Trail Food That Doesn’t Suck
A.T. Chef Dishes Tips and Best Backpacking Recipes
Georgia backpacker Glenn McAllister couldn’t stomach another pre-packaged concoction on the trail, so he began making his own. He now runs the website backpackingchef.com, where he provides free recipes and blogs about his cooking experiences while section-hiking the Appalachian Trail. All of McAllister’s dehydrated meals are one-pot creations that simply require boiling water to cook on the trail. The backpacking chef, who cooks his main meal on an alcohol stove and an extra side of veggies by candlepower, says his creations always draw a crowd at the shelters. “When I cook, other hikers drool.”
Saves Money: Pre-packaged backpacker meals cost $4 to $7. A dehydrated meal will run you $2. Non-commercial dehydrators start around $100 and are roughly the size of a toaster oven.
Saves Weight: Removing water from food (but not the flavor and nutrition) with a dehydrator can cut the food weight in your pack by two-thirds. All of McAllister’s meals weigh around 3 ounces.
McAlLister’s dehydrating tips
If you have the equipment, dehydrating food is as simple as chopping the ingredients and placing them on a tray inside the dehydrator.
• Dehydrate a variety of veggies and meats at once. Focus on ingredients that are interchangeable to increase meal variety on the trail.
• Cut fresh veggies in 1/2-inch pieces and expect dehydrating to take six to eight hours depending on the veggie. McAllister dehydrates late at night while he sleeps.
• The easiest meat to dehydrate is deli meat. Slice ham, turkey, or roast beef in thin strips and dehydrate for six hours.
• Pre-assemble meals in zip-lock bags at home using uniform ratios. Each of McAllister’s meals includes the following:
¼ cup meat or beans
¼ cup veggies
½ cup starch base
Pasta Marinara Bark
“Bark” is McAllister’s signature creation. He starts by boiling a starch like potatoes or pasta. After boiling, he blends the starch into a liquid adding seasoning or sauce, then spreads it out on a dehydrating sheet. The pasta dries like a sheet, which he then cuts into chip sized portions. You can eat Bark like a chip for a snack, or rehydrate it for a full meal.
Boil 14–16 ounces of penne pasta for twelve minutes and drain. Then combine the pasta with 48 ounces of marinara sauce. Run the mixture through a blender or food processor until it’s a mashed potato-like consistency. Cover your dehydrator trays with parchment paper. Place a big blob of the pasta marinara mixture in the center of each tray and spread thinly with a spatula. Dehydrate at 135° for 14 hours until brittle.
On the Trail
Combine the pre-made, dehydrated bark with water and soak for ten minutes in a covered pot. Light your cookstove, bring pot to boil, and continue cooking for two minutes. Then let it sit for ten minutes. Stir vigorously before eating.