Camp Pan Biscuits

Why pan biscuits?

In preparing my dinner meal plan for a backpacking outing to Big Basin state park with the scouts, I wanted to offer a little more than a one pot stew (which turned into Jambalaya) for us “geezers”.  Pan biscuits seemed like a decent addition.

Remember, every pan used is one you have to clean (means wash and rinse water).  At our campsite we had to go a little over a tenth of a mile down to the water source and pump and then haul every bit of it (a pints a pound the world around) back UP the hill and at the end of a day’s hike it seemed more like 2 or 3 pounds per pint…

As a scout over four decades ago, I remember the disbelief and thrill of making biscuits on a stick that was suspended above the fire and rotated to allow all sides to take their turn in the flame to cook.  Given our location, the multi-year drought in California, and a recently erupted wildfire near us, open fires are out of the question.  It was camp stove or nothing for cooking our meals.

I’ve heard about pan biscuits but never experienced them myself.  So I read up a bit on the technique and crossed my fingers.  Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I elected to use a recipe from the back of the Bisquick® box.  I used the cheesy biscuit recipe, with some slight modifications for my camp pan biscuits.

Pan biscuit recipe

The recipe called for making a garlic powder and butter glaze or wash to go on the biscuits as they came out of the oven.  Again, I didn’t want to dirty, especially with greasy melted butter, another pan.  So I elected to incorporate the garlic powder into the biscuits and bring the butter to apply to the biscuit as each person preferred.   So here’s the recipe for backpacking pan biscuits:

  • Bisquick® 2 cups
  • powdered milk 0.5 ounces (by weight)
  • 5 oz water
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
  • mix it all together in a 1 quart plastic freezer bag

on the outside write 5 ounces of water.  This will make 8 or 9 biscuits.

The recipe for powdered milk is pretty simple 10%, by weight, powder and 90% water.  The recipe for the 2/3 cup of milk should have been 0.53 ounces of powder and 4.8 ounces of water.  I came as close as I could given that I was going to be in the woods.

Everything is mixed in the bag.  I put in all the dry and mixed that really well and then added the cheese mixing it really well.  Remove any excess air from the bag and then it went in the refrigerator (because of the cheese and likely overkill) until we got ready to leave.  Hint, pan biscuits are easy to do ahead and in camp.

In Camp Preparation:

Add the 5 oz. water directly to the bag seal it back up and mix by hand through the plastic.  Take your time, it should be a fairly stiff dough. Everything should be mixed together, not clumpy.  Pay attention to the corners.


photo by Guy Occhipinti

Heat the frying pan on a SIMMERING flame. (I love my MSR Dragonfly®)  My frying pan is non-stick so I probably don’t need to add any oil, but I added about 1/2 TBL.  Once hot, add the pan biscuit dough.  Do this by snipping a corner off of the bag to make a piping bag and pipe them into the pan.  Given the consistency and texture it was more like “pooping” them into the pan.  Cover and let them cook for 4-6 minutes.  Remove the lid, if they are firm enough, flip them over and re-cover the pot.  Again wait 4-6 minutes.

They’re not unlike pancakes, but much thicker.  That’s the reason you need a slower flame.  If it was hot like for pancakes, the camp biscuits would burn before cooking through. A couple of the larger, oddly shaped (think trapezoidal pyramids) biscuits had to be turned on edge for a couple of minutes to complete.

Place the completed camp biscuits on a piece of aluminum foil and close. Continue the process until the batter is used up.  Arrange the biscuits in the foil in roughly the same size as the lid for your cook put.  They can sit on top of the pot, or the lid, to stay warm if you’re not going to indulge right away. Enjoy!

P.S. don’t forget the butter 😉

Please let me know how your camp pan biscuits turn out and where you made them.  The general consensus was that the camp pan biscuits were a “do-over.”


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