is not hot enough.
  13. Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes for a medium-medium rare steak.
    Note: Since it won’t be easy to move the steak or pan around, nor will it be easy to cut the steak open while it’s over the fire – consider the “wrist check” to measure doneness instead (check out Gordon Ramsay’s version).
  14. Take first steak out, and place on to a cutting board
  15. Place second steak on to the skillet and repeat
  16. Cut steaks into slices using either a knife or scissors
  17. Enjoy with tongs, fork or in my case – your fingers! 🙂

Enjoy! 🙂

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