Lukeís talking outdoor cooking!
By Luke Clayton
May 15, 2024
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During the fall and winter months when hunting seasons are underway, I try to stock my freezer with enough venison and wild pork to last throughout the summer months until those welcome cool fronts push down from Canada and itís once again time to head to the woods.

Oh, I occasionally shoot some fresh pork during the summer months, usually at night using my Rattler thermal scope. I absolutely love to load my Smokin Tex electric smoker with a quartered up young porker and expose the meat to at least 12 hours of low heat and hickory or pecan wood smoke. Because my wife is not a game meat eater, I also watch the sales on meats at the local groceries and buy in quantity when the price is right.
My vacuum sealer insures the meats stay fresh. I often season cuts of meat before sealing them which greatly enhances the flavor.

I do some of my cooking during the hot weather months outside in my little Ďcooking shackí where I have a propane stove, my Smokin Tex electric smoker and a little Camp Chef oven. With this set up, I can cook
anything from chicken fried venison to baked chicken.

Out in front of my little cabin, I do much of my grilling of steaks and burgers on a little miniature smoker by Old Country, youíve probably seen them in the front of Bucees. For serious, long-cook barbeque, I rely heavily on my Somkin Tex electric smoker. I put a few ounces of hardwood in the smoke box, set the thermostat on about 190 degrees and let the smoker do the work at night while Iím sleeping. No need to stay up and tend a wood fired smoker any longer for the long, slow cooks.

For many years, I did all my barbequing with wood but once I discovered the ease of using my electric smoker, I became a believer. To my way of thinking, thereís only one way to make tender, flavorful barbeque and that is with low heat, wood smoke, moisture and 10 or 12 hours.
Keeping a wood fired smoker at the proper temperature for this long requires constant monitoring.

I use my little ĎBuceesí smoker for camping trips when I am only cooking for a few people. The little units are great for grilling a few steaks or making burgers. Iíve even cooked chicken halves on mine. Having a lid that closes and an air intake and miniature smoke stack allows good control of the heat.

Not out of necessity but because I enjoy cooking with my Dutch Ovens, I often cook dishes such as baked Cornish hens, cobblers and even roasts with veggies using my cast iron ovens. There is something special about the flavor of things cooked in cast iron, maybe itís because I enjoy doing things the old way. To my way of thinking, there is no better breakfast than a mixture of eggs, onion, pepper, cheese, potatoes and sausage cooked in a big cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.

Luke enjoys cooking outdoors using a variety of methods. In this weekís column, he describes some of the items he uses. (L-R) Edgar Cotton, Luke Clayton and David Cotton (photo by Luke Clayton)

One of my most useful utensils is a 14 inch cast iron skillet with lid. I seldom show up at a hunting or fishing camp without this old skillet. Iíve cooked some tasty meals in it from the Rocky Mountains to the brush country of south Texas and lots of places between. A favorite dish is venison steak with onion and mushroom gravy. I add rice for the last 20 minutes and have a one skillet meal. Iíve substituted everything from grouse to wild pork back strap and there are never any complaints when itís time to eat.

Another cooking utensil Iíve had for the past quarter century is a wok made from a 30 inch plow disc. My longtime friend Mark Balette made it for me, using a couple of horseshoes welded on opposing sides of the disc for handles. I have a little round rack on legs I set my wok on and build a small wood fire under it. Through the years, we have used it for everything from frying fish to making fajitas from all sorts of game meats. Because of the depth of the wok, itís possible to cook the meat in the middle or bottom of the wok and move it away from the heat to keep it warm. Flour tortillas heat nicely along the upper surface. My old wok has been used to prepare hundreds of breakfasts for large groups. Itís easy to chip up some potatoes and fry them first and then add breakfast sausage and eggs. I will remove the wok from the heat, supply my guest with a big spoon for making their breakfast fajitas and have some pico and cheese on the side.

With this set up, a pretty large crowd can be eating a tasty breakfast in no time! Clean up is easy with the wok. I simply scrub it with soap and water and then apply a light coat of cooking oil. I keep my wok hanging on a big 60 penny nail on a tree next to the cabin. When itís time to use it again, a quick soap and water washing and itís ready to go. Itís never rusted and Iím positive it will outlast me and my great grandchildren. I hope to pass the old wok down to them to use for years to come but thatís after I get a couple more decades of use from it!!
Yes, cooking outside is great fun and during the warm weather months a great way to conserve energy and keep the house cooler. I will offer a bit of caution to those of you that choose to follow the path Iíve been on much of my adult life. If you enjoy camp cooking, your buddies will look to you to do the cooking at hunting and fishing camp. You will find them inquiring about what you will be cooking, not asking if you WILL cook but rather WHAT you will be cooking! But as far as Iím concerned thatís
perfectly acceptable. I like to get bragged on and through the years I learned my simply recipes are usually a big hit at camp or family get- togethers. To be entirely truthful, Iím not really sure if itís because the meals are so tasty or simply because my guests donít have to do the meal planning and cooking!

Email outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website and tune in to the weekly TV show ďA Sportsmans LifeĒ he does with his friends Larry Weishuhn and Jeff Rice on Carbon TV.