Back in the day, when they were doing cattle drives for branding and such, the cook would fill a cream can with food, seal it up, and place it over a low fire first thing in the morning. By lunchtime, the vittles would be cooked to perfection, allowing everyone to enjoy a hearty, home cooked meal, no matter how far from the kitchen they may be. The CanCooker product harkens back to those days, bringing the same concept into the modern world.
There are two sizes of CanCookers on the market right now. The original CanCooker holds 4 gallons and the smaller CanCooker Jr. holds 2 gallons. I had the chance to take the CanCooker Jr. for a test drive recently and I’m pretty impressed with it.
The CanCooker Jr. consists of a cooking pot and lid, both made from food grade anodized aluminum. The lid has a inside lip covered by a high temperature silicone gasket. As you can see, there are two clamps that hold down the lid, as well as two convenient carrying handles.
The model I used also comes with a two-piece rack that rests at the bottom of the CanCooker. While perhaps not absolutely necessary, I think it is a nice feature and recommend going with this option.
The CanCooker uses steam to cook your food quickly while you’re off doing other things. That’s the beauty of this whole deal, really. You fill it with your food and spices, put it over the fire, and it does the rest. No stirring, no rotating to make sure things don’t get burned or overdone on one side and left raw on the other.
I recently spent several nights away from home. While I wasn’t out in the bush, cooking a decent meal in a kitchen wasn’t an option. This was the perfect opportunity to play around with the CanCooker Jr. We rolled out a small patio fire pit and once the fire was burning briskly, set up a tripod grill over it. As the fire heated up, I prepared the CanCooker Jr.
We were rather limited in ingredients for our meal but I was able to adapt the recipe for CanCooker Fan Favorite. The instructions state to first spray the interior of the CanCooker Jr. with non-stick cooking spray. We didn’t have any so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I cut up a couple of pounds of red potatoes and tossed them in the bottom. After sprinkling in a hefty amount of garlic powder (hey, I like garlic, okay?), I cut up one medium size yellow onion and threw that on top. Then, per the instructions, I poured one can (12 oz) of Mountain Dew over everything. I know what you’re thinking but, trust me, it worked out in the end. The wide mouth of the CanCooker Jr. makes adding the ingredients, as well as doling out the meal, very easy.
Once all the ingredients were added, I put the lid on and clamped it down.
The CanCooker Jr. was then placed on the tripod grill and lowered to within a few inches of the fire. It took maybe 5-10 minutes before we saw steam coming from the small vent hole in the lid.
I then raised the grill a bit so as to lower the heat. Now, the recipe said to let it cook for about 50 minutes, but I figured that was because of the meat being used in the recipe. We didn’t have any meat in the CanCooker so I only let it steam for about a half hour or so. The steam coming from the vent was pretty thick most of that time. The smell of the garlic and onions was making our stomachs rumble in anticipation.
The CanCooker Jr. was taken off the grill and set on the ground to cool for about seven or eight minutes. The handles and lid were very hot so we used gloves, of course.
Carefully, I unlatched the lid and removed it, watching for escaping steam but there wasn’t much of it. The potatoes and onions were done to perfection! They were tender without being mushy in the least. There was enough there to feed all of us with plenty of leftovers. That’s saying something given that there were five big guys eating from that pot! And no, there was no heavy sweet taste from using Mountain Dew in the recipe.
[Note: I tried in vain to snap pictures of the final product in the CanCooker but I wasn't allowed to stand in front of the pot long enough to do so. I was shouldered aside again and again. The food just smelled too damn good. Sigh....]
Perhaps just as cool was the fact that nothing stuck to the inside of the pot, despite the lack of non-stick cooking spray. This made clean up a snap, which was awesome.
About the only downside from our experience with the CanCooker Jr. was that we failed to coat the bottom of the pot with soap before putting it over the fire. This resulted in a lot of char residue that had to be scrubbed off. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things and certainly it wouldn’t have been an issue at all had we been using a stove top or camp stove instead of an open fire.
What I really appreciate about the CanCooker is the versatility. There is a wide range of things you can cook with it, from breakfast to desserts. While baked goods like muffins won’t get browned on top, being that you’re cooking with steam, I can guarantee they’ll be nice and moist.
And again, this is something you can use to cook your food while you’re attending to other matters. You don’t have to stand there and keep an eye on things. Once it starts steaming through the vent hole, glance at your watch and come back in a half hour to an hour, depending upon what you’re cooking.
The key to remember is to always add at least 12oz of water or whatever before sealing it up. It is that fluid that steams, cooking the food. Failing to do so may skew your final results.
The CanCooker Jr. isn’t small enough to toss into a bug out bag. But, it isn’t made for that sort of scenario, either. Instead, this is a great cooking option for a grid down situation at home, such as an extended power outage. It would also be excellent for the hunting cabin, of course. You can use a charcoal grill, propane grill, camp stove, or campfire. In fact, they even sell a multi-fuel stove to go along with the CanCooker.
The CanCooker Jr. goes for under fifty bucks on Amazon.