Chapter 54: How to Cook Freeze Dried Food

Cooking freeze dried food is as about as easy as boiling water. But if you’ve never done it, let’s go over a few pointers.

First, ask around a little to find which freeze dried foods are the best tasting. The Mountain House brand is one of the best known. Some of their most popular entrees are beef stew, beef stroganoff, spaghetti, and chicken teriyaki.

To pack a little lighter, some backpackers re-package their meals into ziplock bags. On the double-serving Mountain House meals you can save about ½ ounce. It’s becoming less of an advantage on the single-serving meals because they are vacuum-packed a little tighter and you only save about 2/10s of an ounce. Of course, when you re-package, you can still reconstitute in the bag, but you need to use a strong freezer bag, and it won’t hold the heat as well as the Mountain House metallic bag.

If we’re cooking a double serving we start by boiling 2 cups (16 ounces) of water. Of course, the correct amount of water needed is printed on every package. Mountain House single-servings take 1 ¾ cups of water.

While the water is heating, we can open the meal using the provided notches. The notches are on both sides, so you might want to tear inward from each side to get an even opening. You don’t want to ruin the re-sealing feature.

Remove the oxygen absorber.

When your water boils, pour it into the pouch, stir thoroughly and quickly so you keep the warmth, and close the pouch with the zipper. Let stand for 8 to 9 minutes. I’ve let the meals stand for 10 to 12 minutes so they reconstitute better, and they have stayed very warm. I like my food hot, so I make sure the hot water is ready to pour in quickly and I mix it quickly.

After you seal the zipper closed you can still mix the food and water by tilting the bag back and forth.

You can also place the bag in a protected area out of the wind.

We also show how to make a cozy to help retain the heat of the food bag in our pot cozy construction video in Chapter 33. With this, you could wait well over 10 minutes.

If you put the food in your pot instead of the bag, you’ll want to mix the food and water quickly and cover the pot tightly. If you’re using an isobutane stove, you can carefully put the flame on simmer to keep your food hotter for a longer period of time. But you don’t want to cook away any extra moisture.

You can season to taste, and I love salt, but I’ve found I don’t even need to bring extra salt with these meals. You’ll probably be sweating more than usual as you hike, so a little extra salt in your diet should be OK.

Another handy tip you might remember is that a long Dairy Queen spoon is handy and light when eating from the pouches.

Have fun testing all the entrees.