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How to Make Improvised Cooking and Eating Utensils


How to Make Improvised Cooking and Eating Utensils

This hand-carved huon pine spoon is both functional and beautiful.

Photo © Flickr® user prozacblues.

If you’ve managed to gather food and start a fire in a survival situation, you’re off to a good start. But on the way to eating a first meal or brewing a cup of tea, you’ll likely encounter another set of problems. Now how do you cook and eat the food in front of you? If it’s not what you’d call finger food, then you’ll likely need some additional tools to help you perform simple cooking tasks ranging from boiling water to cooking meat.

Cooking and eating utensils such as forks, spoons, pots, plates, and bowls can be made out of many natural materials, and they can also be made from improvised gear you might already have in your backpack. Get creative when surveying your gear for improvised uses, and look specifically in your natural surroundings to create these other common utensils:

Forks, Spoons, and Knives

Small eating utensils such as forks, spooks, and knives can all be carved from wood. Common wood choices for carving utensils include hardwood trees such as oak or birch.

Choose a piece of wood that is only slightly larger than the utensil you plan on carving, as you will whittle away wood chips until you create the desired shape. Look for pieces of wood that may already resemble the utensils you plan to create to reduce your time and effort.

Depending on your surroundings, you may already have natural items nearby that can be used as eating utensils with little or no work. Seashells can be used as spoons, and pieces of broken shells may be used as knives. Likewise, sharp or broken rocks can be used as knives. Attach a thick reed or a stick to a shell to create a spoon with a handle or a large ladle. Other pieces of bone or horn may also be used as eating utensils, but clean them carefully before use.

Pots and Bowls

Materials such as wood, bone, and horn can also be used to make pots and bowls. Choose green wood instead or dry wood for pots, and carve out a hollow big enough to hold the desired amount of food and water. Hang a wooden pot that contains food and water over the fire instead of placing it directly on coals.

Pots need to be fire-resistant if you plan to use them for cooking over an open fire, and bowls should be heat-resistant enough to allow for cooking with heated rocks. To cook food with rocks, place the rocks directly on the fire or coals in order to warm them up. The rocks will retain heat so that when you place them in a bowl of food and water, their heat will cook the bowl’s contents. Try to avoid limestone, sandstone, and other sedimentary rocks or those that contain air pockets, as they may explode when heated in a fire.

Consider using turtle shells and large horns for bowls or pots, as they can be hollowed out and hung over an open flame, but make sure that you clean horns and animal shells carefully by boiling water in them first.

Coconut shells can be used for bowls, and bamboo can be used as a pot or bowl. Choose a piece of bamboo that’s large in diameter, and cut a hole in a section between two sealed joints. You can now fill the sealed section through the hole, and suspend the section over the fire to heat up what’s inside.

Water Bottles

If you need to carry a water container, do so by using a time-tested material: the stomach of a large animal. Clean the stomach by rinsing it with water first, and then tie off the bottom. Fasten the top by tying it closed with parachute cord or twine.


Plates might be the easiest of all cooking and eating utensils to procure in a natural setting. Large pieces of bark will work, as will flat stones, thin pieces of wood, and large leaves.

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