Today’s Recipe: Duck Dinner in a Dakota Fire Hole

Yesterday, Ashley and I showed you how to skin a duck. Today, for the recipe of the week, we’re showing you how to best cook your fowl when you are in the remote wilderness.

My suggestion?

Cook your meal in a Dakota Fire Hole.

These fire pits are SO nifty.

They take less wood to fuel.

They burn hotter.

And they’re less likely to catch nearby brush or trees on fire.

Below, Ashley and I have a three-course meal you can make when you are out camping that is totally delicious and leaves you with little KP. We also show you how to correctly dig a Dakota Fire Hole and why they are so cool. Grab yer gloves, mini shovel, and axe, and let’s get to work …

Take a good look at the length of the wood pieces you have for your fire. If you need to make the hole larger to accommodate larger pieces, do so. It’s a bother to keep chopping ’em down, so make sure they fit!

This meal is planned for 1-2 people. Start by digging a hole that is 16-20 inches in diameter and double the depth and width of the fire pit for each additional person.

When digging, save the “plug” (top of the soil) and place all of your dirt next to the hole so you can replace it later. The dirt pile also serves to staunch a blaze if your fire goes awry.

Next, we dug out the airway. This will provide oxygen to the main chamber. It’s important to check the direction of the wind at this point and dig the airway facing the breeze. A typical gardening hand trowel works really well for this part.

Ta-da! For the airway to work properly, you should be able to fit your arm through the hole and to the other side.

If you didn’t pack any newspaper to start your fire, dry pine needles work just as well, if not better. I also grabbed a Mason jar of strike-anywhere matches. A small rock tossed inside does the trick!

Stand back for a second and survey the countryside and your handiwork. Nice!

Next … dinner time.

You will need:
~ aluminum foil to wrap everything
~ game birds such as duck, grouse, quail, pheasant, partridges—anything you can shoot that’s in season
~ onions
~ oranges
~ sweet potatoes
~ Gorgonzola cheese (or your preferred kind)
~ a box of organic yellow cake mix, mixed and in a plastic bag (add some chocolate chips to make it fancy)
~ salt & pepper

Here is a visual of what our packed bag looked like (minus our fresh game). This easily fed two.

1. Once you have a good bed of coals in the fire pit, lay out a couple layers of foil, and place a skinned, cleaned, and de-boned game bird in the center. We used duck. Quarter an onion and place it around the meat.

2. Cut off the top of the oranges and save for later. Spoon the fruit out from the orange and arrange over the meat. Pour any juice from the orange over the meat too. Reserve the hollowed-out orange peel for the cake batter. Season the meat with salt and pepper and securely wrap in foil.

3. Place the foil package in the fire over hot coals, and cook for about 25 minutes, or until it is fully cooked (it may take more or less time, depending on how much heat the fire is putting out and the size of the bird), flipping it over halfway through.

4. Wrap the sweet potatoes up individually in a couple layers of foil and place on the coals for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.

5. Remove the sweet potatoes from the fire and carefully unwrap the foil. Thinly slice the potatoes, leaving about ½” from the bottom un-cut to hold each potato together. Fill in between each slice with Gorgonzola, and re-wrap in the foil. Place potatoes back into the fire for another 5 minutes, or until they’re soft.

6. Lay out a couple more layers of foil and fill each orange with the cake batter about ¾ of the way full, cover with the tops, and wrap individually in foil. Place on hot coals and cook for 18-20 minutes.


  1. jean says:

    ohmygravy this looks delicious!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Really quite remarkable ladies as I’ve never seen a fire built this way. As I look through your wonderfully detailed pictures it makes sense to build the fire pit in the ground instead of on top~I’m guessing for a, ‘Safety First’ reasoning? And you provided an airway for it too? Is the airway something you learned from a “trial & error” kind of thing; or did you learn this from Emil or your parents…or just instinct? MaryJane, do you teach classes on this sort of survival skill/training basics? If I followed a Forestry curriculum at a state level, is this something they would teach? Thank you for the lesson & great pictures ladies.

  3. Terry Steinmetz says:

    Yummy!! I look forward to making these recipes. What fun too!!!

  4. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I remember making a big meal like this in Girl Scouts one cold November camping expedition. We were all amazed at how it worked and the dinner was delicious. I remember it even rained that day but our meal was safe beneath the dirt cooking away. So cool!!

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