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Welcome to The Trail! Each month of the HomeScouting Adventure Club for Scouts BSA will be focused on a merit badge. Below you can complete all of the requirements for the electricity merit badge. Scouts are encouraged to find a local merit badge counselor to fully complete the merit badge. The HomeScouting Adventure Club will provide a limited number of merit badge counselors to have small group merit badge sessions during the first two weeks of the month following the subject month. 

NOTE: Scouts will not be able to complete the camp/trail cooking portion unless their unit is going camping or work with your Scoutmaster on an alternative solution. Scouts participating in the merit badge counseling sessions will need to have 100% of the requirements complete, including the camp and trail cooking requirements. Each state has different regulations and Scouts should only register for counseling sessions if all requirements are complete. There will be Cooking counseling sessions every other month for the next six months.

When you're ready, get started on your first HomeScouting Adventure - learning about cooking at home and on the trial and earning the cooking merit badge!

Looking for last month's merit badge? Click the Link Below!

Make sure to download the connected worksheet for this month's adventure!

Need a Merit Badge Counselor? 

Click here to sign up for a virtual merit badge counseling session for Electricity or Cooking!

NOTE: Scouts will not be able to complete the camp/trail cooking portion unless their unit is going camping or work with your Scoutmaster on an alternative solution. Scouts participating in the merit badge counseling sessions will need to have 100% of the requirements complete, including the camp and trail cooking requirements. Each state has different regulations and Scouts should only register for counseling sessions if all requirements are complete. There will be Cooking counseling sessions every other month for the next six months.



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Most people appreciate good food and the comfort of a delicious home-cooked meal. Many Scouts know the fun of enjoying a tasty cookout after a rigorous day in the outdoors. Cooking is a skill you can learn now and enjoy for life. With a little planning and practice, you can easily turn everyday ingredients into a healthy meal. Learning to cook gives you new respect for those who have prepared meals for you. Best of all, cooking is fun and rewarding, too—especially when the compliments pour in and you hear requests for second helpings. The Cooking merit badge will introduce you to principles of cooking that can be used both at home or in the outdoors. You will learn about food safety, nutritional guidelines, meal planning, and methods of food preparation. This pamphlet includes recipes that can be used either at camp or at home. It also offers a look into the variety of culinary (or cooking) careers available. So, let’s get cooking!

From the grocery store to the plate, making meals for cookouts or at home takes planning. As you cook, remember to keep safety as your top priority. By planning carefully and cooking with a variety of foods, you will help make the mealtime enjoyable for you and those for whom you cook.


Safety is always a Scout’s primary consideration. Along with considering the gear needed, the environment, and any necessary protection from the elements, the first consideration in preparing for this trip would be the safety of the patrol members. Cooking also requires planning and attention to detail to keep safety first. A simple definition of cooking can be putting together three items—uncooked food, utensils, and heat—and creating edible nourishment. All three elements contain the potential for injury.



The first item involved in safe cooking is, of course, the food. Meats and dairy foods must be kept cold before use. Once removed from its protective wrapper, meat must be kept separate from other food items. Because bacteria can grow in meat, the meat must be cooked as soon as it is no longer cold. Likewise, any uneaten, cooked meat must be properly stored and kept cold to eliminate the risk of growing bacteria.


Cooks use many types of equipment to prepare food. Sharp knives must be used properly to prevent serious cuts and injuries. Pots on a stove or campfire get extremely hot and always must be handled with hot-pot tongs or hot pads to prevent burns. Some pots are very thick and heavy by design, such as the Dutch oven. Cooks must always transport these heavy pots carefully. Dropping such a pot, even an empty pot, could cause serious injury if it landed on someone.


Whether cooking over a fire in camp or on a stove at home, there is always a risk to you, to others nearby, and to your environment. In camp, follow all safety guidelines described in building and using a campfire or camp stove. Cook under adult supervision when you are using a stove or grilling outside. Both electric and gas stoves and grills present unique risks; understand the fuel your cooking appliance uses. Keep your stove and oven clean and neat. Do not place pot holders or dish towels on the stove, even for a moment. Dress appropriately while cooking. Remove jewelry that can dangle or catch on a pot. Avoid wearing loose clothing and, for sanitary and safety reasons, tie back long hair.


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Exercising Fire Safety Awareness

Residences are required by law to have a working fire alarm, or smoke detector. A fire alarm emits a very loud siren to alert occupants when smoke is present. These alarms typically are installed on the ceiling, where smoke can first be detected.

A fire extinguisher is a must in the well-equipped kitchen. Learn how to use yours before an accident occurs.

Do not use an outdoor grill inside the house or garage, or near overhanging branches outside.

Understand how smoke detectors work. Make sure to change their batteries regularly, such as during a springtime holiday and again during a fall holiday



Following these safety guidelines won’t eliminate your risk of a cooking injury but will help prepare you in case of an accident. Basic first-aid techniques can be used if someone gets injured while cooking.

Here are some common injuries that can take place while cooking.


Burns are caused by contact with flame, hot objects, chemicals, electrical sources, radiated heat, frozen surfaces, friction, or radiation. Scalds are burns caused by contact with boiling fluids or steam. Treatment for minor burns and scalds is the same.

  • Step 1—Stop the burn. Put out flames or remove the victim from the source of the burn. The terrible thing about burns is that the skin continues to burn and more damage is created until you can cool down the affected area of the person’s body.

  • Step 2—Cool the burn. Use large amounts of cool water to cool the burn. Never use ice except on small, superficial burns, because it causes body heat loss. If the area cannot be immersed, like the face, soak a clean cloth in cool water and apply it gently to the burn. Continue adding water to keep the cloth cool.

  • Step 3—Cover the burn. Use dry, sterile dressings or a clean cloth to help prevent infection. Bandage loosely so that air can flow around the wound; this will help the area heal more quickly. Apply an antibiotic ointment only to minor burns. Do not use home remedies, and do not break blisters.

For minor (first-degree, second-degree) burns that are not severe enough to require medical attention, wash the burned area with soap and water. Keep the wound clean, and apply an antibiotic ointment for the first few days. Some people may be allergic to topical ointments; if you have any doubts, call a doctor.


For severe (third-degree) burns, seek medical treatment as quickly as possible. Severe burns can be a life-threatening injury. Unless the victim is having trouble breathing, have the victim lie down. Try to raise the burned areas above the level of the victim’s heart if possible, and protect the victim from drafts.


Inhaling smoke can seriously damage the lungs, and smoke sometimes contains noxious fumes. To treat a smoke inhalation victim, first remove the victim from the smoke-filled area. Then have the victim take long, deep breaths of fresh air to clear the lungs. If coughing or choking continues, or if there is pain, irritation, or raspy breathing, see a doctor as soon as possible.


These simple precautions will help any cook prevent burn

  • Take time to prepare meals without rushing.

  • Always use pot holders that are in good repair.

  • Keep pot handles turned toward the back of the

  • Cook on rear burners whenever possible, but avoid reaching over an open flame or hot burner.

  • Use caution when moving heavy pots of hot liquids from the stove.

  • Keep all heated liquid and food out of children’s reach, and never hold anything hot while carrying a child.

  • While cooking, try to keep younger children out of the kitchen.

  • Remove tablecloths when toddlers are present (they can pull the table’s contents on top of themselves).

  • Purchase and use small appliances with short electrical cords.

Preventing Burn Injuries


Follow these steps to treat minor cuts.

  • Step 1—Stop the bleeding. Apply pressure with a clean, absorbent cloth or your fingers. (Wear latex gloves.)

  • Step 2—If the blood soaks through, apply a second bandage on top. Leave the first bandage on to preserve the clotting that has already taken place.

  • Step 3—If the bleeding continues, raise the wound above the patient’s heart level.

  • Step 4—Once bleeding stops, clean the wound gently with soap and water, or just flush the wound with water to remove all debris and dirt.

  • Step 5—Apply an antibiotic ointment. Some people are allergic to these ointments; ask the patient or contact a doctor if you have any doubts. Cover the cut with a clean bandage.


Help prevent accidents by practicing these
safety tips.

  • Keep knives and scissors sharp and
    handle them carefully. 

  • Store sharp items separate from other
    utensils.Take them out of storage only
    when they are being used.

  • Never put knives or scissors in a sink full of water. Wash, rinse, dry, and put them away as you go.

  • When you use a knife to cut, dice, or chop, always place the item you are cutting on a flat surface such as a wooden cutting board. Cut away from yourself, making sure your fingers are not in the knife’s path.

Preventing Cuts


Develop good habits in the kitchen. Clean pans, pots, utensils, and your working surfaces as you go. Dishes are easier to wash when you clean them soon after you use them. Keeping the home or camp kitchen clean as you cook has other advantages.

  • It keeps the cooking area safer.

  • It makes your cooking experience calmer and more organized.

  • It makes cleanup a breeze when you are finished cooking and eating.


It is no fun when you have muffins ready to come out of the oven and you cannot find a pot holder because it was not put back where it belongs. If you use what is handy, such as a dish towel, you stand a good chance of getting burned. Cleaning and putting things back where they belong as you go will eliminate these hassles because everything will be in its place when you need it.


Make sure the work area is clean and uncluttered before you begin, and keep it clean as you go. Have all the ingredients, utensils, pots, and pans ready before you start to cook. As you cook, you often need to reuse the same equipment. For example, you might use a mixer for the cake batter, so clean the mixer blades right away because you will need them as soon as the cake cools to make frosting.

Always use an antibacterial cleaner to wipe up spills from meat packaging or from raw meat. Do not cut meat on the same surface you use to cut up vegetables and other foods, even if the surface is clean. To plan ahead and minimize cleanup as much as possible, keep a sink about half full of warm, soapy water while preparing meals. This makes it quick and easy to keep your hands clean as you work with various foods, such as raw meats.


When storing and handling food, these simple rules will help keep the kitchen—and your


  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. For camp, keep cold food on ice in a cooler.

  • When you buy food in jars, make sure the safety seal on the lid is intact.

  • Freeze any fresh poultry or meat that will not be used within two days. Follow any label instructions for storage.

  • Refrigerate any leftovers as soon as the meal is over. Use smaller containers to cool leftovers quickly; slow cooling encourages bacteria growth.

  • Keep the refrigerator clean, and discard uneaten leftovers after three days.


Most Scouts know about the risks involved in using fire in the outdoors. These risks

carry over to any kind of cooking anywhere, no matter what the “fire” looks like. For

example, even though you do not see fire when the microwave is operating correctly,

the electricity used to run it is basically the same as a campfire. If you use a microwave

oven to reheat leftovers for lunch, you probably know that having anything metal

(like aluminum foil) in the microwave while it operates may cause an electrical fire.

Always cook under an adult’s supervision. Ask an adult to explain the stove’s operation; gas stoves and electric stoves operate very differently and have different risks.

Before you cook, learn about any appliances you will be using. If you are cooking with a gas stove while camping, read the manufacturer’s instructions and use only with adult supervision. Be sure all parts are in good working order.


There are simple ways to reduce the risk of food-related illnesses.

  • Always follow the food-storage guidelines described on this page.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before cooking, after cooking, as needed while you cook, and before eating.

  • Keep your work area clean; wipe up spills quickly and thoroughly using soap and water or kitchen cleaner.

  • Cook all meat and poultry products, including eggs, thoroughly before eating.

  • Never eat raw cookie dough or cake batter.

  • Never use foods from cans that bulge.

Failure to follow safe food-handling guidelines can cause serious illness. Here are a few illnesses worth mentioning.


Salmonella Enteritis. This bacteria is linked to raw, uncooked eggs and poultry, and unwashed, raw vegetables and fruits. Salmonella poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, and loss of appetite. Help prevent salmonella poisoning by doing the following.

  • Do not buy leaking packages; isolate meat packages in plastic bags to prevent contaminating other foods.

  • Prepare foods using clean utensils and clean work surfaces.

  • Quickly wipe up all raw meat or poultry juices from counters, and wash utensils, hands, cutting boards, and serving plates that are exposed to such juices.

  • Thoroughly cook all foods derived from animals (including eggs).

  • Do not eat raw eggs, cookie dough, or cake batter. Consume only pasteurized milk products.

  • Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables.

  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly.

Staphylococcal Enteritis. This bacteria multiplies in warm temperatures and thrives on protein. Symptoms of infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever, chills, weakness, and dizziness. To prevent staphylococcal enteritis, wash hands and utensils before serving food. Thoroughly cook all meats, and refrigerate leftovers promptly in shallow, covered containers.


Escherichia Coli Enteritis (E. Coli). This is a bacteria that attacks the intestinal tract. It can be transmitted person to person and grows at temperatures of 44 degrees and above. In extreme cases, it can cause serious complications in children and elderly people. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Take these precautions to prevent the spread of E. coli.

  • Prepare and store food in a sanitary environment.

  • Thoroughly cook all food.

  • Refrigerate food at 40 degrees or below.


Botulism. This deadly disease is caused by ingesting bacteria that can be found in many kinds of food. Symptoms include dry mouth, double vision, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, sore throat, dizziness, constipation, weakness, muscle paralysis, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. Take these precautions to prevent the spread of botulism.

  • Never use food from damaged or bulging containers or foods that have a strange odor or appearance.

  • Cool leftovers quickly by storing them in shallow, small containers.

  • Reheat all refrigerated foods.


Trichinosis. Trichinosis is caused by the parasite Trichinella spiralis. Its larvae can remain alive in human tissue for years. People contract trichinosis by eating undercooked or raw meat, especially pork infected with the parasite. Infection usually occurs without symptoms, which can include stomachache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. When there are symptoms, they occur during the first week after swallowing the organism. To prevent trichinosis, thoroughly cook meats, especially pork.


Hepatitis. Hepatitis A is one of five viruses known to cause inflammation of the liver, the others being hepatitis B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A is usually a mild illness characterized by sudden onset of fever, malaise, nausea, and abdominal discomfort, followed in several days by jaundice. Patients with anorexia often may have hepatitis A. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A in many cases. Children ages 1 to 18 years old should receive two initial doses of the vaccine and booster shots after six and 12 months. Adults should get an initial dose and then a booster six to 12 months later. It takes at least two weeks before protection can take effect. The illness also can be prevented by a shot of immune globulin within two weeks of exposure. To help prevent hepatitis A, do the following.

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before preparing and eating food. Make sure to use a nailbrush to scrub under your fingernails, where bacteria can hide.

  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.

  • Drink water from approved sources only.

  • Keep bathrooms clean and disinfected.

Did you know?

An overstuffed fridge will not keep food cold enough.


Never use aluminum foil to cover food in a microwave oven.


Good planning and preparation before you start cooking will help you successfully prepare healthy and delicious meals at home.

  • Determine when you will be cooking and the types of
    meals you will be preparing.

  • Find out whom you will be cooking for and whether
    anyone has any special dietary needs.

  • Select recipes using the food pyramid (discussed later
    on) as a guideline.

  • Make a list of foods required for the meals, then
    create a shopping list based on the ingredients you
    will need.

  • Create and follow a timetable for the preparation of each meal.



Before you cook at home, understand your cooking equipment, including appliances, utensils, pots, and pans. Appliances include the stove and oven, microwave, refrigerator, and garbage disposal, plus any small appliances such as a food processor, blender, and electric mixer. All these appliances serve a function in the food preparation process, and care must be taken in operating these appliances correctly. For instance, food processors and blenders have very powerful and sharp blades that can chop, puree, and liquefy foods. Use them only for foods recommended by the manufacturer. Always make sure the top is firmly locked in place before operating a food processor or blender. Most food processors have safety features that prevent the appliance from operating unless the top is secure.

Cooking With a Microwave Oven

A microwave oven is a great time-saver, especially with simple meals. Baked potatoes, which take at least 45 minutes in a conventional oven or over a campfire, cook in just a few minutes in the microwave. Covering bacon slices thickly with paper towels and cooking them on a plate in the microwave is much easier than pan-frying bacon. Reheating tortillas takes only about 30 seconds in the microwave; in a conventional oven, it might take 10 to 15 minutes. Take special precautions when using a microwave oven. Wear oven mitts and handle microwave dishes with extreme care.

  • Read and follow the user’s manual, and follow the instructions when preparing packaged foods.

  • Avoid using glass containers, which can get very hot.

  • Puncture plastic wrap before heating foods, and stir foods during cooking to distribute the heat.

  • To avoid steam burns, protect your hands and forearms when removing the cover from a hot dish.

  • Never heat baby formula or baby food in a microwave.

Often, it is better to heat something up in a pan on the stove. For example, the microwave does not work as well for browning foods. Heat permeates food rather than being concentrated on the surface next to the heating element, as in conventional cooking. As a result, food does not brown from close contact with the heat source. Some foods change in texture when cooked in a microwave. For example, potatoes baked in an oven or on the coals have a crisp shell and dry, fluffy interiors that some people prefer to the softer, steamier microwaved potato.



When shopping for your family meals, always consider your family’s budget. An adult at home can help you determine how much to spend and how to stay within budget. If you plan wisely, you should not have many leftovers— unless you want leftovers. For example, if you make a big pot of chowder, you may want to serve it for dinner, refrigerate it, and have some the next day. You also might freeze a portion to enjoy later on. Always look at the servings or yield any recipe promises,

for example, “serves four.” From there, the recipe can be increased for a larger crowd or

decreased for only a couple of people. Just double the amount of ingredients listed to cook for

twice the number of people the recipe serves, or halve the ingredients for just two people.

Buying in bulk and freezing portions of ingredients (such as fresh meats and poultry) often cuts

per-unit costs, saving money in the long run. When freezing fresh meats, remove them from their

original packaging and wrap recipe-sized portions tightly in freezer wrap or resealable plastic

freezer bags.


Did you know?

Frozen fruits and vegetables are the next best thing to fresh during the winter months when some fruits and vegetables are not in season or are more expensive.

This chart will help you adjust the yield of your recipe.



Meals at camp or on the trail should be simple. One-pot meals, foil meals, or meals that require adding only hot water often are an easy choice. Save more complicated and time-consuming dishes for at home.


The best way to plan a meal is to follow a schedule. Create a timetable, based on how long it takes to prepare each course or recipe. This eliminates much of the anxiety that can come from preparing a meal for others. Here are some simple rules of thumb. Write down which course, or food, takes the longest to prepare, then the next-to-longest, and so on. From there, break it down into smaller steps. Making a roast, for example, involves trimming the fat, rinsing the meat, preheating the oven, seasoning the meat, putting it on a drip rack in a pan in the oven, and then cooking it for the remainder of the time. While the roast cooks, you have enough time to prepare other side dishes and the dessert. Bread, rolls, and the like are usually the last thing to be popped in the oven before a meal is served.

Here is an example. For Sunday dinner, John decides to make roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, cucumber soup, crescent rolls, and rice pudding for dessert. He and his family are eating at 5 p.m. John consults his recipes and discovers that, including time to make the gravy, the roast will take 31 ⁄2 hours to complete. He puts the roast in first. He then sees that, with all the time allowed for various steps, the cucumber soup takes about 45 minutes to prepare, plus a few hours to chill afterward, since the soup should be served cold.


Remember, you usually will work on more than one recipe at a time. Although it may take a couple of hours for the cucumber soup to chill, once it is made, you can work on something else for the meal while the soup chills. Notice that items on John’s timetable sometimes overlap. The items shown between 3:30 and 4:30 seem to take longer than the hour he is allowed. However, a great deal of that time the vegetables are cooking so he has time to prepare the next course. Also, he does not always include measurements. Perhaps it may be an item in which he uses exactly what he bought, or perhaps he is familiar with the recipe and knows how much to add. The main thing is that John’s timetable is simply a tool for his use, so he can jot down as much or as little detail as he wants.


Finding Recipes

There are many great places to find recipes. The Internet (with your parent’s permission) and local library have hordes of recipes. Don’t forget the many cooking shows on TV; you’re sure to find a few that interest you.


Always try to choose foods that promote good health over those that do not. There are many low-fat products on the market that can be substituted for high-fat choices. Extend those healthy choices to the cooking method used, too.


Vegetables are especially nutritious when they are briefly steamed, instead of being boiled for long periods of time—and certainly better than when fried. Steam, poach, or sauté vegetables in some broth or a bit of olive oil. Some larger and firmer vegetables, such as bell peppers and zucchini, can be grilled to make them even more flavorful. The same applies to meats and poultry. Skinless grilled chicken, prepared properly, has all the delicious, juicy flavor of fried chicken but only a fraction of the fat and calories.


Use Spices and Herbs

Experimenting with spices and herbs is another healthy way to enhance the flavor of foods. Most comprehensive cookbooks have a chart that will show you which herbs and spices go best with various meats and vegetables.


Planning and preparation are key in camp cooking and important in making your cookout a rewarding experience.


There are times when campfires are still the center of Scout life and may be appropriate. However, Scouts today are wiser about the environment and understand that fires can leave scars upon the land. Lighting campfires in heavily used campsites can mar surrounding forests as people gather up every stick of dead wood and break off tree branches for fuel. Instead, most Scout campers now use stoves for cooking.


Camp stoves allow you to prepare meals in nearly every sort of weather, on almost any terrain, and without relying on available firewood. Best of all, camp stoves leave no marks on the land.

Selecting a Stove

The stove you choose depends on the kind of cooking you will do, type of fuel you want to use, and weight you are willing to carry. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for carrying, fueling, using, maintaining, and storing camp stoves.

  • White Gas. White gas is a highly distilled fuel. Some white gas stoves must be preheated, often by squeezing a dab of flammable paste into a depression at the base of the burner stem. Preheating increases the pressure inside the fuel tank, forcing vaporized fuel up a stem and into a burner where it can be ignited with a match. Once the burner is roaring, it will keep the fuel tank hot enough to maintain a steady supply of vaporized fuel.  White gas stoves equipped with pumps that pressurize their fuel tanks can be an advantage in cold weather.

  • Cartridge Stoves. If you want simplicity, safety, and convenience, butane and propane cartridge stoves are your best choice. These stoves need no pumping or preheating; simply attach a fuel canister, turn the control knob, and light the burner. Cartridge stoves work well in warm weather and at high altitudes, but they lose efficiency as the temperature drops.

  • Propane Tank Stoves. Two-burner propane stoves are too hefty for backpacking but can be just right for larger groups and when weight is not a big issue. Propane is highly flammable, so take appropriate precautions when using propane stoves. Propane tank stoves are great for bigger groups and when transporting is not a big deal.

  • Kerosene. This is a hot burning, nonexplosive fuel available almost anywhere. Kerosene camp stoves are unusual in North America but are frequently seen on international expeditions. A kerosene stove must be preheated before it can be lit.


White Gas


Cartridge Stove 


Propane Tank Stove




Many campgrounds have grills already set up. A simple portable grill with legs placed over your campfire also makes a good cooking area. The pots or pans can be placed on the grill, or foods can cook directly on the grill over coals.

  • Charcoal. Charcoal makes outdoor cooking and grilling easy, as long as there are no regulations against its use where you camp. Dutch oven cooking, stick cooking, and cooking with foil packs are a snap with charcoal. Using self-lighting charcoal vastly decreases the amount of time it takes to get the coals perfect for grilling (when they are covered with gray ash throughout).

Using Stoves Safely

Different kinds of stoves burn different fuels and operate in different ways. Read your stove’s instructions carefully and follow them exactly.

  1. Never fuel, light, or operate a gas stove or lantern inside a tent, snow cave, or igloo; always do this outdoors.

  2. Use, refuel, and store stoves and lanterns only with the supervision of a knowledgeable adult and in Scout facilities only where allowed.

  3. Operate and maintain stoves and lanterns according to the manufacturer’s instructions included with the product.

  4. Store fuel in well-marked, approved containers (never in a glass container) and in a ventilated, locked box at least 20 feet from buildings and tents, and below 100°F. Keep containers well away from campfires, burning stoves, and all sources of heat.

  5. Allow hot stoves and lanterns to cool completely before changing compressed gas cartridges or cylinders, or refilling from containers of liquid fuel.

  6. Refill stoves and lanterns outdoors, a safe distance from flames, including other stoves, campfires, and personal smoking substances. Use cartridges or fuel expressly recommended for your stoves by the manufacturer. Use a funnel to pour liquid fuel into a stove or lantern. Recap the fuel container and stove or lantern. Before lighting the device, wait until any spilled fuel has evaporated.

  7. Place the stove on a level, secure surface before operating. On snow, place the stove on an 8-inch-square piece of plywood or other flat surface to insulate it from the cold and make it more stable.

  8. Have stoves and lanterns checked periodically by knowledgeable adults to make sure they are in top working condition.

  9. To avoid possible fires, locate gas tanks, stoves, etc., below any tents since heavy leakage of gas will flow downhill the same as water.

  10. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for lighting a stove. Keep fuel containers and extra canisters well away. Do not hover over the stove when lighting it. Open the stove valve quickly for two full turns and light carefully, with head, fingers, and hands to the side of the burner; then adjust down. Keep your head and body to one side in case the stove flares up.

  11. Never leave a lighted stove or lantern unattended.

  12. Do not overload a stove with a heavy pot or large frying pan. When cooking requires a pot capacity of more than 2 quarts, set up a separate grill with legs to hold the pot, then place the stove under the grill. 

  13. Carry empty fuel containers home for proper disposal. Do not place them in or near fires, or in trash that will be burned; empty fuel containers will explode if heated and should never be put in fireplaces or with burnable trash.


Deciding which utensils to take on a campout depends on what you plan to cook. Plan meals based on the length of the trip, your destination, and how you will get there.


Planning meals for a campout includes making a list of utensils. Pay close attention to recipes to ensure your list is complete. A standard chef’s cook kit, which offers a great variety of tools and utensils, probably has what you need, but make sure. In addition to the cooking utensils and pots and pans you will need to cook for a group, do not forget your own personal eating utensils. Also bring resealable plastic bags with herbs, pinches of spices, salt and pepper packets, and other seasonings or condiments to make your dishes even more


Dutch Oven Cooking

Some of the tastiest meals you will make and eat as a Scout will be cooked in a Dutch oven.This sturdy iron pot with a thick, heavy lid not only can cook one-pot meals but can also act as a small oven for making biscuits, breakfast casseroles, and fantastic fruit cobblers. Its thick build produces an even heat, ideal for slow simmering. Despite its weight, the Dutch oven’s versatility makes it a valuable tool in any camp kitchen.


Cooking with Foil

One of the camp cook’s best friends is double-layered, heavyweight aluminum foil. It is great for cooking food in coals—and for creating simple, disposable pots and pans. Lighter-weight foils will not provide enough protection against punctures and extreme heat and the possibility of burnt food. Foil wrapped as an airtight package around food and sealed with a drugstore or sandwich fold becomes a miniature pressure cooker. On a bed of hot coals with some heat on top, a foil packet of diced vegetables and meat will cook in 10 to 15 minutes, whole potatoes in 40 to 50 minutes. Be sure to allow some space in your packages for expansion by not wrapping the uncooked food too tightly. If you want to allow food to brown or broil as in a skillet, leave the package open at the top (or fashion like a folded drinking cup with a flat bottom). The steam can escape and you can watch the cooking progress of your meal.

Using foil, you can cook almost anything directly in the charcoal. Dutch ovens are also useful for cooking and baking this way. Place the Dutch oven on top of the coals, put coals on top of the Dutch oven’s lid, then place your foil packet over the coals. You also can use foil to line the Dutch oven when baking.This makes for easy removal of items such as cakes. As a bonus, your cleanup is easy. Just remember that used foil must be packed out at camp.

How to Fold Foil

There are three variations used in foil cooking.

  • Handle Wrap. Double-thickness, heavy-duty aluminum foil can substitute for simple pots
    at times. Just tear off a long enough section of foil so that you can double it, and then crimp
    and fold the foil into the shape you need.

  • Bundle Wrap. Place food in the center of the foil. Bring the corners of the foil up into a
    pyramid shape, twisting the four corners together to seal. Leave room for expansion.

  • Drugstore Wrap. Place foil on a flat surface and place food in center of the foil.
    Fold the sides up. Tightly crimp and fold down several times, leaving space inside for
    expansion. Bring the open ends together, folding several times, and crimp to seal.



The first step in planning for camp cooking is to find out the destination, the length of the trip, and the time of departure. Find out how many people are going and if anyone has any known allergies or dietary restrictions. Also get an idea of the group’s daily activities while camping. If plans call for fishing one afternoon, for example, consider having the day’s catch for dinner that evening. Have a backup plan, though, in case the fish do not bite.

Consider the season of the year. In summertime, people generally prefer lighter foods. In the winter, hot and hearty meals help keep the body warmer and replenish the storehouse of energy it burns keeping warm. List the meals planned for the length of the campout. For example, if you are going to a nearby campsite, leaving Friday at 4 p.m. and returning Sunday afternoon at the same time, you will probably be responsible for dinner Friday, all three meals on Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Confirm this with your unit leader. If weight or cooking time is a concern, consider preparing foods at home ahead of time to eat on the trail, such as jerky or nuts and dried fruits. You can dry some food items by baking them in the oven on the lowest heat setting.

Using this knowledge, along with the guidelines described in the MyPyramid (see the chapter called “Get to Know Your Food Groups”), will help you create flavorful meals for your campout. Consult the recipes in this pamphlet as you prepare your menus. The Cooking merit badge requirements include providing camp dinners with soup, meat, fish, poultry, or an appropriate meatless substitute for protein; two fresh vegetables; a drink; and dessert. Remember, at least one meal must be a one-pot dinner prepared without the use of canned foods.

TIP: Make your own marinades using a little vinegar or fresh lemon juice or lime juice and some spices. In a pinch, just about any prepared salad dressing will do. Marinating meat in this mixture will add even more flavor and tenderness. Always properly discard the marinade juices after you remove meat from a marinade.


You will need water for drinking, cooking, and cleanup—several gallons a day per Scout. Public supplies (drinking faucets and fountains) are safest and often can be found in frontcountry campsites. Camping in dry regions requires careful planning for how you will transport water to camp.

Open Water

Water taken from streams, rivers, lakes, and springs may contain bacteria and parasites too small to see and must be properly treated before use. Use one of the following methods to treat any water that does not come from a tested water source.

  • Boiling. Bringing water to a rolling boil for a full minute or more is the most effective way to kill any organisms that water might contain.

  • Treatment Tablets. Sold in small bottles, these tablets make a lightweight option. However, they are not always effective against all harmful organisms. The label usually tells you to drop one or two tablets into a quart of water and then wait 30 minutes before drinking. The treatment may leave a chemical taste in the water. After the tablets have had a full 30 minutes to take effect, you can improve the flavor by adding some drink mix. If you will be using treatment tablets, be sure to add these to your shopping list. Water treatment tablets quickly lose their potency once the container is opened; be sure to check the expiration date before you go camping.

    • Iodine Caution - Anyone who is allergic to iodine or shellfish cannot use water treated with tablets. Iodine can also be harmful to small children, people with thyroid problems or who take lithium, women over 50, pregnant women, and people with liver or kidney disease.​

  • Filters. Water treatment filters are effective and easy to use. Some operate by pumping water through pores small enough to strain out bacteria. Others contain chemicals or carbon.



Plan your meals and your shopping trips carefully, taking into consideration as precisely as possible how much of an ingredient you will need. List everything you will need to buy. Your counselor can help you determine the quantity of each item for the number of people you will be feeding. Include on your shopping list resealable plastic bags, foil, and other nonfood items that will be needed. Read each recipe carefully and jot down how many resealable bags you will need and the sizes required to repackage ingredients.

Take your shopping list to the store and jot down prices for each item. Back home, total the price for the items, adding sales tax, if it applies. Divide the amount by the number of people who will be eating.This is the amount you should collect from each Scout for their part of the food bill.


Price is important when shopping, but equally important is value—getting the most for your money. 

Most stores have shelf labels that tell not only the price of an item, but also the unit price. The store has done the math for you to show the cost per unit of an item rather than per package. For a jar of jam, the unit price might be what 1 ounce of jam costs. This means the store has divided the total price by the number of ounces in the jar, so you can compare the price of different sizes and brands of the jam. The jar with the smallest unit price is the least expensive, but it may not always be the best value or the most practical for camping purposes.


You will often—but not always—find that buying in larger quantities is more economical. The larger item may cost more than a smaller size, but you get a great deal more of the item. However, always consider how much you plan to use. It is not wise to buy a gallon of jam for a weekend campout. If the economy size is much more than you will need, buy a smaller size.


Another money-saving tip is to use plain-label (also known as generic) or store brands. They are of comparable quality but often cost much less than name-brand goods.


Take your notebook and review your recipes again. This time, make a list of the equipment and utensils necessary to prepare each recipe. This will make packing easier and less stressful. Do not forget herbs, spices, cooking oils, and nonfood items. Here are some other “unforgettables.”

  • Water Containers. It may be convenient to have a few collapsible plastic water containers for use in camp cooking. Common container sizes are 1 gallon and 21 ⁄2 gallons.

  • Cleanup Materials. Soapless scouring pads, a rinse agent, and a little biodegradable soap will take care of most of your dishwashing needs in camp. As soon as they are washed, stow cooking and personal eating gear in a small fishnet hammock strung between two trees, or in a mesh bag tied to a branch.

  • Trash Bags. Large plastic trash bags work well as storage sacks, emergency ponchos, or pack covers, for suspending food on bear lines, and to pack out trash at the end of a trip.


You know how long you will be gone, how many people you will be serving, and what and how you will be cooking. You have shopped for the food and even figured out each Scout’s share. The only thing left is to cook, right? Well, almost.


Before Leaving Home

Getting food to the campsite takes a little planning.

  • Measuring Food. Measuring is important in cooking. Take only what you need for the trip. For this part of the planning, gather the recipes, resealable plastic bags in different sizes, and the food you will be taking. Pack one recipe at a time and precisely measure each required ingredient. Be organized so that in camp, you need only minimal preparation. Some food preparation, such as slicing and chopping, can be done in advance, saving time in camp. Be sure to keep the instructions for food preparation. You may want to tape them to the outside of the plastic bags. TIP: Use a permanent marker and masking tape to label the bags of food.

  • Packing Food. Repackage multiple-packaged foods into sealable plastic bags to reduce the amount of litter you will generate. Where necessary, put ingredients in separate bags. If a recipe calls for several similar ingredients to be mixed (flour, salt, and pepper, for instance), put these all in one bag. Keep all perishable foods refrigerated until you leave, then store them in a cooler. Keep all refrigerated foods for the campout in a separate section of your refrigerator, if possible. Putting them in a separate bag will make it easier to gather everything when it is time to pack. When you finish packing all the ingredients for a meal, recheck each recipe to make sure everything is there. Label the packages, then put all these ingredients in one larger bag. Separate each bag by meal and day, so that when you are ready to prepare lunch on Saturday, you only need to look for the bundle labeled “Saturday lunch.” Pack the food so that each meal is easily accessible as it is needed. As you pack the box, consider the order of the items, and pack in reverse. First, put in those packages needed for the last meal, then the next to last, and so on—so that the ones needed first are closer to the top or the front. By the end of the trip, everything will have been easily located as it was needed and the organization will have paid off. TIP: As you put an ingredient in a resealable plastic bag, carefully remove the air from the bag as you close it. A bag with excess air inside takes up more space and might split if squashed. Also, perishable food such as vegetables will stay fresher without oxygen inside.

  • Packing the Cooking Gear. Pack cooking equipment as carefully. Forgetting a single item could be disastrous. Pack similar items together: Group utensils together, all pots together, and so on. Pack knives and other sharp utensils safely. Make a simple knife sheath using a flattened paper towel roll.

Setting Up the Camp Kitchen

select a safe place to cook—at least 10 feet away from anything combustible, since you will be working with fire. Keep supplies put away except when it is time to cook. If using a stove, set it up now, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the stove is set up and working and you have a pot of water ready for washing dishes and clean water to use for cooking, the camp kitchen is ready. Always select a level spot for your cook site that is at least 10 feet away from anything that might catch fire.

Campfire Cooking

Whether using a stove, grill, or campfire as your source of heat for cooking, manage fire responsibly and make safety a primary concern. Unmanaged fires can cause serious and widespread damage to the land and can injure humans and animals. Never leave a stove in use unattended. Keep anything flammable, from fuel to matches to paper towels, away from the fire source. Place pots or pans directly on the campfire and cook using firewood as fuel. One good way to do this is to build the campfire within a circle of rocks, then place a grate or grill on top of the rocks. Upon arrival at the campsite, use an established fire ring. Build your own only if there is no existing fire ring.

  • Putting Out the Fire: When the cooking is done, thoroughly and properly extinguish your campfire. Carelessness can cause uncontrollable fires in the wilderness. Be responsible for putting the fire cold out—beyond a doubt. The best way to put out a campfire is with water (do not use dishwater, which may have small food particles and an odor that will attract wildlife). Sprinkle—do not pour—water directly on the fire to prevent the water from rushing into the ground with fire still burning where the water did not hit. Use a stick to stir the wet embers with the water. Continue sprinkling and stirring until the fire is completely cold out.

Charcoal Cooking

Charcoal can be used in place of small sticks or split wood. Build the fire within a circle of rocks to get it going quickly. Regular coals must burn about 40 minutes, until a coat of light gray ash appears, before the fire is ready to use. Quick-start coals are usually ready in 10 minutes.

Cooking on a Grill

First use a wire grill brush to clean the grill, especially if food will go directly on the grill. Starting a fire under the grill will help burn away anything remaining on its surface. Pots and pans can be placed directly on the grill. Food can go either directly on the grill or in foil bags. Cooking directly on the grill gives food a unique, delicious flavor.


With thoughtful menu selections and a little organization and planning, getting dishes on the table at the same time should be easy. If charcoal cooking, allow time to heat the coals. Then start with the food that takes the longest to cook. For example, baked potatoes will take at least 45 minutes to cook. If grilled fish, a salad, and baked potato are on the menu, get the potatoes cooking first, then prepare the rest of the meal.


Clean and put away the cooking gear as quickly as possible after the meal, even if you are not yet leaving camp. Not only will you be able to enjoy the next activity, but the longer pots and pans sit, the tougher they are to clean. Put on a pot of water before you serve a meal. That way you will have hot dishwater by the time you finish eating.

Begin cleanup by setting out three pots.

  • Hot-water wash pot—hot water with a few drops of biodegradable soap.

  • Hot-water rinse pot—clear, hot rinse water.

  • Cold-water rinse pot—cold water with a sanitizing tablet or a few drops of bleach to kill bacteria. Scrape excess food into a garbage bag that you will pack out. Then, scrub dishes in the hot-water wash pot. Use hot-pot tongs to dip items in the hot rinse water. Follow with a dip in the cold-water rinse pot. Lay clean dishes and cookware on a plastic ground sheet and let them air dry.

Dishwater Disposal.

For campouts lasting no more than a couple days, use a small kitchen strainer to remove food bits from your wash water and put them in your trash. Carry the wash and rinse water away from camp and at least 200 feet (about 80 adult steps) from any water source. Give it a good fling, spreading it over a wide area. For longer stays at one site, dig a sump hole away from camp and at least 200 feet from water sources. Make a hole about 1 foot across and 2 feet deep. Pour dishwater into the hole over a piece of screen to catch the food particles. Shake the food particles into a trash bag. Fill the sump hole when you break camp, and replace any ground cover. Pack out all food scraps. Do not bury or scatter leftovers in the woods; animals will almost always find it. Food scraps are unhealthy for animals and can attract them to campsites where they may lose their fear of humans. This can be dangerous for them and for you.


Disposing of Garbage.

When camping, set a goal to leave no trace that humans were ever there. Always pack out everything that was packed in, including all food packaging, foil, food scraps, and recyclables. Leave the campsite exactly as it looked when you arrived, if not in better shape.


Storing Food.

At camp, store food where it will be safe from animals, insects, dust, debris, and bad weather. Frontcountry campers can use vehicles, coolers, or plastic buckets with tightly fitted lids as storage units. In the backcountry and wherever bears may be present, a bear bag is the best answer. Not only will your food be secured, hanging anything with an aroma will give bears no reason to linger in your camp. Land managers of camping areas frequented by bears can give you further information about the best ways to store your food.

Protect Your Smellables

Here are three ways to suspend food and other “smellables” to keep them safe from wildlife.


  1. Find a tree with a sturdy branch about 20 feet above the ground.Tie one end of a strong cord around a rock and toss it over the branch.Then untie the cord around the rock. Stash your provisions in a plastic trash bag or a burlap bear bag lined with a trash bag, and tie it to one end of the cord. Raise the bag until it is well out of reach of standing bears, and tie the free end to a tree trunk.

  2. If there is not a good branch nearby, find two trees about 20 to 30 feet apart.Toss a line over a branch close to the trunk of one tree, then toss the other end of the line over a branch of the second tree.Tie your bear bag to the center of this line, and hoist it high between the two trees.

  3. Outsmart those bears that are clever enough to claw loose the tied end of a cord. Divide your provisions equally between two bear bags. Raise one up to a high branch, as you would in the first method.Tie the free end of the cord to the second bag, lift it overhead, and use a stick or hiking staff to shove it out of reach of animals.The bags will counterbalance one another, keeping them safe.To retrieve the bags, use a stick to push one bag even higher, causing the other to come down within your grasp.


Trail cooking is like cooking at home in that you will try your best to make nutritious meals that taste great. Portability is so important to trail cooking that one requirement for this merit badge is to figure the weight of the food. Everything needed for meals must be carried, so all excess weight must be eliminated. This calls for planning simpler, lighter meals that require no refrigeration, heavy equipment, or utensils. Sometimes you may choose not to cook at all, opting instead for sandwiches and other foods that are easy to carry.


To plan the menus for trail cooking, use the same principles described in the sections about menu planning and shopping for camp cooking. See the recipes section below for nutritional meals to prepare along the trail. Choose sandwiches that contain hearty, nourishing ingredients, fresh fruits and vegetables, and vitamin-packed nutrition or granola bars for dessert. These healthy foods will provide a good source of energy, too. Using the menus and recipes you choose, compile a food list. Calculate the cost for each Scout, and purchase the food. Review each recipe and list the utensils you will need. Prepare the food and other cooking supplies for packing. When you are ready to assemble and repackage the foods for the hike, you can figure the weight of the food.


Just being aware of what your body needs is half the battle to staying fit for life. The other half is eating healthy and being physically active. Remember, the adage rings true: You are what you eat. When you learn about the nutritional benefits of the different food groups, you can begin to prepare healthy and well-balanced meals.



To help people make better dietary choices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has created nutrition guidelines called MyPlate. This plan focuses on the types of foods people should eat as well as the quantity, which vary with a person’s age, sex, and physical activity level. The plans emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products. Also included are lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and a very low intake of oils. Solid fats and added sugars (empty calories) are limited to small amounts.


Whole grains are complex carbohydrates. They provide the body with energy and stamina. While it takes longer to burn complex carbohydrates, you should try to make sure at least half (or 3.5 ounces) of your daily grain intake comes from whole grains. This food group includes whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice.


According to the USDA’s daily food plans, the average 12-year-old male who exercises 30 to 60 minutes per day should consume about 2,200 calories a day. He should include, on average, 7 ounces of grains, 3 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups from the dairy group, and 6 ounces from the protein foods group. A 15-year-old male who is physically active less than 30 minutes a day should follow the same daily food plan as the 12-year-old male who is more active.


The average 12-year-old female who exercises 30 to 60 minutes per day should consume about 2,000 calories a day. She should include, on average, 6 ounces of grains, 2½ cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups from the dairy group, and 5½ ounces from the protein foods group. A 15-year-old female who is physically active less than 30 minutes a day should consume about 1,800 calories a day. If you have any medical conditions or food allergies, consult a nutritionist or your primary care physician regarding what your calorie intake should be and what you should eat.

Find your Daily Food Plan

You can learn more about the USDA’s daily food plans by visiting the link below. Plug in your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity, and get a custom blueprint for healthy living


Meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds (peanuts, peanut butter, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds), and processed soy products (tofu, tempeh, soy burgers) all are part of this food group. Beans and peas (pinto, black, kidney, and navy beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, falafel, lentils, split peas) are included in this group as well as the vegetable group because they provide nutrients similar to other protein foods and to other vegetables.


Limit your intake of empty calories (calories from solid fats and added sugars) to less than 290 calories a day. Solid fats include butter, cream, beef and pork fats, shortening, and the “hidden” fats found in processed meats, cheeses, and whole milk. Many Americans eat too many high-fat proteins like hot dogs, sausage, or bacon. Choose leaner proteins instead such as chicken, turkey, and fish. You could also challenge yourself to have at least one meatless dinner each week, such as meatless chili with beans. Proteins are the building blocks for bones, muscles, and other body parts. Proteins also provide energy. Most meat choices should be lean, such as skinless poultry. Seafood contains healthy oils, so choose it twice a week in place of meat or poultry. If you are not allergic to nuts, they are another protein food option that contains healthy oils.



Foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grains are all grain products. These include bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits. Grains are divided into two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice are examples of whole grains. They provide dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. If you have ever eaten a hearty bowl of oatmeal and then hiked several miles, you might have noticed that you did not feel hungry again until your patrol broke for lunch. This is because complex carbohydrates from whole-grain foods take longer for your body to process and so provide energy over a longer time period.


Refined grains have been milled, which means much of the nutrients and vitamins have been removed, such as the bran and germ. Refined grain products include white flour, degermed cornmeal, and white rice. Most refined grains are enriched, which means that iron and certain B vitamins are added back after processing, but fiber is not. Foods produced from refined grains include white bread, grits, noodles and pasta (other than whole-grain varieties), and pita bread.




Any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice counts in the vegetable group. Vegetables can be raw or cooked, frozen, canned, dried, or dehydrated. They can be eaten whole, cut up, or mashed. Vegetables are organized into five subgroups, based on their nutrient content.


  • Dark green vegetables: bok choy, broccoli, dark green leafy lettuce, greens (collard, turnip, mustard, kale), spinach, watercress

  • Red, orange, and yellow vegetables: acorn squash, beets, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, summer squash, sweet peppers (red and orange)

  • Beans and peas: black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, soybeans, split peas, white beans

  • Starchy vegetables: fresh black-eyed peas, green peas, lima beans, plantains, potatoes, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, yams

  • Other vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, avocados, beets, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, green peppers, okra, onions, radishes, turnips, zucchini


Some vegetables fall under more than one category. For example, lentils, butternut squash,

and chickpeas are also considered starchy vegetables. You should consume more fruits and

vegetables than any other categories. These foods provide important vitamins and minerals that

your body needs to function properly. They also provide roughage, or fiber, which helps keep your

digestive system healthy.



All whole, cut up, or pureed fruit and 100 percent fruit juice count as part of the fruit group. Fruits can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Fruits can be a tasty sweet treat in place of foods loaded with added sugars.


  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, kiwi, raspberries, strawberries

  • Citrus fruits: clementines, grapefruit, lemons, limes, nectarines, oranges, tangelos, tangerines Melons: cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew, watermelon

  • Pitted (stone) fruits: apricots, cherries, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, plums

  • Other fruits: apples, bananas, grapes, pears, pineapples


In place of favorite standbys, try something different: tangelos instead of oranges; mango instead of peaches or nectarines; kiwi fruit instead of watermelon. If you are drinking juice, make sure your juice is 100 percent fruit juice, without added sugars like high fructose corn syrup. Read the label.



The foods and beverages in this group include those made from milk and calcium-fortified soy milk. Examples include milk, yogurt, cheese, puddings, and ice cream. When choosing foods from this group, it’s usually best to select low-fat or fat-free versions. Fats in milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream count against your empty-calorie limit.

All dairy products provide calcium to help build strong bones and teeth. Almost all milks and some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D, which helps your body to absorb calcium. For people who are lactose intolerant, lactose-free and lower-lactose products are available, including lactose-free milk, hard cheeses, and yogurt.  Skim (fat-free) milk contains the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but has less fat and fewer calories.


  • Milk: fat-free (skim), low-fat (1 percent fat), reduced-fat (2 percent fat), whole milk, flavored milk, lactose-reduced, and lactose-free milk

  • Other milk-based products: flavored and fruit yogurts, yogurt-based drinks, ice milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt, chocolate milk, sour cream, cream cheese, processed American cheese

  • Hard natural cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, Swiss

  • Soft cheeses: ricotta, goat (feta), Brie



Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, such as the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Although they provide some essential nutrients, oils and fats are not a food group. Your body needs oils only in very small quantities. Therefore, oils are included in the daily food plans. Fats such as butter, margarine, shortening, beef fat, chicken fat, and pork fat (lard) are solid at room temperature. Solid fats come from animals and can also be made from vegetable oils. Foods high in solid fats include many desserts and baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and doughnuts; cheese and foods containing cheese like pizza and nachos; hot dogs, sausages, bacon, and ribs; and ice cream.


Most Scouts need 5 to 6 teaspoons of oils a day. Oils are part of many of the foods you eat, like mayonnaise on sandwiches or in salad dressings. If you must increase the amount of oil you consume, choose an oil instead of a solid fat. For example, use vegetable oil rather than butter when cooking. Oils from plant sources, such as vegetable and nut oils, contain no cholesterol. Even so, these products are fattening and should still be consumed in very small amounts.


Common oils include canola, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, olive, peanut, safflower, and soybean. Some foods (nuts, some fish, olives, avocados) are naturally high in oils. Mayonnaise, some salad dressings, and margarine are mostly oil. Check the nutrition label to find margarines with zero grams of trans fat. Most of these oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, low in saturated fats, and are considered “good” because they help lower cholesterol levels. A few plant oils, such as coconut oil, are high in saturated fats and for nutritional purposes are considered solid fats.



Empty calories are calories from solid fats and added sugars that provide calories but few or none of the nutrients your body needs to grow and stay healthy. If you choose foods with a lot of empty calories, it is harder to eat enough of the foods you need for health—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, and protein foods. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. They do not include the natural sugars in milk and fruits. The major sources of added sugars for Americans are soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened fruit drinks; candies; desserts and baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and doughnuts; and ice cream. You may have noticed that some foods contain a lot of both solid fats and added sugars. In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. For example, chocolate milk has some empty calories but also has the nutrients found in milk.


Some foods with empty calories can be found in forms with less solid fat or added sugars. Low-fat cheeses and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, low-fat milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. A small amount of empty calories is OK, but most people eat far more than is healthy. It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.


It can be hard to think ahead when you are young. However, if you develop good eating habits now, it will be easier for you to lead a healthier life and may help prevent many of the health problems that are linked to poor eating habits.


The way a food is prepared can affect its nutritional value, so be aware of how food is prepared in order to make nutritious meals and eat for health. For example, a baked potato stuffed with fresh, steamed vegetables has little sodium and fat and lots of vitamins and minerals. The same baked potato with butter, sour cream, cheese, and crumbled bacon is high in sodium (salt) and empty calories from solid fat.


Fried potatoes, like french fries and hash browns, are often high in sodium as well as fat. Try making oven-baked fries seasoned with spices instead of salt. To minimize adding sugar to a recipe, consider caramelizing the natural sugars in onions and root vegetables to sweeten a sauce, or adding ripe fruits or dried cranberries to cookies.


Consuming too many sweets and fried foods can cause your weight to skyrocket while your energy and overall health may decline. Eating poorly can cause serious health problems, too. We can choose healthy foods that may help to manage, reverse, and prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Think of food as medicine for a healthy body, soul, and mind.

Did you know?

Eat your veggies! Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Fresh is best, then frozen, then canned.



Knowing about cooking methods and about the different food groups will provide you with the knowledge you need to prepare excellent meals. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods will help ensure that you are maintaining a well-balanced diet and developing good eating habits. The nutrients in some vegetables, such as in the potato, often are located in or near the skin. Removing the skin will remove many of the nutrients. Next time, consider scrubbing the

skins and leaving them on when you prepare them. Scrubbed potatoes

usually can be substituted in recipes calling for peeled ones, without

sacrificing flavor.


The food label is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and

based on a 2,000 calorie diet, but your calorie needs might be

different. Check out the serving size. Remember that one package may

contain more than one serving. Use the serving size to determine the

total number of calories and nutrients per package. Consider the

calories. When comparing foods, remember that 400 or more calories

per serving for a single food is high. Keep track of the calories you eat

throughout the day.


Determine your “target” calories per day and get your own daily food plan by visiting Choose nutrients wisely. When making daily food choices, pick foods that are lower in certain fats, cholesterol, and sodium. When comparing “%DV” (“percent daily value”), remember—5%DV is low; 20%DV is high.


Get more of these nutrients: Potassium, fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. Choose foods with a higher %DV of these important nutrients.


Limit these nutrients: Trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugars. Choose foods lower in these nutrients, and limit your consumption of trans fat as much as possible.


The “% Daily Values” (or “%DV”) are the amounts of nutrients recommended for Americans ages 4 and older to eat each day, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your own daily values may be higher or lower, depending on your caloric needs, which vary according to age, sex, and physical activity level. When comparing nutrients in foods, look for the “%DV” on the label. For example, “5%DV” or less per serving means the amount or percentage is low. (Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration)


The label doesn’t show a %DV for trans fat or sugars. However, you can still look at the nutrition facts label and choose the foods with lower or zero grams of trans fat and sugar when comparing two foods. 


Learn about how to read a food label here



Even minor exposure to some foods can cause severe complications in

people who have allergies. Be aware of any allergies of those for whom you

are cooking. Whenever possible, provide alternatives from the same food

group. For example, soy milk could be offered to someone who is allergic to

dairy products. Meatless spaghetti sauce served with whole wheat pasta

could be offered as an alternative for someone who is a vegetarian.

Allergic Reaction

A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein—an allergen—as a threat and attacks it. An allergic reaction may include a range of symptoms from mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) to severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.) and even life threatening.


For some people with food allergies, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis) can occur. Symptoms can include a swelling of throat tissues or tongue that makes breathing difficult or even impossible. Scouts who have a food allergy that could cause anaphylactic shock should share that information with their fellow Scouts and let the unit leaders know where anaphylaxis medications can be accessed at a moment’s notice.


It’s important to be aware of any allergies of those for whom you are cooking. For instance, people who are allergic to peanuts cannot consume foods cooked in peanut oil. Keep in mind that some individuals who are highly sensitive could have an allergic reaction just by being present where peanut oil is used for cooking.


Whenever possible, if you need to make substitutions in cooking, provide alternatives from the same food group. For example, for someone who is allergic to shellfish, you could serve a different type of protein such as chicken or turkey. Instead of pineapple, serve apples. You can still manage to serve a well-rounded, healthy, and tasty meal to anyone who has a food allergy. Although nearly any food is capable of causing an allergic reaction, only eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. People who know they are susceptible to anaphylaxis should carry emergency kits that contain an injection of epinephrine, a rapidly acting hormone that reverses the effects of anaphylactic shock.


Consider the needs of vegetarians when creating menus. People who do not eat meat, fish, or poultry are considered vegetarians. They must be careful to get the proper amounts of nutrients, particularly protein and iron. Vegetarians do, however, eat eggs, cheese, and other dairy products. To stay healthy, they get protein from beans, peas, and nuts. Vegans (“vee-guns”) are vegetarians who do not eat any kind of animal products, including dairy products and meatbased broths. These vegetarians must pay special attention to their protein and iron intake. They often rely on meat substitutes such as tofu to provide their needed protein. Substitute nonmeat items for meats from the same food group. For example, a bean burrito would make a good substitute for a chicken burrito. Tasty substitutes are available for burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, bacon, sausage, and all varieties of cold cuts. Some of these foods are made from tofu, which is a soybean product, or from seitan, a seasoned wheat gluten that is said to resemble meat in both taste and texture.



People of different faiths may restrict what they eat, or what they eat on a particular day or during a certain time of the year. It is helpful to know if you need to plan ahead to accommodate anyone’s diet for this consideration.



If you enjoy cooking, the food service industry is wide open with a variety of careers. You could be a chef or, if pastry is your thing, you could specialize and be a pastry chef. Restaurants often have a head chef on staff; top restaurants have several. You could become a chef anywhere in the world or on a cruise ship, traveling to exotic places while being in charge of the food served to thousands of vacationers every day. Here is how to find out more about the food service industry. Ask your guidance counselor where to get specific information on coursework and the type of degree needed for the career that interests you.


A dietitian or nutritionist in your school district can give you information on careers, the type of training and education required, and some of the methods used in professional food preparation. The dietitian should know the local health regulations and licensing requirements that must be followed.


Depending on the area of the food industry that piques your interest, check out two- and four-year colleges that offer programs in food service and the culinary arts. There are highly specialized culinary schools in the United States and around the world. Many people become cooks and chefs after learning the trade in the military services. The Foodservice Management Professional Certification program gives food service professionals hands-on opportunity to apply their education and supervisory experience as certified food service professionals. Such certification programs distinguish top achievers and afford them greater employment opportunities and earning potential.


Best of all, earning the Cooking merit badge will serve you throughout your life. You may discover that you enjoy cooking enough to pursue it as a career, or you may become the designated troop chef. Even if cooking remains just a hobby or a campout duty, cooking is a valuable life skill for anyone.

Career Options

Some other options for a food service career include cafeteria manager, produce manager, caterer or personal chef, food critic or food writer, instructor, dietary manager, and food stylist or photographer. People qualified in these types of careers are needed by restaurants, hotels, schools and universities, cruise lines, resorts, theme parks, sports venues, convention centers, magazines, grocery stores, hospitals, and food manufacturers, to name a few.


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As you plan your menus, take into consideration the distance you must transport your food. Use lightweight alternatives like pouch or boxed juices instead of canned. Flavored milks (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla) also are available boxed.


At Camp

Option 1: oatmeal with chopped apple or raisins/nuts, French toast, milk or orange juice

Option 2: pick-a-breakfast sandwich, apple, milk

On the Trail

Option 1: peanut butter and jelly on crackers, banana, hot cocoa

Option 2: instant dried cereal, mixed dried fruits, hot cocoa


At Camp

Option 1: tomato soup, grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich with pickles on the side, corn chips, apple juice

Option 2: hot dogs with pickle relish, mustard, ketchup, pork and beans, sliced pears, chocolate milk

On the Trail

Option 1: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrot sticks, chocolate pudding or applesauce, juice

Option 2: canned meat or tuna fish with assorted crackers, energy bars or hard-boiled eggs, canned peaches, chocolate milk


At Camp

Option 1: black bean soup, Texas hash, fruit salad or lettuce-and-tomato salad, stuffed bananas, milk

Option 2: camp kabobs, camp-style potatoes, biscuits, peach cobbler, chocolate milk

At Camp, you can also do One-Pot Dinners

Option 1:  one-pot chicken and rice, sourdough rolls, peach cobbler, milk

Option 2: summer pasta, Italian loaf bread, fresh sliced melon, instant lemon pudding, pineapple-orange juice

On the Trail

Option 1: instant vegetable-barley soup, canned chicken or tuna with sliced cheese on sourdough rolls, oatmeal raisin cookies, milk

Option 2: instant chicken and rice soup, heated sliced beef on wheat rolls, carrot sticks, milk





  • Pancake mix (“complete” variety that needs only water)

  • Large resealable plastic bag



  • Before leaving for camp, measure the necessary amount of pancake mix into the plastic bag. On the bag, write how much water to add.

  • At camp, add water to the mix, seal the bag, knead to combine, and squeeze small dollops from the bag onto the hot greased griddle. Watch pancakes closely.

  • When the small bubbles in the center of the pancake begin to burst, turn the pancakes.

  • Continue until you have as many pancakes as needed.

  • Serve with butter and syrup or fruit and whipped topping.

  • Save leftover pancake batter by carefully resealing the bag for later use (and put it in a cooler).

At home: Mix the batter in a bowl and cook the pancakes on a hot greased griddle or a medium-hot greased skillet.


Use this tool to create a variety of simple, portable, and filling breakfast sandwiches made with easily transportable ingredients.


  • Eggs

  • Milk​

  • Topping Ideas

    • Meat Ideas: ​2 slices Canadian bacon, cooked 1 slice deli ham or 1 ⁄4 cup ham steak, chopped 1 ⁄4 cup cooked turkey sausage, crumbled 1 ⁄4 cup any leftover meat, chopped 1 ⁄4 cup potato, cut into small cubes and cooked

    • Condiment Ideas: Salsa Tomato, chopped or sliced Shredded or sliced cheese or cottage cheese Apple, chopped or sliced, cooked or uncooked Pineapple tidbits

    • Bread Ideas: Pita Bagel Flour tortillas Biscuit, split open Small whole wheat hamburger bun


  • The amount of toppings above is per serving.

  • Start with one egg scrambled with a little milk.

  • Add one or two items from the meat ideas.

  • Add one or two items (in whatever amount you like) from the condiment ideas.

  • Serve in one of the breads shown in the bread ideas.

  • You can start with fresh, uncooked eggs and meats and cook them together in a skillet, or cook the eggs and add cooked, leftover meat.

  • Top with ketchup, salsa, or any other tasty topping you have on hand.

  • Adjust the amounts and combine anything you like —it is all easy and delicious. You may discover new combinations to enjoy




  • 1 pound (about 4 cups) fresh green beans, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

  • 2 pounds red-skinned new potatoes, diced ½ cup country

  • Dijon mustard

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 5 tablespoons white grape juice

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped salt and black pepper, to taste

  • 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 red pepper, diced

  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced



  • Cook green beans in boiling water until tender. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside to cool.

  • Repeat procedure with potatoes and set aside to cool.

  • In large mixing bowl, combine Dijon, olive oil, grape juice, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper, and whisk until well blended.

  • Add cannellini beans, potatoes, green beans, red pepper, and onion; gently toss until well coated.

  • Serves 10.



  •  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

  • ½ medium-size sweet onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 red pepper, diced

  • 1 yellow pepper, diced

  • 1 zucchini, diced

  • 1 cup sliced green beans

  • salt and black pepper to taste

  • zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice


  • In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat the oil, then add chicken and onion and sauté until onions become translucent, about five minutes.

  • Add garlic and sauté one minute; add peppers, zucchini, and green beans, and sauté until just tender.

  • Add salt, pepper, and lemon zest; mix well.

  • Stir in rice and cook until thoroughly heated.

  • Serves four.


Cut up steak or chicken (about 4 to 6 ounces per serving) and fresh vegetables at home. Place meat and vegetables in separate, resealable plastic bags. At camp, add 3 ounces of prepared Italian salad dressing to the bag of chicken or a teaspoon of garlic powder and 3 ounces of soy sauce to the bag of steak; marinate for 20 to 30 minutes. When ready to cook at camp, use metal or wood kabob sticks and load them up with the same item—all mushrooms should go on their own sticks, all meat on their own, etc. The cooking time for the different vegetables will vary, as will the cooking time for the meat or chicken. This way, you can judge when each item is properly cooked. Position the skewers of meat first, then hard veggies, then softer ones like mushrooms, over the fire for a few minutes; turn regularly. Add foil-baked potatoes and whole-grain bread or rolls for a complete meal.





  • 1 carrot

  • 2 celery ribs

  • 2 strips bacon

  • 8 ounces (½ pound) lean ground beef

  • 1 medium potato, sliced

  • ½ cup sliced onion

  • 1 medium tomato, sliced

  • salt and black pepper, to taste

  • coffee can with metal lid


  • Cut carrot in half lengthwise.

  • Cut celery and carrot into 2-inch lengths.

  • Cut bacon strips in half.

  • Mold two meat patties.

  • Place two pieces of bacon on bottom of can. Place half of each ingredient in layers, in order listed here.

  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Repeat with second half of ingredients, again seasoning with salt and pepper.

  • Cover the can with the lid of another pot (or use a double layer of foil).

  • Place the closed coffee can on top of glowing coals for 25 minutes.

  • Open the lid and check after 10 minutes. If it is browning too rapidly, pour 2 tablespoons of water into the can.

  • This recipe can be done only when cooking with a campfire.



  • 16 ounces (1 pound) ground beef or stew meat, cut into small pieces

  • chopped vegetables of your choice (green beans, carrots, onions, zucchini, bell peppers)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • salt and black pepper, to taste

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • Foil

  • Cooking spray


  • Cut off four pieces of aluminum foil for individual packets. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

  • Add meat first, then vegetables. Top with seasonings and then butter.

  • Close foil on all sides, leaving some room for expansion. Be sure to mark your packet so it does not get mixed up with someone else’s.

  • Put the packets into the coals. Check for doneness in about 10 minutes.

  • Serves four.





  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • ½ medium-size sweet onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • ½ red pepper, diced

  • ½ green pepper, diced

  • 1 pound 99 percent lean ground turkey breast

  • ¼ teaspoon thyme

  • salt and black pepper, to taste

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey


  • Place canola oil in large nonstick sauté pan on medium heat and spread to coat pan bottom.

  • Add onion and sauté until light golden.

  • Add garlic, sauté one minute, then add red and green peppers and sauté until peppers are tender.

  • Add turkey, breaking into small pieces, and season with thyme, salt, and black pepper.

  • Stir turkey frequently with rubber spatula or wooden spoon on medium heat and continue to break into small pieces. When turkey becomes firm and cooked, add ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and agave nectar.

  • Stir until well mixed and cook for three to five minutes, until heated through.

  • Serves eight.





  • 15-ounce can black beans

  • 1½ cups black bean salsa

  • ½ cup low-sodium V8 juice

  • 1 medium-size tomato, diced

  • ½ cup canned corn

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

  • 2 tablespoons scallion, sliced

  • ¼ of an avocado, sliced

  • ½ piece whole-wheat pita


  • In a bowl, combine beans, salsa, V8 juice, tomato, and corn.

  • To serve, place 1/2 cup brown rice in a small bowl, top with 1/4 of the bean mixture, 1/4 of the scallions, several avocado slices, and the pita bread.

  • Serves four.






  • 2 apples '

  • dark chocolate, broken into squares

  • pineapple slices



  • Cut apples in half crosswise, then cut into round slices the width of your apple.

  • Poke out the seeded center. P

  • lace one chocolate piece on top of one apple slice.

  • Spear pineapple slices on a skewer.

  • Toast over campfire or grill over low heat. P

  • lace toasted pineapple slice on top of the apple slice with chocolate and top with another apple slice.

  • Serves four.





  • 12 ounces whole-wheat macaroni

  • 28 ounces sweet potato, peeled and diced

  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk

  • 12 ounces extra-firm tofu

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper

  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese alternative