Cook It Wild

Sensational Prep-Ahead Meals for Camping, Cabins, and the Great Outdoors: A Cookbook

About the Book

In this game-changing camping cookbook, food writer and adventurer Chris Nuttall-Smith introduces an ingenious prep-ahead approach to eating outdoors, with 80 easy-to-make and wildly tasty recipes.

Cook It Wild showed me I can enjoy our incredible planet and still have a killer meal at the end of the day.”—Matty Matheson, chef, actor, and author of Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery

A BEST COOKBOOK OF THE YEAR: Food Network, Epicurious, Globe and Mail

Say goodbye to ho-hum canned beans and freeze-dried backpacking meals. With prep-ahead recipes and field-tested advice, flavor-packed dishes like herby lemon chicken, vegan dan dan noodles and even fire-baked pecan sticky buns become deliciously doable and fuss-free. Each recipe is divided into “at home” and “at camp” sections, so most of the cooking is done before your trip. Extraordinary outdoor eating is often as simple as dropping fully prepped ingredients into a pot or onto a grill. Just like that, you’ll be feasting on showstopping sweet-tangy lemon ribs, sublime vegetarian pastas, or sizzling cumin lamb kebabs paired with puff-and-serve chapati. 

Plus, with fun and savvy camp kitchen advice, you’ll learn everything you need to become a master outdoors cook, including which cheeses travel best, how to chill drinks when you don’t have ice, how to pick (and use) a backpacking stove, and how to make great coffee in the wild! 

Whether your idea of wilderness is a beach, a mountain, a rushing river or your own backyard, you’ll want to make these recipes for friends and family. For cooks and campers of every level, Cook It Wild turns outdoor mealtimes into a cause for celebration—and the highlight of every trip.
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Praise for Cook It Wild

“I’m someone who loves the outdoors but truly sucks at actually being in the wilderness. Chris has thought of every single thing you need to cook amazing food outside, and how to make it easy. Cook It Wild showed me I can enjoy our incredible planet and still have a killer meal at the end of the day.”—Matty Matheson, chef, actor, and author of Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery

“If you like to camp, this exuberant book will change your life. Even if you don’t, it’s filled with terrific do-ahead dishes and smart kitchen tips that will make your life much easier.”—Ruth Reichl, author of Save Me the Plums

“I adore this book for at least two hundred reasons. Here are my top three: First, Cook It Wild is packed (pun intended) with the exact info you need to make every meal a delicious wilderness adventure. Second, Chris Nuttall-Smith is the definition of a ‘pro’—a stellar cook and an equally accomplished outdoorsman. I would trust him implicitly, with my dinner and my life. And third, with Cook It Wild, there’s no excuse for mediocre meals. It’s a campfire game changer.”—Gail Simmons, food expert, TV host, and author of Bringing It Home

Cook It Wild, as practical as it is tempting, is bursting from its binding with ideas. The first quarter of this book reads like a grown-up Scout’s guide full of tips on how not to just survive in the wild but thrive indulgently—and that’s before you get to a single mouthwatering recipe! (Of which there are many.) Roughing it has never looked so polished.”—David Zilber, chef and New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Noma Guide to Fermentation

“Chris actually makes me feel like I can camp! That I can conquer the outdoors and, honestly, like I can conquer anything. Chris’s tips and tricks to prepare for outdoor living are fantastic. Not only does he cover must-haves but makes it sound reasonable, approachable, and so incredibly tasty!”—Eden Grinshpan, television host and author of Eating Out Loud

“I never thought I’d say, ‘I need to go camping!’ but that’s all I can think after reading Chris Nuttall-Smith’s fantastic new book. It’s smart, it’s insightful, and it makes me want to cook outdoors. Chris has convinced me that his recipes are actually going to taste even more delicious eaten around a campfire.”—Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of Dirt Candy
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Cook It Wild


The trip began with a big misunderstanding. I’d invited a group of friends for a weekend of wilderness camping, a two-hour paddle into a postcard of a park where we’d have a remote northern lake all to ourselves. The water, I promised, would be warm and calm and as clear as gin. The scenery would take their breath away. There’d be crackling campfires, raucous games of Cheat, and hammocks swaying in the summer breeze. And we would eat and drink like, well—this was camping, I warned them. There were no fridges, or food delivery, or dishwashers for the cleanup. We’d have a single backpacking burner as our stove. Plus, we’d have to pack light. So, of course, my friend Sasha shows up with a block of frozen squid.

As she told me what she had planned for the menu, I listened with growing alarm. There would
be buttery roasted meats and vegetables, fire-baked flatbreads, platters of drinking snacks, and “a showstopper,” as she called it, for Sunday night. It all sounded great, but I had no idea how she’d pull it off. We hadn’t come out here to sweat over dinner all day.

The others in the group got the same memo: “Pack light” is apparently camping code for “bring the entire contents of your fridge.” They planned buttermilk pancakes, freshly baked biscuits, fried lake-fish sandwiches, and fancy cocktails for twenty. (We were a party of nine.) What they didn’t bring was freeze-dried, canned, or instant anything. Or as most people would call it, camping food.
Part of me understood their enthusiasm, at least. When I wasn’t paddling northern lake chains with food-obsessed friends or backpacking Rocky Mountain passes, I earned my living as a food writer, well-traveled restaurant critic, and a judge on TV cooking shows. But until that weekend, I’d always kept my outdoor and food lives separate. I assumed that wild living and really good eating just didn’t mix. Yet what happened through the next forty-eight hours wasn’t the fiasco I expected. Although they were short on experience at cooking in the wild, each of them was a fanatical meal prepper. They’d done the work in advance.

When we finally pulled in to our lakeside site, those friends of mine set to pouring drinks that they’d mixed and frozen ahead. They served fresh lime margaritas and slushy white wine. Frosty negronis tasted sweet and bitter and magnificently boozy, and they hit with a brain-freezing jolt. A plate of country ham appeared, along with sliced summer sausage and fat, sweet cherries; then lacy, crunchy, creamy cacio e pepe–style flapjacks—what Italians call farinata—from a just-add-water batter that could last months on end in a pack.

We had more standout meals through that single weekend than I’d eaten in a lifetime outdoors. But what stuck out the most was how ingeniously effortless it all was. If it could be chopped, measured, mixed, marinated, braised, frozen, or fully premade at home, my friends had done it ahead. And meal prepping for the wild doesn’t have to mean endless at-home kitchen labor, either. I began to see simple, practical, high-reward hacks that could dramatically change the way we cooked and ate outside.

“Prep ahead” could mean melty, sublimely tender, fire-roasted vegetables that took five minutes of hands-on time at home. Or instant, make-anywhere (as in make-it-at-7,500-feet-behind-a-windbreak- as-a-storm-rolls-in anywhere) shallot and cheese fondue that’d blow minds pretty much any place on Earth. It could mean comforting, protein-packed, no-refrigeration curries and killer Japanese-style slaw on Day 7 of a trip, just when the crunchy vegetable daydreams were starting to get intense.

Just ten minutes of dumping dry ingredients into a bag at home could mean moist, exquisite chocolate-chunk fire cake from a simple mix—zero eggs required.

And yeah, I guess you could even eat squid while camping. My friend Sasha’s absurd-seeming packing soon started to make perfect(ish) sense.

On our second night at that lakeside campsite, Sasha seared it over the fire with pre-caramelized vegetables and Spanish rice, turning what I had been sure was the all-time dumbest-ever camping protein into the star of a smoky, spicy, spectacularly crackly crusted paella. I’m pretty sure it was the greatest thing I ate all year. (You’ll find the recipe on page 131.)

We were stuffing our faces in the starlight one night when someone mumbled, “This is camping?” All I could think was that everyone should be eating this well outside.

Cook It Wild isn’t just another camping cookbook. By harnessing the hassle-free power of meal prepping, Cook It Wild puts sensational outdoor eating in the hands of any camper or cook. Many of its very best recipes take little more effort in the wild than tipping fully prepped ingredients into a pot, onto a platter, or over the coals in the wild. More than half of the recipes in Cook It Wild take ten minutes or less at camp.

With its practical advice on planning, prepping, and packing for your trip, this book will vastly expand what you think of as “camping food” too. Because isn’t it time that camp cooking caught up with how people actually want to eat? Cook It Wild offers softly caramelized sumac-roasted shallots and breathtakingly tasty dan dan noodles. It’s simple, pre-prepped flatbreads that turn blistered and smoky over a camp stove or fire. Lightweight, one-pot red lentil dal that can be packed for roughing it but tastes every bit like glamping, and takes about as long to serve as reconstituting a freeze-dried meal. There’s even a sublimely creamy risotto, real whipped cream (zero whisking required!), and the best near-instant French toast you’ll ever eat.

Better still, Cook It Wild is designed with your wild in mind, no matter how or where you like to get outside. Whether you’re a backpacker, a car or RV camper, a beach rat (hands up!), or a paddler. Whether your wild place of choice is a ski hut, cabin, hunting or fishing camp or cottage, the local park, or a cozy backyard, we have you covered.

This book’s seventy-five-plus field-tested recipes are categorized with simple symbols so you can tell, at a glance, the types of trips they’re ideal for, what special gear they may require, and even how much they’ll weigh in your pack. Also, since pretty much nobody wants to bring a cookbook camping, Cook It Wild is designed so you can leave it at home: Every recipe’s “At Camp” instructions are laid out so you can easily snap a photo to carry on the device of your choice.

But most important of all, Cook It Wild keeps front and center why we camp. We do it to get away, to recharge, and to spend quality time with friends and family. We do all this because it’s ridiculous and, yes, delicious fun—and you can absolutely do it too.

About the Author

Chris Nuttall-Smith
CHRIS NUTTALL-SMITH is a celebrated journalist, food writer, and critic, as well as a Top Chef Canada resident judge. Chris has also served as food editor, chief restaurant critic, and dining columnist at Toronto Life and national food critic for The Globe and Mail. His writing about food and other subjects has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Lucky Peach, Esquire, enRoute, and New York magazine. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Carol, and son, Cormac. More by Chris Nuttall-Smith
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