Bushcraft Roasting:  How to Make Clay-Baked Chicken

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Clay-baked chicken recipes have been around in one form or another for hundreds of years.  They are very easy to prepare, and you don’t need a lot of resources to cook up a hearty and delicious meal in the field.  Take a look at the basic steps below, and see how can enjoy the tasty benefits of this technique now as well as during a survival situation.

Getting Started

The first step is to get a good-sized fire going and let it burn until it becomes reduced to embers and hot ash.  You also want to have a couple of handfuls of charcoal ready, along with some excess ash that can be used to bury the chicken when it’s ready to be cooked.  While the fire is burning, gather some good, dry dirt or clay, and mix it with water to create a thick mud.

Next, prepare the chicken by removing feathers, gizzards and any other unwanted parts.  You can either cook the chicken whole, or you can cut it into pieces as well.  Using smaller pieces generally speeds up the cooking time, but they are also more-susceptible to burning or drying out.  Next, wrap the chicken in some foil, newspaper, parchment or put it inside a plastic bag.

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Applying the Mud

Spread out a layer of mud that is about an inch thick before placing the chicken on top.  Next, keep dabbing mud, from the bottom up, around the whole chicken until it is completely encased.  The hardest part of this recipe is getting the consistency of the mud just right so that it stays in place and gives you an even layer all around the chicken.  If it’s too wet, the mud will be runny, and it will also take longer to dry out while cooking.  On the other hand, the clay can crack and fall off as the chicken cooks if it’s too dry, and this can lead to a scorched or dried-out finished product.

The purpose of the mud is to encase the chicken and provide a stable temperature that’s ideal for slow cooking.  On average, it will take anywhere from 6-8 hours for the chicken to cook through, but if the layer is too thick, it can take much longer.  Consequently, it may take some trial and error before you find the right balance, but this is something that’s definitely worth the effort.

Cooking The Chicken

Gently place the mud or clay-encased chicken atop the hot embers and ash before covering it with a layer of black coals.  Next, cover everything with the hot ash and embers that you’ve set aside, and you’re good to go.  You may need to feed the fire or stir the coals periodically to maintain a steady temperature, but you shouldn’t have to constantly-monitor everything.  This can free you up to attend to other tasks or projects, which is another reason why this is such a great method to have at your disposal.

When finished, all you need to do is carefully remove the chicken from the ash and place it atop a hard surface.  Take a hammer, the back of your hatchet, or a good-sized rock and start gently whacking the hard surface of the clay until it starts to crack.  Remove the pieces, dust off any remaining dirt around the protective lining, and carefully pull apart the lining at the top.  If all goes according to plan, you should end up with a fully-cooked and tender chicken that’s resting atop a layer of juices.

Try this for yourself, and feel free to experiment by adding different seasonings before cooking.  You’ll be amazed at how little fuel, time and effort is required to make this in the field, and you can also use the same method for cooking other fowl as well.

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