Knorr side dishes

Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Knorr side dishes - 11/11/17 12:21 PM

As happens periodically, I’ve reached a point where freeze-dried food (though a vast improvement over the 80s versions) is starting to all taste like sawdust. So, for a while, I’m thinking of preparing some simple meals using one of the Knorr side dishes (pasta or rice) with a pouch of chicken, tuna, or salmon added.

I haven’t used those side dishes since the early 2000’s, and there seems to be a much greater variety available now. So, for any of you who use them, I’ve got a few questions:

1. How easy are they to prepare in the backcountry? (I’m thinking of using a white gas stove, the Whisperlite, which I can get to simmer by not overpressurizing the bottle.)

2. Some of them call for adding milk. Obviously, I’ll not be carrying milk, but I was wondering if you could simply add powdered milk to the pouch contents, then add the water called for in the instructions plus the water needed to rehydrate the powdered milk, and bring it to a boil as called for in the instructions.

3. The instructions seem to specify using a 2-quart pot, but you end up only adding a cup or so of liquid to the contents of the pack. I’m thinking a 1 quart pot would work just as well - or do you need the broader area for the ingredients to be shallow for cooking?

4. What type of cook wear do you use for this type of cooking? Popular wisdom has it that titanium scorches too easily when you try to actually cook in it. I still have a stainless steel pot that I could use, if it works better. I’m not really interested in aluminum or non-stick cookware.

Any other thoughts you have would be welcome.

Posted by: Pika

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/11/17 02:26 PM

Glen, I use Knorr Sides a lot for my longer trips. I generally go solo so I only take about half to two thirds of a pouch and add freeze dried meat to it. It takes a bit of experimentation to get the amount of water to your liking. I started making them on the soupy side and reduced from there. The rice sides can be cooked freezer-bag style but the pasta sides are better cooked and simmered in a pot, unless you like crunchy pasta. Here you risk a potentially scorched pot bottom. I take a 2-cup screw-top plastic storage container and use that instead of freezer bags for rehydrating. It weighs less than 4 freezer bags. I cook in either a small IMUSA cup or in a MSR Titan Kettle (the larger of the two). I use a Snow Peak Giga stove which sorta simmers.

I use very little in the way of commercial backpacking food. I prefer the roll-your-own approach cause it's cheaper and more varied. Sometimes the variety ranges from good to bad but that's life.

For those that call for milk I either ignore it or use Nido dried whole milk. Again, a bit of experimenting is in order here.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/11/17 02:31 PM

I'd suggest getting a few and trying them out at home! That should resolve your questions, including if you find the results edible! I find the Knorr stuff far too salty, but I am used to a low-salt diet at home.

With dried milk, be sure to mix it thoroughly in cold water before using. If any lumps are left, they will get worse during cooking.

I suspect the reason for the larger pot is to prevent boiling over when cooking noodles. But you'll find out in your home trials!
Posted by: aimless

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/11/17 02:35 PM

1. They're easy, if you can simmer them a bit. Adding boiling water and using a cozy doesn't quite do the trick.

2. Powdered instant milk works fine with them.

3. Note: I use a 2 qt. pot because that's my setup, so I can't answer from direct experience. I suspect a very deep and narrow pot would make stirring difficult, especially if the contents of the pot come nearly to the top. As far as the actual cooking goes, I don't think it would make much difference.

4. I use an Open Country 2 qt. uncoated aluminum pot with a wire bail handle. Stirring is the best antidote for scorching. See answer 3 for further thoughts on stirring.

Other thoughts. The Knorr Sides are cheap enough you could try a few at home and decide if they adapt well to your normal cooking setup and they taste good enough to enjoy. They work fine for me, but YMMV.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/24/17 08:41 PM

A bit tardy, but thanks for your suggestions. It sounds like prep hasn’t changed a lot since I last used them.

I’ll be sure to run some home trials.

Since my buddies and I are planning a shakedown trip for some new gear, we’ll be camping beside the car (but otherwise running a backpack camp.) I’m planning to use a Whisperlite with stainless cookware, but I may take my Pocket Rocket and titanium pots just to see if there really is a bigger scorching problem with titanium and a more concentrated flame.

Again, many thanks.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/26/17 02:56 PM

After some time, Knorr sides start to all taste the same too! I do not know if it is me burning out on them, or that the quality has deteriorated, but they taste bland to me than those of 10 years ago. I think Knorr got bought out by another company. Each pack is also smaller. Personally, one side is really inadequate for me (I eat a lot!) so I have to add stuff to it. Check the label- they are low in protein, high in carbs.

They are, however, easy to use and quick to cook. I now prefer to cook noodles and rice from scratch and add stuff- a bit more work but tastes better and I get to add my own salt and spices to my taste.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/26/17 05:55 PM

That may be the next stop. With the Knorr, my thought is that I can add meat and have a simple meal. But, if the taste isn’t there, I’ll move on to using instant rice, instant potatoes, or cous cous as a base, adding meat, perhaps some dried veggies (like mushrooms) or fresh veggies, like carrots or peppers, and making a packaged gravy or sauce (beanies, hollandaise, etc.) to pour over it.

I’ve already rejected the instant oatmeal flavors in favor of Quaker plain instant oats (in the round box), to which I add powdered vanilla, powdered milk, dried cherries, raisins, or cranberries, and some nuts (pecan or walnut halves.) It sits pretty well.

If I can find an appropriate thermal jar (lightweight, but able to keep food hot for about 6 hours), I may even start eating hot lunch: make up some soup at breakfast, and store it in the thermal jar until lunch, then voila!

Time will tell.
Posted by: GrumpyGord

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/26/17 07:30 PM

My go to main meal is Idahoan Potatoes with added dried vegetables and TVP. Works well in a freezer bag and by using the various Idahoan varieties and various vegetables and flavored TVP I get some variety.

I also use the standard oatmeal with dried cranberries, nuts, powdered milk or Nido and sugar. Also works with freezer bag.

Are the Knorr sides the same as Lipton N&S? I have not seen the Lipton's for some time. I have used them in the past. I tried the Knorr meals and found them lacking.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/26/17 08:18 PM

I think you are right! Knorr bought Lipton. It was those Lipton sides that I think tasted better.

I like instant potatoes too, but they are not as good nutritionally as a grain. I tend to end up hungry after potatoes and not with rice(brown) or noodles (Whole wheat) with the same added stuff. Olive oil and cheese are the main fats I add to get more calories. Also, nuts added to a rice dish seem to work better than nuts added to potatoes.

I am a big fan of Nido! Really adds richness to anything because it is full fat. Also, will only do regular oatmeal. Lately I have been using steel cut oats, because they pack down smaller (for a bear can) than the same weight of flake oats. Go look at Trader Joes new stuff- they now have a lot of instant varieties of grains, like barley. They also have red lentil pasta and black bean pasta.
Posted by: Jim M

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/29/17 09:57 PM

1) I use a windpro MSR stove and that works fine. When I go ultralite I use a homemade Esbit stove and that works fine too.
2) I certainly do not add milk. I used to add a teaspoon of oil, but I don't any longer. I sometimes add some of my DIY dehydrated vegetables.
3) I use only one half package at most and with a bagel that is plenty for me for dinner.
I make it a bit thin (more water) or soup-like for some reason.
4) I use a stainless steel pot of 20 ounce capacity that weighs 3.5 ounces, and has a one ounce lid. My friend purchased one each for our 4 man hiking group and we have never found anything better or lighter for the capacity.
Comment; Trying it at home is good. the proportion you will take per meal is critical. I look at the Knoll packages and top Ramon with some good supplements and spices added. I think they are GREAT!
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Knorr side dishes - 11/30/17 11:59 PM

Trying at home is a good taste test, but you need to cook it on your backpack stove and pot - try to simulate what you will have when backpacking.

As for volumes of food needed while backpacking- that is something you have to do backpacking, trial and error. Some people eat a lot less while backpacking, others more. Pay attention to what food ends up back home- you are taking too much or stuff you really do not like if you do not eat it while out!

Honestly, some stuff I like when I backpack, is really a bit disgusting when I eat it at home. My backpacking hunger and taste is really not the same as at home. The "try at home" simply eliminates the really bad stuff.

The big difference when backpacking is your gut. Lack of fresh vegetables (fiber) needs to be supplemented with other types of fiber. Also, some food seems fine at home but may make you gassy if eaten while backpacking. The reason I do not eat commercial FD meals, is that my gut cannot tolerate it.
Posted by: EMT Dave

Re: Knorr side dishes - 12/02/17 04:55 PM

I have, for many years used supermarket side dishes like Knorr almost exclusively for dinner. I have often relied on the better quality dried soups for lunch or if it is not to my taste, something cold like cheese (sometimes augmented with salami or other meat product) and bread/crackers/no cook starch. There is usually a hot drink three times a day, never less than twice.
The side dishes: they are cheap, readily available and available in a variety of flavors. Brands like Cracker Barrel mac and cheese offer a better quality for a higher price, albeit cheaper than the cheapest freeze dried.
I have not tried boil-in-bag, although eventually my practice will catch up with my intent.
Yes! Taste test at home. I have found it wise to avoid anything with the words "fiesta, south-western or Mexican" in them.
Thai dishes are generally good, but be prepared to add Thai garlic and pepper and/or more soy sauce or sriracha.
Dried milk works fine. I mix it in the water before cooking the food.
Extras help, such as Parmesan cheese in the alfredo recipes.
Dried veggies help in a lot of dishes; I have dried them at home and so far, so good.
I am belatedly trying home drying, since many items like pouch chicken is not available around me.
I have done with immense satisfaction a corned beef hash with an envelope of corned beef (I cannot find it currently, but will try drying a can),a pouch of hash brown potatoes and dried onion. It is a hassle to fry, but it can be done in the lid of my pot. Delicious and abundant for two with hot chocolate and pita bread. It fills like no other meal I have found, esp. for breakfast.
Sadly, I cannot find either dried eggs or simple freeze dried eggs (without a plethora of crap like peppers, onion, etc.) around me, but for slow start days, this is the bomb.
Posted by: EMT Dave

Re: Knorr side dishes - 12/02/17 05:03 PM

Originally Posted By GrumpyGord
My go to main meal is Idahoan Potatoes with added dried vegetables and TVP. Works well in a freezer bag and by using the various Idahoan varieties and various vegetables and flavored TVP I get some variety.

Yes, dried mashed potatoes are the ancient (like the late 19th century!) basis of hooch. A noble dish that took men on foot to the poles.
To the potatoes I add: dried milk, lumps of cheddar cheese (add them near the end) and either bacon-flavored bits or the real thing in crumbled form. I will try home dried ham from the deli this summer. It should work. Maybe dried turkey from a can will too. (check the internet sites on home drying and trail cooking. You could try an unflavored protein powder or TVP, but I am not usually out long enough to be fanatical.
With enough extras you will not go hungry. You can also serve up the potatoes and in just a minute make gravy in the same pot. It helps clean the pot too.
A similar concept would be home dried turkey with instant dressing, dried onion and dried celery, topped with gravy at the end. I will try this this summer too.
Posted by: EMT Dave

Re: Knorr side dishes - 12/02/17 07:11 PM

I wonder how Hamburger Helper Lasagna would be with home dried cooked beef and home dried spaghetti sauce?
I am told that the easiest way to dry spaghetti sauce is to start with tomato paste and add dried garlic, herbs and such. My own attempts to dry bottled sauce took approximately three times as long as the experts say.
I will experiment this coming season.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Knorr side dishes - 12/03/17 12:39 PM

Well, I gave it a trail-try this weekend, and was generally pleased with the results. The meals prepared easily (and can be cooked in a 1-quart pot, with careful tending; you don’t need the 2-quart pot the package recommends.) The flavor of the Knorr meals was generally good. However, I probably won’t be using the Knorr meals, for two reasons:

1. The rice dishes didn’t have enough rice for my taste. When you read the ingredients, the “rice” dishes use a mixture of rice and vermicelli pasta. The proportion of vermicelli is just too high for my taste - the “chew” consistency is more like noodles than rice.

2. They make too much. The last time I ate them as my main meal, I could polish off the entire thing by myself. This weekend, I was full somewhere around the one-third to one-half area. The culprit is that my metabolism and daily mileage have both decreased since those days.

All in all, a successful experiment, which I’ll be modifying by starting with instant rice (probably half a cup or a cup), and adding meat and, usually, a sauce mix (think the hollandaise or bernaise, or perhaps a chicken gravy). I’ll end up with a virtually identical meal in a more realistic proportion. I’ll also avoid having to boil the ingredients (as in Knorr side dishes), since instant rice can be added after water is boiled. To make the sauce, I’ll need to add a titanium cup to the titanium kettle, but I can live with that.

We’re calling this a win.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Knorr side dishes - 12/05/17 11:19 AM

Originally Posted By EMT Dave
Sadly, I cannot find either dried eggs or simple freeze dried eggs (without a plethora of crap like peppers, onion, etc.) around me, but for slow start days, this is the bomb.

internet to the rescue:
Posted by: CamperMom

Re: Knorr side dishes - 12/30/17 03:14 PM

Yeah, seems to have nearly anything available.

Nearly 20 years ago, I shared a shelter with 2 brothers whose suppers mainly consisted of Ramen noodles, sans flavor packet, topped with various instant bean soups.Reasonably cheap, filling, close to instant, and back then, a good variety was on store shelves. I didn't ask about GI distress, but their idea is worth considering. Instant split pea soup over instant potatoes with extra bacon or ham might be tasty on a cold or chilly night. Same for chili soup mix over inxtant rice with a side of cheddar. These should be easy to find in any grocery store whether supplying on the way to a hike or along the way.

Also, Knorr buying out Lipton sides fits my recollection.

Happy New Year!