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Best Backpacking Stoves and Pots for Cooking Simple One Pot Meals

Cooking a one pot meal on a wood stove
Cooking a one pot backpacking meal on a wood stove

Simple one pot backpacking meals are a great option if you want more variety in your backpacking diet, you want to eat real food with less preservatives, or you want to adapt your meals to seasonal or locally available ingredients that you encounter on your hike. But if your existing stove and cook pot are only designed for boiling water, you may need to upgrade your cooking system with a stove that can simmer and a pot that has the capacity to hold food and water at the same time.

Best Stoves for One Pot Meals

In order to cook one pot meals, you need to get a stove that is designed for cooking food and not just boiling water. This includes the ability to simmer, which eliminates all-or-nothing alcohol stoves from consideration. You will also want a stove with the widest possible burner head so that the heat from your stove is spread out as evenly as possibly on the bottom of your cook pot. This is the most effective way to avoid burning meals that start out soupy like polenta, rice, and bulgur, but absorb all of the liquid that you cook them.

Most canister, white gas, or multi-fuel stoves have a simmering capability. Many white gas stoves also have fairly wide burner heads, as do multi-fuel stoves with remote canisters. Wood stoves can also be a surprisingly good option because you can simmer them by reducing how much wood you feed them and because they produce a fairly wide heat source under your cook pot.

While the MSR Reactor Stove has a very wide burner for a canister stove, it's ability to simmer makes it difficult to use for cooking one-pot meals
While the MSR Reactor Stove has a very wide burner for a canister stove, its inability to simmer makes it less than ideal for cooking one-pot meals

Here are a few stoves of each type that can simmer and have fairly wide burner heads that are good to cook one pot meals  with.

Worst comes to worse, you don’t absolutely need a stove with a wide burner head to cook one pot meals with, but you will have to be a lot more careful about burning the ingredients in your cook pot. The best way to avoid this is to frequently stir your meal with a flat-bottomed stirrer (not a spoon), so you can prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of your cook pot and burning. There are also certain ingredients like milk powder that burn more easily than others and that you’ll always want to avoid cooking with.

Best Cook Pots for One Pot Backpacking Meals

The best cook pots for making one pot meals are between 1 liter and 1.5 liters in size. Your cook pot should have liquid measurements embossed on the inside of the pot, insulated fold out handles, and a strainer lid. Wider pots are much better than narrow tall pots because they are easier to mix your ingredients in and because they have a larger cooking surface. But the material your pots is made out of, be it aluminum, titanium or steel, is far less important because all backpacking pots are so thin.

Personally, I prefer uncoated pots to ones with non-stick coatings because they stand up to the abuses of the trail (such as cleaning with river sand) and frequent stirring with titanium utensils, far better than pots with teflon or ceramic coatings.

Cooking Alpine Spaghettin in the 1 Liter Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot
Cooking Alpine spaghetti in the 1 Liter Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot

Pots with heat exchange fins welded to their bottoms can be tricky to use because they retain heat far longer than ordinary pots. While more fuel-efficient, they make it harder to use shared cooking recipes because they have such different heat retention properties from other pots. I’d steer away from them to keep things simple.

I also recommend that you steer away from the smaller 0.8 liter Jetboil pots. They are awful for cooking anything less soupy than ramen noodles, which is about as soupy as you can get. They’re too small and narrow to boil water and cook food with and the stove’s burner head projects such a narrow flame that you’re much more likely to burn your food.

My favorite cooking pot for making one pot meals is the 1 liter Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot, which has embossed measurements stamped on the pot, a locking strainer lid so you can strain with one hand, and insulated folding handles. With a width of 4.3″ and a height of 4.25″, it’s large enough to hold 2 cups of water plus my meal ingredients without boiling over and an 8 ounce isobutane canister or a Solo Wood Stove can fit into it for ease of packing.

Other good “cooking” pots include the Evernew 1.3 liter titanium pot, the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Aluminum Cooker, and the MSR 1.3 L aluminum Quick Solo Pot.

Conclusion

If eating one pot backpacking meals sounds like an interesting way to make your backpacking meals more enjoyable, you will probably need to upgrade your stove and cook pot if your cook system can only boil water. Cooking actual food in a pot requires a stove or heat source capable of simmering and a pot that is large enough to hold about two cups of water and your meals’ ingredients. There are many existing lightweight options that fulfill these requirements and which can also be used to boil water for the freezer bag meals or commercial dehydrated backpacking food you eat today.

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8 comments

  1. For me pot choice is simple the “Evernew 1L Pasta Pot’, I only have one!

    I use the Pasta Pot with the MSR Micro Rocket, Trail Designs 12-10 and a MYO cone, Honey Stove and MSR Whisperlite. I cook up everything from home produced dehydrated meals to Super Noodle/ pasta concoctions. Simmering is never an issue as I use a MYO pot cosy (an old CCF mat) that keeps food above 80C for 30mins, nothing ever gets burnt to the bottom of the pan and I save fuel at the same time!
    I’ve also found that adding soup or sauce mixes to Pasta/ noddles after bringing to the boil and popping in the cosy saves a lot of the stirring required to stop burning the pan.

    I have tried a canister top stove with a wide burner head, similar to the MSR SuperFly, along with the Pasta Pot but I found the gas consumption increased by 25%, presumable due to a lot of heat going up the side of the pot. I’ve also found that the MSR Micro Rocket is controllable enough to produce a very light simmer if required.

  2. Great article. I’m also considering this pasta pot. Just curious why do you prefer the pasta pot over a shorter wider pot for cooking?

  3. Great article Phil. Don’t discount alchohol stoves completely. The brass lite has a very effective simmer ring. I frequently use the alchohol stove and built a small wood fire inside my ti windscreen to simmer as well.

    • Another alcohol stove which simmers well is the Evernew Titanium, if you put a pot directly onto the stove (that is DON’T use the DX stand or trivet) it cuts off half the jets so works at a lower heat and so takes 10 minutes to boil a pot instead of the usual 5. Useful for actual cooking rather than water boiling.

  4. I’ve used the solo stove three different times on Catalina island walking the trans-Catalina trail. Worked well and reliable. Easy to pack with small fuel cells packets inside the stove bag, I was able to have one pot meals in good amount and used it to keep my hands warm while I was eating. It is one of the best purchases I made for my backpack.

  5. For me, cooking even simple one pot meals on the trail is hit or miss. A while back I invested in a dehydrator and took up freezer bag/pot cozy cooking. Simple and easy, boil water, add food, stir for around 30 seconds, and place pot in cozy. In around 10 minutes whatever your cooking is done. There are tons of recipes on the net and you’ll never burn your culinary creation!

  6. I have been cooking “proper” meals for years – and for three or more people – with my Trangia burner. The simmer ring means you have perfect control at all times. I know it’s fashionable to regard these wonderful bits of kit as heavy, but frankly this involves a defintion of the word heavy that bears little relationship to reality. But if a tiny bit of brass alloy is too heavy, then my Evernew burner with the pot placed directly on the rim – thus cutting out the top jets – works almost as well, though lacks the calibration of the simmer ring. Recently, I’ve been enjoying preparing stews and risottos on a Firebox Nano; it takes a while to get the hang of solid fuel but I’ve found it well worth the perserverence. No simmer ring, of course, but one controls the cooking heat with the size/type of wood. Brilliant little stoves!

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