By Community Submission
Jul 24, 2019

Celebrate Pioneer Day with Dutch Oven Buffalo Stew and Biscuits

Recently, three long-time Scouters and young men leaders started an outdoor cooking blog to make sure all their experience on campouts and hiking trips didn’t go to waste. They want to help new Scout leaders know what to do to make camping experiences good for the young men. And after all, what better way is there to make young men happy than by making sure they are full of good food? This Pioneer Day post comes from Gary Pack, one of the guys of

wwPack- John_2

John Pack, my great-great-grandfather and Mormon pioneer

In honor of the great pioneers who crossed the plains and settled these mountain valleys, we thought it was only fitting to do a post about the kinds of food they may have eaten as they traveled.

We’ve been reading journals and stories from our own pioneer ancestors, and have realized that finding and preparing food was a daily, constant concern as they traveled the plains headed to the Rocky Mountains. We know they had Dutch ovens and used a fire to cook on the nights when they had enough time (they didn’t always have that luxury). Each person had their flour allotment for the day, which they would use for breads and biscuits baked over the fire. To that bread they added whatever they could find, hunt, or gather.

John Pack home

Reproduction of the John Pack home, where the first classes for what would become the University of Utah were held.

We also know that the early pioneers were planting crops for those who followed behind, including potatoes, buckwheat, turnips, and other staple items. Planting crops was also their first priority when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. On July 23rd, the day before Brigham Young first saw the valley, an advanced party including my great-great-grandpa and several others plowed two and a half acres and planted wheat, potatoes and vegetables. They also built a dam on city creek for irrigation.

Both on the trek and in the valley, these pioneers also hunted and fished for game. Many of the references to my ancestor in his journal and the records talk about him bringing buffalo, antelope, and fish back to camp.

So, to honor our pioneer ancestors, we decided to do a buffalo stew and biscuits. This kind of meal would have been a great feast for many of the pioneers coming across the plains. When they were able to kill a buffalo, there was a great celebration at camp. With no refrigeration, they had to use or dry the meat before it went bad. But on the night of a buffalo kill they could have looked forward to stew to go with their biscuits.

The pioneers would fish and hunt deer, antelope, and buffalo whenever they could to supplement the rations they had brought with them. You can use any of these for this stew, but if you don’t have any wild game on hand use beef.

Buffalo StewBuffalo (or Beef) Stew Recipe


  • 1 ½ lbs of Buffalo meat (or beef, venison, antelope, etc.)
  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 stalks of celery (pioneers probably didn’t have this, so you can leave it out for authenticity)
  • 6 bouillon cubes
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 4 cloves Garlic (again, they probably didn’t have garlic, but we sure like it)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 3 tsp cornstarch to thicken


  1. For a 12-inch Dutch oven to reach 350 degrees, you’ll need to use 24 briquettes. If you are also making biscuits and stacking your ovens, start 36 briquettes.
  2. Cut the meat into stew-sized chunksIMG_20150721_115101492
  3. Chop carrots, potatoes, onion, and celery
  4. Once the charcoal is white hot, dump it on your cooking surface. Pour oil into your oven and cover. Preheat your oven by putting it on top of the coals. Once it’s hot, add garlic and onion and let cook for 1 minute. Then add meat and brown.
  5. Once the meat is browned, add the rest of your ingredients. Add enough water to just cover all of IMG_20150721_115241319your ingredients (approx. 6 cups). The pioneers probably added more water because the broth could be used for several days.
  6. Leave 12 briquettes on the bottom and put twelve on top of your oven.
  7. Cook stew for about an hour or until your vegetables are tender. About 30 minutes in you will probably need to heat up another 12 briquettes to replace the ones that are spent.buffalo stew
  8. When the vegetables are tender, mix the cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water and then stir into the stew. Allow to return to a boil for several minutes or until it thickens to the consistency you like.

Dutch Oven Biscuits

pioneer biscuitsUse your favorite biscuit dough recipe. Confession, we took advantage of our modern conveniences and bought refrigerated biscuit dough in a can. If you really want to be authentic though, look up ‘pioneer biscuit recipe’ online and you might just stumble across gems like this one, passed down from people’s pioneer ancestors. Have a favorite biscuit recipe? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try it out!


  1. IMG_20150721_120414717Line your Dutch oven with tinfoil and spray with cooking oil. Cut out biscuits and place in the bottom of the oven. If you are feeding a lot of people you can layer the biscuits to make a sort of pull-apart bread.
  2. Cover oven and place over coals. If you are just cooking biscuits, place 8 coals on the bottom and 16 on top. If you are stacking your Dutch ovens, place the biscuit oven on the bottom with 8 dutch ovenscoals below and 16 above. Then stack the stew oven on top and place the remaining 12 briquettes on the lid. It will probably take your biscuit oven about ten minutes to heat up to 350. Once it is hot, a single layer of biscuits should cook in about ten minutes. If you have multiple layers, it will take longer. Because the stew takes much longer than the biscuits, you can start the stew first and add the biscuit oven later so they finish at the same time.
  3. pioneer biscuitsWhen the biscuits are browned and cooked through, take them out of the oven.
  4. Serve with honey or preserves if you’re feeling extravagant. We cheated on the biscuit dough, so we made up for it by using honey from our own beehive.

Eight large biscuits will serve four-six people. The stew will serve eight. Both make for great recipes on campouts, and your Scouts are sure to love them!


To see more ideas for outdoor cooking, visit our blog at


Gary Pack AuthorAuthor: Gary Pack | Advanced Training Chair, Trapper Trails Council. He is an Eagle Scout with 30+ years of adult Scout leadership. He is also the father of six Eagle Scout sons and one professional Scout daughter. For those counting, that’s 18 Pinewood Derby cars and thousands of Courts of Honor.

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11 thoughts on “Celebrate Pioneer Day with Dutch Oven Buffalo Stew and Biscuits

  1. Maria MilliganMaria Milligan

    Looks delicious, and I love that you can cook it outside and not heat up the house. I found a recipe for pioneer biscuits that claims to be from the 1800s at

    Seems simple enough: “2 c. flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tbsp. shortening, 2/3 c. milk. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening; add milk and mix well. Roll out to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Cut out with biscuit cutter or use a water glass that you oiled and dusted with flour. Put in a greased and floured pan and bake at 450 degrees or until golden brown.”

    I’ll give it a try and let you know how it goes!

    1. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder

      Shortening is for wimps!
      Try lard and you will love the old fashioned results, (see my comment below)

      1. Maria MilliganMaria Milligan

        You know, I’ve never used lard for cooking (modern paranoia of rendered fat has been very effective at making lard pretty unappetizing). I have rendered fat for soap making, however. Where do you find lard these days? Or do you go all out and make it yourself?

  2. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder

    Gary when I am not Scouting, blogging or in the garden, you can always find me in the kitchen. Our Sprouts Market sells buffalo, maybe just maybe, I can make something more authentic for this week’s Pioneer Day Celebration. Thanks for the great idea.

    During my own search for what to cook this holiday, I came across this old Ensign Article: A Melting Pot of Pioneer Recipes by Winnifred C. Jardine a past food editor for the Deseret News. Her troop was our top competition growing up in East Mill Creek.

    Sister Jardine has a great 101-Year-Old Pastry recipe that our family has used as long as I have lived. You could skip the biscuits and line a pan with this pastry, fill it with this great stew recipe, top it with another crust, place it your dutch oven, bake until golden and violà you have a Sunday pioneer dutch oven meat pie! (On the trail you’d never have the time and energy to make this on a week-day)

    Oh and by the way, my sourdough start came across the plains. You should try these biscuits with this recipe from Grit (

    Sourdough Biscuits
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups sourdough starter
    1⁄2 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon honey
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    2 tablespoons lard or butter, cold, cut into small pieces
    2 tablespoons butter, melted

    Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set aside.

    In large bowl, mix together all ingredients, except melted butter, until soft dough forms.

    Pinch off egg-sized pieces and roll between palms to form a ball. Place dough balls, touching, around edge of skillet in concentric circles until filled. Brush tops with melted butter. Set skillet in warm spot for 10 minutes to allow biscuits to rise.

    Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately with butter and honey.

  3. AvatarMark

    If you are using an old fashion (from scratch) recipe and want a better tasting biscuit yes use Lard.

    However if you want a good tasting quick recipe, our family found a great tasting recipe years ago and it has become our favorite because it is so full of flavor and the simplest biscuit you can make. if you want biscuits in a hurry this is the recipe to use.
    TIP: If you have a favorite mix don”t use it as a substitute. We’ve tried most of them and Hungry jack always comes out better. great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. mmmmmmmm! Enjoy!

    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1 cup Hungry Jack® Complete Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix (Just Add Water)
    MIX sour cream and water in medium bowl until well combined. Add pancake mix. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet, making 8 biscuits.
    BAKE in 400 degree oven 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned.
    CHEDDAR GARLIC BISCUITS: ADD 2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese and 1 teaspoon minced garlic to dough before baking.

  4. AvatarLeah Overson

    We used to Love biscuits when we had a large family to feed, but now days the baking powder makes me uncomfortable. Fresh out of the oven, melted butter making a mess : -) great memories.

  5. AvatarGary Pack

    Thanks for all the great tips and wonderful ideas! The dutch oven is an amazing tool that creates lasting memories and passionate chefs! Keep those ideas coming!

  6. Pingback: Dutch Oven Buffalo Stew and Biscuits – And a Pioneer Day Guest Post!

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