Introduction: Clandestine Dakota Pit Stew

About: Someday, I would like to create something that is so commonly used, it's not even considered genius.

This Clandestine stew was an attempt at teaching my kids another way of cooking while not being easily detected when out in the woods. The backyard is our survival setting for this outdoor grilling challenge.

My oldest daughter was reading The Hunger Games series and told me that players were often found because of their fires and the smoke gave them away. The Dakota fire pit is the greatest in stealth, cooking and low smoke output (dry fuel is always best). I told her that this is our grilling pit, and a simple to make stew will get one of us back to our district as the victor.

Prep Time Grill Pit: 20 minutes | Prep Time Food: 7 Minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes


- 1/2 pound ground beef

- 1 Cup chopped baby carrots

- 1 Cup peeled and cubed potato

- 6 Small cherry tomatoes

- 1/3 Cup Copped onion

- 1/4 Teaspoon minced garlic

- 1/8 teaspoon of a salt/ pepper mix

- 1 1/2 table spoon of butter



      - Post hole digger

      - Drill and power auger attachment

      - Small hand trowel

      - Charcoal

      - Dry kindling/ fire starter

      - Swedish fire steel or matches

      - 2 Aluminum foil sheets at 26" each

      - Fireplace tongs

      Step 1: Prepare the Pit

      A Dakota fire pit/ hole has been around for some time, Native Americans used them for cooking to hide their fires when out avoiding the enemy.

      Bio plant another Instructable maker did an Instructable a few years back if you need details.

      Finding an area that is free of roots and rocks would be ideal for easy digging.

      - Dig a hole that is approximately 6" round and 15" deep, and has a larger bulbous interior, similar to a pear shape. A post hole digger is a great tool for this, and easy acquired in our urban environment.

      -Dig another hole approximately 6" round and 6" deep, this will be upwind form the first hole and will feed air into the fire hole. Dig a tunnel connecting this hole to your first hole about the size a little bigger than a fist, use a drill auger to make it easy (see photo).

      NOTE: Have the kids dig the hole, it is way more fun for them to get the dirt out.

      Next: Grab all your kindling/ tinder and charcoal.

      Place kindling in the 15" pit/hole, the "down wind" hole and start the fire. Check to see if your air flow is adequate, if not, enlarge tunnel diameter. A good air feeder hole make the flames dance in a swirling action.

      After fire has burnt down a little toss in the charcoal and let it get to a nice amber glow, about 7 minutes should do it. This is perfect prep time for the next step.

      Step 2: Wrap Up Ingredients in Foil

      NOTE: OK, so learning experience here. I am going to tell you what I did wrong and the a way to improve it for next time.

      I rolled the ground beef into golf ball size rounds. This cooked fine but a little dry.

      FIX: Sprinkle or spread out the ground beef, or use cubed sirloin/ stew meat.

      I only used a little bit of butter and no other fluids, this caused a bit of charring on the bottom.

      FIX: I would use a soup base or some water to give it a better boil/ steam cook. I also failed to rotate the foil, I would suggest a half rotation/ flip every 8-10 minutes to eliminate charring.

      The vegetables were all good consistent moist and cooked well minus a few charred carrots,

      FIX: I would most likely put all vegetables in a bowl mix in spices for better uniformity.

      - Place all ingredients on two layers of 26" long of aluminum foil.

      - Next grab the two long sides and pull up into a nice little hammock, even out the mix so there is at least 4" of clean foil on each end for folding later.

      - Fold the two top half long ends together in 1/2" tight folds until you reach the top of the mix. You should have a nice tube now.

      - Now fold the ends in the same way using 1/2" tight folds.

      (My photo has a little extra hook tail I tried to use as a drop in/ recovery item for the pit, this did not work)

      Step 3: Cooking

      Place your sealed stew foil packet centered on the nice coal bed. I let it cook for 30 minutes but this caused charring as stated earlier.

      FIX: Cook for 25 min with 8-10 minute 1/2 rotations.

      Note: I used about 12 chunks of charcoal briquettes and that seemed to be perfect for this cook time.

      Step 4: Recovery and Serve

      Recovery of the meal is easy with fireplace tongs, although out in the wilderness two large sticks could lift it out pretty easily as well.

      - Foil cools quickly to the touch, by the time I placed it on the table 20 feet away, I could rip the foil with my hands no problem.

      Grab a KA-BAR and a fork, we will see you at the Hunger Games or OUTDOOR COOKING challenge!

      Fill hole with water to avoid underground root fires.

      "Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires"- Smokey Bear


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