Mise En Bag

The cooking industry is trying to eat us. Nobody needs all these appliances. Nobody needs kitchens this shiny. The love is gone from gizmo cookery.


Stuff a backpack with cheap, versatile kit. Should cost less than an XBox. Way less.

Find a safe place to cook.

Stock essentials, or stuff 'em in the bag.

Limit your cash.

Cook. Feed people.

Become Internet famous. Or not.


photo of the kit laid out on a table

Watch a slightly dated overview on YouTube.

Nothing more. More than enough.

In general, buy the cheapest one that works. Try for used, or repair something broken. When in doubt, commercial, not consumer, restaurant supply, not big-box store. Scrounge.

Stuff it all in a cheap backpack. Respect your tools, but don't love them.


eight-inch chef knife, like a Fibrox, $35

ten inch carbon steel frying pan, smooth inner surface, like a Winco, $20

Don't use a wider pan. You'll deflect heat toward your stove's butane can. That's unsafe.

single-burner butane stove, like a Coleman, Max Burton, or Iwatani, $20

Buy a new stove that meets the latest safety standards. Read the instructions. Follow them.

three-to-four-quart saucepan + lid, straight-sided, stainless steel with an aluminum sandwich disc, $20

two two-quart food containers + lids, like Camsquares, $20

unexpired ABC-rated fire extinguisher, $20


hot/cold insulated bag, fits the saucepan

cutting board, preferably poly

paring knife, cheap

spatula, preferably silicone, or wood

stirring spoon, preferably wood

spider, number six

scraper, plastic

four medium ingredient bowls

four small ingredient bowls

accurate two-cup measuring cup, glass

accurate measuring spoons

timer that counts up and down

two butter knives, spoons, and forks

two twenty-ounce plastic tumblers

two dinner plates

two soup bowls

can opener

bottle opener

cleaning brush, for ingredients

dish sponge, for dishes

recycling bag

food scraps bag


For each meal, you get:

one canister of stove fuel

∞ salt, preferably Diamond Crystal kosher

∞ black pepper, preferably fresh-ground

∞ lukewarm tap water

∞ vegetable oil

∞ sandwich-size plastic bags

∞ flour sack towels

∞ dish soap

∞ Cheerios, to eat when you fail

If you never eat Cheerios, you fail.


Make sure you have:

fan, fume hood, or outdoor setting

flat, stable surface for the burner

flat, stable surface for the cutting board

a drain that goes someplace responsible


Choose a budget:

1x minimum wage in your area

2x minimum wage in your area

3x minimum wage in your area

Spend in a single trip to a national-chain general or discount grocery store. If possible, one with more than a hundred locations. Safeway. Costco. Not Whole Foods. Not the farmers market.

Save your receipt.


MWF: Cook a balanced meal for three in as little time as possible, without rushing, starting with everything packed in your bag. Use either your frying pan or sauce pan, but not both. Use no ingredient bowls, measuring cup, or measuring spoons.

JC: Cook a balanced nutritional meal for as many people as possible, minimum 800 calories per cover.

Double: Cook a meal that yields another full meal's worth of leftovers that keep well.

Triple: Cook a meal that yields two full meals' worth of leftovers that keep well.

Big 8: Cook a meal without milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soy.

Pious: Cook a meal that is Halal, Kosher, Vegan, and delicious.

Royale: Cook a meal on the menu at the fanciest local restaurant in your area.

Zero: Cook a meal with no leftover ingredients or food scraps.


The more people you can teach to cook your meal reliably, the better.

Points: Widely available ingredients. Great technique. Cheap equipment. Time management. Creative misuse of tools. Sharing online. Mistakes. Failed experiments.

No Points: One-off bargains. Specialty ingredients. Relying on particular kit. French jargon. Production value. Flashy nonsense. Physical danger. Unsafe eats.