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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Outdoor cooking workshop fun, tasty and educational

The New Mexico State 4-H Home Economics School for the second year offered an outdoor cooking track, and by all accounts, the event was a tasty success.

Four people look at meat inside a smoker.
Hidalgo County Cooperative Extension Agent John Allen and youth participating in the 4-H Youth Development Home Economics School's outdoor cooking track in March check on brisket and turkey in a smoker during the event. (Photo by Dee Wear)
Two women prepare a cobbler in a foil-lined Dutch oven.
Lauren Wilder and Kelsey Hayes, participants in the outdoor cooking track at the New Mexico State Home Economics School, prepare fruit cobbler in a Dutch oven. (Photo by Mindy Turner)
A young man holds a square pie iron over a fire.
Jeremiah Vigil, a participant in the outdoor cooking track of the New Mexico State Home Economics School, cooks a hobo pie over a fire. (Photo by Mindy Turner)

The 28 youth and two junior instructors who participated in the track learned a variety of outdoor cooking skills such as knife skills and how to use a variety of outdoor cooking implements including a solar oven, smoker, propane and charcoal grills and a BioLite stove, which uses sticks and twigs for power, and can also power USB devices like smart phones while cooking food. The group also cooked over an open fire using a variety of cast iron tools.

"My favorite dish that we prepared was the berry cobbler," said Lauren Wilder, a Sandia High School student participating in the event. "We used a Dutch oven to make this delicious dessert. The cool thing about using a Dutch oven is that it is a lot like a conventional oven in that it uses heat in a uniform method to cook the food."

A total of 132 youth ranging in age from 9-17 years old participated in the Home Economics School, which also offered community service projects, fitness activities and recreation. The outdoor cooking track participants prepared lunch and dinner for the entire group. The menu featured brisket, smoked turkey, corn and potato boil, Dutch oven biscuits and a variety of fruit cobblers.

"This track offered not only an additional opportunity for youth interested in food-related projects, but it provided a new avenue for providing meals for the entire event," said Mindy Turner, 4-H youth development specialist and event coordinator. "We also are piloting activities in this track to be incorporated into our new outdoor cooking project manuals."

John Allen, Hidalgo County Cooperative Extension agent, was one of the instructors for the outdoor cooking track.

"These skills are very important for our youth," Allen said. "We teach them basic food safety skills, but go beyond that, teaching them life skills needed to prepare healthy, tasty meals for their families. It's a whole lot of fun."

Allen said that outdoor cooking in his county has attracted youth who have not participated in 4-H activities in the past. Hidalgo County youth continue to hone their skills in a quest to be successful in an outdoor cooking competition held in Glenwood, N.M., next year.

To learn more about 4-H in your county, visit http://aces.nmsu.edu/4h/.