Dan is an outdoorsman who often writes about healthy living.
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1 can may be scrounged to feed one hungry person
- 1 SPAM, 12 oz can
Caution: Contents Under Pressure
You can't go wrong with SPAM; it is consistently delicious, lasts for years, and cooks up easily. I bet you never knew that cooking SPAM can be dangerous. Though this article is published under the guise of a recipe, it is more of a cautionary tale than a practical method for preparing this delectable meat.
It all started when I was a 12-year-old Boy Scout on a Troop campout.
Granted, my Troop was a little different than those depicted in Norman Rockwell prints. During the day we donned camouflage and played Capture the Flag with tactics that special operations teams would be proud of. At night, we retreated into our tents and played Dungeons & Dragons or some other role-playing game, often until we were too tired to go on. The thing is, we always had fun and were generally safe.
Then, however—I tried cooking.
Our Scoutmasters didn't cook our meals and our mothers didn't pack our lunches, we were on our own in exploring self-reliance. Usually we cooked as a patrol, but this time we were individually cooking for this camp's duration.
I have never been exceptionally gifted with culinary greatness, most of my cooked meals consisted of cup-of-soups or Spaghetti-Os. Even as an adult, I managed to bake my toaster at 350-degrees inside my oven.
This time though, I was determined to cook one of my favorite things—fried SPAM. I had planned to fry it up over the campfire with the skillet from my mess kit, I should have stuck to my plan.
Where Things Went Wrong
Earlier that day, in between our tactical forays, we were discussing our meals. I was already dreaming of eating a whole can of crisp SPAM. Then someone told me, an older Scout, that I could keep my pan from getting dirty, by cooking the meat while it was still in the can. All I had to do was place it in the fire. Well, at least that was what I heard.
I don't remember whether he told me exactly how to cook the SPAM or not. Most likely it was an adolescent's propensity toward fits of selective attention. As I crawled through the bushes, I knew one thing was certain—when I got back to camp, I was going to lob my can of SPAM into the fire to let it cook.
For those of you familiar with thermodynamics, you probably know where this is going.
The autumn sun was barely over the treeline when we arrived back in camp to start our meal preparation. The fire we started at noon had died down to a hot bed of coals—it was perfect for cooking. The other boys in my patrol of six were cooking everything from foil dinners to ramen noodles.
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As everyone was mucking about preparing their supper, I dug my can of SPAM out of my food bag, walked over to the fire, and buried it in the searing coals. Then I walked away to mess about with my gear in the nearby tent, I would check on it in a few minutes.
A few other Scouts had taken up residence around the campfire, both cooking and staring into the mesmerizing spell of dancing flames. It had been a great day, full of play. It was just cool enough to ward off the sweat, though no chill was in the air. After about ten minutes, I started returning to the fire ring, when... Boom!
After the Explosion
The three other Scouts sitting by the fire and I ducked as if under an artillery attack. Did somebody bring fireworks to the campout? Our Scoutmaster was going to be furious.
We looked around, surveying the area and checking ourselves for gaping holes. Then we saw that blue and yellow can. My SPAM had blown up sending its can flying 15-feet out of the fire ring past the heads of those sitting there. Little pieces of SPAM shrapnel dotted the campsite. My technique had gone totally wrong.
The other Scouts glared at me with contempt like I had just tortured a kitten. I picked up the can with the gaping hole blown through its side and stared down at it wondering what I had done wrong. One of the older Scouts asked me, "Did you open up that can before throwing it in the fire?"
I looked back down at the can, then at my supper that was scattered in bits and pieces. About that time, our Scoutmaster emerged from the bushes looking for the culprit that brought firecrackers with them. I turned and showed him my can and he began to laugh.
Everyone had a pretty good laugh at my expense that night and luckily other Scouts shared their supper with me so I wouldn't go hungry. The chuckles about Dan and his SPAM still creep up in conversations twenty years after the incident.
One thing is for certain—no other Scout in the Troop ever threw a sealed can into a fire again.
How not to Cook SPAM!
- Build a roaring campfire.
- Let the fire burn down to a hot bed of coals.
- Insert unopened can of SPAM into bed of hot coals - please see safety considerations.
- Find cover and wait for loud bang.
- Gather bits of SPAM from fire and surrounding area.
- If still hungry, begin begging food from other campers.
A Safer Way to Cook SPAM
After that day, many years ago, I never attempted to cook anything in the can again. However, I've been assured by many people that venting the can will avoid any sort of explosive pressure build up.
Despite nearly killing my camp mates, I still do eat SPAM when I am both indoors or out. Now however, I dump the meat-product out of the container first and then fry it up on a skillet. It only take about 5 minutes on a medium heat to bring a slice of SPAM to a crispy golden brown.
Over the years, the design of the SPAM can has changed too—from rolling back a strip of metal with the attached key, to the current pull tab.
Most recently, single servings of SPAM in foil packages have flooded supermarket shelves. These 3 oz. 250 calorie packages are great for canoeists and backpackers when size and weight is an issue. The nice thing about packing SPAM is that you can eat it cold (if you want to). Adaptable meals are great when you run out of fuel or your stove malfunctions. Luckily, I've never managed to blow up a stove.
For now, it is lunchtime and time for a SPAM sandwich.
I Couldn't Resist: The Monty Python SPAM Skit
© 2012 Dan Human