Cooking Like a Cowboy Modern Style
Home on the range harkens back to a simpler time with cowboys riding horses across the prairie. Just because the times were simpler did not mean the food wasn't delicious, though! Cowboys had a tough job to do which meant they needed filling meals to get them through the day. Today you can still find cooks who honor the cowboy traditions. You can even cook like a cowboy at home after you know a few basics. Where should you start?
The Basics of Cooking Like a Cowboy
You could always start out by building a chuck wagon like the ones the cowboys used back in the day, but this is probably not realistic. There are, however, some basic tools and skills that will help you create an authentic taste and feel of like on the range:
- Cast iron pots and pans, including a Dutch oven
- Spatula, ladle and large spoon
- Ability to make a fire
- Basic food supplies, such as flour, cornmeal, lard, etc.
Buying a Dutch Oven
Because you will be cooking over an open fire, getting the right Dutch oven is important. Dutch ovens distribute heat evenly, which allows you to cook sauces, soups, stews, and more over an open fire. From cowboy beans to chili to chuckwagon stew, cowboys just could not make do without a good Dutch oven. A cast iron Dutch oven is the best choice, as it can withstand the heat. Anything you can cook in an oven or on the stove can be done over a fire with a Dutch oven. It is a one piece cooker for cowboys. Be aware, though, that the handle and cooking vessel WILL be hot and should be handled with oven mitts.
A skillet is a must-have to cook like a cowboy. Cooking bacon and eggs in the morning is a great way to start off your day. Cast iron is a good choice here as well, due to its even heat. Be sure to get the size that works for you and your family. You may even want more than one to allow you to cook several things at once. Also read the instructions on seasoning your skillet, an unseasoned skilled will lead to food sticking and, of course, a big mess.
Coffee or Tea Pot
Most of us these days can't do without our coffee, much like the cowboys. A coffee percolator or teapot is a must have for true cowboy cooking. They are available in several different materials, including cast iron, stainless steel, aluminum, and enamel, to allow you to find the one that will best fit your needs and your packing situation.
Long Handled Utensils
Cooking over a fire dictates a need for being able to stir and flip a few feet back or you risk losing your eyebrows. Cowboys understood this as well and went with long handled utensils that were perfect for cooking over an open fire. From a stainless steel stirring paddle to skimmers, spatulas, forks, and more, any utensil that you need is available in a long handled version to allow you to cook over a fire without worry.
Specialty Cooking Tools
There are many different cooking pans and tools that are more specialty in nature. From a wok to a pizza pan to a cornbread pan to a beer can chicken holder, you have a ton of options. Sure, some of these were not used by the cooks on the chuck wagons, but one could very well argue that they would have been if there was access to them. The key is to find tools will serve more than one purpose to ensure you are not carrying a tool to use for just one meal.
Cooking like a cowboy requires gathering some tools, learning to build a good fire and finding recipes that will work with a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet. Patience is a virtue here, to get the right taste most cowboy cooking takes time. In the end, though, your taste buds will thank you.