Christmas Shopping Suggestions for the Outdoor-Type

By ROB BREEDING for the Flathead Beacon

If you’re like me, you survived Black Friday by going nowhere near the stores. The day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree seemed quirky a decade or so ago when it first went big. But the early-morning shopfest increasingly appears to me to be a sign the apocalypse is upon us.

I’ve written before about the travails of buying Christmas gifts for the serious hunter or angler. If the object of your affection is hardcore about their pursuit, buying the right rifle or fly rod is a fool’s errand. It’s dang hard to find just the right gift for folks who are persnickety about their gear.

A gift certificate isn’t the most romantic tact, but it’s considerably safer and saves the recipient the tricky business of gauging whether or not you’d be offended if the gift is exchanged for what they really want.

There may be a safe zone. For many hunters and anglers their love for time outdoors is closely rivaled by their passion for cooking. That’s the point for a lot of folks, gathering good meat to turn into something good to eat. That’s the case for me, and while I’d rather not have someone picking out a fly rod for me, I’m a lot more flexible when it comes to kitchen gadgets.

I love them, and find I’m usually quite happy with the stuff that’s almost what I want.

Here are a few gifts I think most culinary-minded outdoors types would love to find under the tree:

A good thermometer is essential to becoming a great cook. That’s especially so when you’re dealing with wild game, which is never more than a moment away from completing the culinary journey from “just right” to “burnt and inedible.”

Probe ThermometerIf you’re cooking game without a thermometer you’re really just guessing.

Look for an instant-read probe thermometer. Expect to pay about $100 for a good one. It’s worth it. A thermometer will tell you when your meat is done, as well as the temperature of liquids such as frying oil and caramels.

Don’t worry about poking a hole in the meat with the probe. It’s a myth that this causes all the juices to run out. A steak is made up of thousands of cells, and only a few next to the probe hole are damaged. Poking it with a thermometer doesn’t dry out meat, but over cooking does.

addelice-circulatorChefs use sous-vide cookers to bring foods up to temperature in a water bath. Steaks, for instance, can be held in a sealed bag in a water bath for hours at 125 degrees. Once ordered, the chef pops them on a hot grill and bam, you’ve got a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak. The problem is cost: hundreds, or into the thousands for high-end models. The hot new ticket are c. You just insert the unit in a container you supply.

These units heat and hold water temps just like the high-end cookers for less than $200.

I’m thinking this is just the way to go for butterflied elk back straps. Hold them at 125, get the cast iron skillet hotter than the surface of the sun, then flash sear the meat. Pull the skillet off the flame and while the meat rests use the residual heat to make a pan sauce.


The new KettlePizza insert fits into a standard 22.5-inch kettle grill, turning it into a pizza oven capable of reaching a reported 1,000 degrees.

Kettle Pizza InsertI suspect that’s a little far-fetched, but even 800 degrees is going to cook a pizza better than the tepid 500-degree limit of most home ovens. If you’ve already got a Weber grill, the insert will run you another $400.

Other handy items: I sold my heavy barrel smoker to ease moving. I’ve missed it. There’s no better way to cook small lake trout than giving them a brief sauna in a smoker.

A good enameled Dutch oven is the ticket for making chili and stew. And if there’s a Kitchen Aid in the house, just about any attachment will be welcome.