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I recently learned that there are folks out there who have never had a hobo dinner! I’m not picking on those people, I’m just excited to introduce them to a tasty way to use a campfire.
I also recently caught my first crawdads. Crayfish are an excellent option for cooking hobo-style on a fire. Although many people boil them in huge quantities for a party, mountain-caught crawdads are likely to be fewer in number. They are delicious roasted on the coals.
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Classic Hobo Dinner Vs Mountain Version
A classic hobo dinner is made with potatoes, carrots, onions, and a hunk of ground beef all seasoned with salt and pepper and bundled up in aluminum foil. You just set this on the coals of a fire, shovel a few coals on top, and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour (depending largely on the size of your potato chunks). You could do this with any ground meat from last year’s hunt, or even chunks of good muscle from a rump.
READ MORE: RECIPE – Coyote: It’s What’s For Dinner
Kids love to do hobo dinners because they make their own and they eat it out of the foil it cooked it. It feels really rustic.
I did it last week with Crawdads and it was awesome! The key is to dice the potatoes small enough that they are cooked at the same time as the crawdads, which don’t take very long at all. I made them the size of my pinky nail and had good success.
I also had good success skipping the vegetables completely and adding lemons on top of the crawdads while they roasted in foil on the coals.
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Check the regs in your state, but a fishing license is probably all you need to start catching these tasty little mountain lobsters. A trap costs under $20 and you can fill it with anything from chicken and catfood to fatty fish bits (fish is purported to work the best).
What You Need To Make This Hobo Dinner
- Meat: Ground meat is classic, but the day’s catch of live crawdads will do too; about 1/4 pound of ground for a person is a nice meal
- Diced potato, about one per person
- Sliced onion, about 1/2 per person
- Sliced carrots, one or more per person
- Sliced sweet potatoes, about 1/2 per person
- Salt and pepper
- Butter or oil, especially if your ground doesn’t have added fat
- 2 Tablespoons of water for crawdads (to help steam)
- Aluminum foil — splurge and get the heavy-duty stuff or you’ll regret it, and also get the wide roll
- Fire with coals or charcoal briquettes
What You Do
Prep the crawdads by rinsing them a couple of times. Compared to farmed crayfish or those from muddy ponds and streams, high mountain crayfish are exceptionally clean and don’t need purging. Just pour fresh water on them and give them a swish in the bucket they’ll be good to go.
Start your fire or get a heap of briquettes started. You’ll need coals to surround your dinners and it’s miserable to have the food ready and the fire not ready.
Dice the veggies pretty small They are the things that take the longest to cook, and they are things that are usually undercooked in a hobo dinner. Make potatoes the size of your pinky nail and slice carrots thin. Pat your ground meat into a chunk that is evenly thick so it cooks evenly. Place all this on a sheet of foil, season it, add some butter or cooking, and then wrap it over itself so it’s sealed up.
Crawdads Make It A Mountain-Style Hobo Dinner
For crawdads, put the foil sheet in a bowl so the crawdads can’t crawl away while you’re wrapping them up. Put the veggies in first and the crayfish on top. Also, if you hold them upside down and place them on the foil upside down, they are momentarily stunned and won’t crawl away.
Season the whole thing and add the butter and a couple of tablespoons of water to make steam, then wrap the foil closed. Make one packet per person.
Spread the coals around a little and place each foil packet on the coals in the fire. Turn the packets 180 degrees every 7 minutes so that the side facing the fire doesn’t get too hot and burn. With meat, you can flip the packets over, too, but don’t do that with crawdads or the water will run out. Instead, just place a few coals on top of the packets.
Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, and check to see if it’s done. Make sure the crawdads are bright red all over and cook longer if they’re still blue or brown anywhere. You can apply coals the specific spots that aren’t red yet. For meat, make sure the potatoes are soft and dig in.
Eating Your Hobo Dinner
To eat the crayfish, hold the tail and the midsection behind the head in each hand and twist 1/4 turn. The tail will come away, then just peel a couple of the sections back like a shrimp and eat the white meat inside. Large crawdads have large claws that may be worth trying to crack the meat out of the thickest part of the claw.
Dip it in the butter in the bottom of the foil and enjoy!
Please share your favorite Hobo dinner setups in the comments.