Sunday, October 26, 2014

Camping Genius: The Shovel Grill

If you're a Pathfinder counselor or director, you're always looking for new woodsy stuff to teach the kids.  Here's one camping genius trick that will not only impress your kids, but also doesn't take just a whole lot of effort to pull off.

It's the old shovel-grilling technique.  If you've got a metal snow shovel or flat shovel, you've got the most amazing portable grill ever at your disposal. Trust me, this is NOT a new idea. Someone with food to fry and no skillet has already done this somewhere at some time.

You can clean up an old shovel to use as your grill, but for a nonstick surface, it's best to spend the $15 and buy a short-handled flat shovel and reserve it for camp cooking. A new one won't have a lot of scratches and pits that cause food to stick.

The technique is easy. You just build a fire, oil the pan of the shovel and cook whatever you need to cook over an open fire. Hold the shovel close to the fire, but not actually in the flames. The technique is demonstrated in the video at the end of this article.

The nifty part of this is not what you can do with a shovel grill, but how you work it into what you are already doing on the typical campout. Here are a couple of ideas:
  1. Grilled onions for roasted vege-dogs. While the kids are roasting their weiners, you get out your shovel and grill some onions. Put some oil in your shovel, add onions and saute them over the open fire - not to close, though. You want to carmelize the onions to make them taste sweeter and you need to work for a little longer and at low heat. When you are done, the kids can spoon out onions for the hot dogs with a spatula. Open fore grilled onions are fantastic. You may even sell a couple of kids who dislike onions on trying them simply for the novelty of scooping onions out of a shovel.
  2. Flapjacks. Ever wanted to flip pancakes the lumberjack way?  Here's your chance. You can easily cook pancakes on a shovel in the same way you do with an iron skillet. Once you've cooked it on one side, make sure the flapjack is loose and then toss it in the air so that it rotates. Catching it is the trick and you may go through a lot of pancake batter on your way to mastering the technique. But if you get good at it, you will be a camp cookery rockstar. Even more fun, if they have one of those pancake flipping contests at Camporee, you can cause all sorts of excitement if your team shows up with their pancake flipping shovels!
  3. Vege-Burgers.  Use your shovel like a big old skillet and fry up a bunch of those bad boys for supper.  You just have to watch your distance from the fire so they don't burn.
  4. Fried Taters.  What camp breakfast is complete without shovel-fried potatoes? I mean how convenient is it to have that 3 foot long handle on your frying pan when you're passing out the breakfast spuds?
  5. Eggs. Scrambled or fried, eggs are perfect for shovel frying. You might want a partner with a spatula to work the eggs while you hold the shovel in just the right place.
  6. Stripples.  Let us also not forget ersatz bacon as a candidate for shovel cookery (should we make this an MV Honor?  Stripples and its soy-based cousins deserve a place on the shovel grill. If they can do it with the porcine variety, we can do it with the healthier alternative!
Virtually anything you can think of, that can be fried or grilled, can be fried or grilled with your handy dandy grillin' shovel. You might even try making some really fancy treats, just to hike up the fun factor or to treat the grownups in the group after you've sent the hot dog hounds off to bed. Imagine making omelets, crapes or maybe some version of barbecued Tenderbits over an open fire, under the stars. Life, my friend is good if you have the right tools. 

Below, Brett McKay of "The Art of Manliness" weblog, shows us the correct shovel-grill handling technique with a steak. Note, the same technique works with choplets, steaklets, Fri-chick and a wide range of gluten and soy based products (just so you know).

© 2014 by Tom King