By Montana Grant

Posted: July 24, 2022

A fish fry requires a frying pan or pot of hot oil. Baking and broiling need a tray or some foil. So, what do you use to cook a fresh fish if you don’t have any kitchen gear? Its time make Fish on Fire!

You need to use what you have on hand! Back in the day, as a young Boy Scout, we hiked in Philmont, New Mexico. This wilderness adventure BSA camp offered challenging hiking and backpacking. Our hike would be over 120 miles and our main food was freeze dried packets of…

My first thought was to take a fly rod! I kept a 71/2-foot rood in an aluminum tube, strapped to my pack frame. Our packs were already around 70 pounds. The frames were made of wood. This was way before the superlight gear of today.

Every place we camped seemed to be near a pond or stream. These waters were full of trout. After camp was set up, I went on the hunt for fresh fish dinner. The trout were not finicky and full stringers were the norm. When I came back to camp, all the expedition had a fresh fish to cook, but how?


Cooking over a fire is easy. The scouts cut a long willow stick and used them like a hot dog fork. The fish were cleaned or guts and scales, but the head was left on. They shoved the pointed stick into the trout’s mouth and back to the tail. We had some condiment packets, so salt and pepper were added to spice things up. The trick was to keep the fish at just the right distance from the fire. Avoid burning the skin. Slow cooking was best. Once the meat became white, the fish was right. The scouts would then just pick the meat away from the bones. Nothing went to waste and a healthy, fresh trout made a tasty meal without needing to do any dishes!


As we became more proficient at cooking our daily trout, one scout found a nice cedar plank and suggested that we use it for baking a fish. We butterflied the largest trout and used pins from the First aid kit to tack the open fish to the plank. Skin side was against the plank. Next, we placed/ tilted the plank near the fire and coals. Our spice kit also included some sugar and one scout had brought along some hot sauce. We spiced up our fish and let it bake and smoke. We kept the fire hot. Flames help to cook faster. The reflected heat cooked the fish. It took about 15-20 minutes to properly cook the fish.

These cooking styles are certainly more primitive but are a simple and practical way to cook fish without pots and pans. If you have other spices and butter/oil, you can make these meals even better. Serve them up with a wild garnish of fried dandelion, or Queen Annes lace flowers for a real unique garnish. Watercress and wild onions or ramps can also be fun.

A great cook doesn’t need no stinkin pans!

Montana Grant

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