Mud baking is a time-honored, yet almost forgotten way to prepare food in the wild. One of the greatest advantages to using this method is that you don’t need a grill, plate, skewer or any other cooking implement to prepare a fish. All you need is a bed of hot embers and soot, some mud or clay and a fish that has been gutted. Some people may suggest that you remove the scales form the fish prior to cooking in the wild, but it is better to leave them on for this particular method.
The mud that you use should be firm, yet malleable. Make it the consistency of play dough or thick cookie batter. You want to be able to pack it all over the fish without having the mud ooze and drip off. Drier mud will also help to speed up cook time as well. Simply pat about ½ inch of mud around the entire fish until it is completely encased and resembles a football or a large stone. Dig out a small hole in the hot ash-ember area of your fire and place the fish inside. Cover it with the hot material and let it cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
Once it has cooked through, the mud will be dry and hard and covered with ash and dust. Take it out with tongs or sticks because it will be extremely hot. Set it aside and let it cool. You can take a stick and crack the mudpack until parts of it crumble away in order to allow hot gases to escape and speed up the cooling process.
Once it is cool enough to the touch, you can pick it up and start breaking off the mud. Most of it will crumble off without getting stuck or peeling away the skin and meat inside. However, don’t worry if all of the mud doesn’t come off, because you will be eating it from the inside out anyway. The fact that you can’t get all of the mud off, and there may be a dusty resin in places is why you left the skin on prior to cooking. It will act as a barrier between the mud and the meat, enabling you to eat more and waste less.
This method is good for larger fish and you can cook numerous fish at the same time as well. This is a great, fast and easy to prepare your catch without needing a lot of cooking resources on hand. However, this technique also gets in the way of being able to perform a lot of culinary creativity as well. You can add some seasonings into the inside of the fish, where you gutted it before packing if you like.
It also doesn’t matter what kind of dirt you use as long as it’s not too wet. Just make sure that you are not putting this in the heart of a fire, because cooking it at a high temperature will cause it to dry out. Let it bake under some embers and ash, and be patient. You will love the simplicity of this method, and it is also very practical when you don’t have a lot of cooking resources at your disposal as well.