Monday, March 12, 2012

The Boat Galley: Un-Canny Meals

This week's Boat Galley has tips for enjoying canned meat on your boat in ways you never imagined...

Guest blog by Carolyn Shearlock
Carolyn Shearlock, author of The Boat Galley, appears weekly on the Daily Boater with tips for getting the most out of your boat's kitchen.


Canned meat goes way beyond tuna casserole! A wide variety of meats and seafood are available in cans and pouches, and with these tips you'll be cooking great meals that no one will guess began with a can. If you don’t have a refrigerator - or just a tiny one - canned meat and seafood add a lot of variety to your meal choices and will last virtually forever.
It’s not hard to prepare great meals from canned meats. The canning process tends to take away some of the firmness and flavor of the meat, so the trick is to preserve and enhance the texture and flavor that’s there.

The biggest complaint that most people have with canned meats is that everything in the dish turns into one big blob. But that doesn't have to be the case! You can have great meals with just a little care. Through the years, I’ve learned a few tips to ensure good results:
  • Add the meat as late in the cooking process as possible.  It’s already cooked, so all you have to do is warm it up. 
  • Once you’ve added the meat, stir as little as possible so it won’t turn to mush.  This is particularly true of chicken, turkey and beef and is one reason these meats shouldn’t be added until the very end of the cooking time and just warmed through. 
  • Ham is the only meat that you need to “crumble” or break apart as you add it to the other ingredients.  All other meats should be handled very gently. 
  • Don’t overcook other ingredients to the point where they lose their texture and become a “blob” with the meat. 
  • Add one-half to one bouillon cube of an appropriate flavor to make up for the fact that you don’t have drippings from browning the meat.  Most bouillon cubes have a lot of sodium, so don’t add extra salt. 
  • Drain the liquid from the can and use it in the cooking process (ditto for any canned vegetables you use).  It’ll add a lot more flavor than plain water. 
  • Casserole-type dishes taking long cooking are generally inappropriate for canned meats.
I buy most meats in cans about the size of tuna cans - they’re just right for one meal for two people with average appetites. There’s ham, chicken, turkey, tuna, crab, shrimp, corned beef, roast beef, corned beef hash, clams and probably others. Some meats are now available in foil pouches, which cost a bit more but are lighter, take up less space and generally have even better texture.

On four different occasions, Dave and I have gone two months or more with no fresh meat - just canned.  You can create a wide variety of dishes from canned meat and have “good meals” that don’t make you feel deprived. I've put together a list of over 50 great meals from canned meats to help you get started.


Carolyn Shearlock is author of The Boat Galley, with over 280 FREE articles to get the most out of your boat kitchen with galley tips, insights & equipment recommendations. A few recipes, too – plus an active Facebook community to ask questions and share tips with other readers!

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