03. Anatomy of a Chuck Wagon

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    Anatomy of a Chuck Wagon

    Dutch Oven - Dutch ovens were the main tool of the chuck wagon cook.  He used them to bake bread, fry meat, make stews and soups, and fix cobblers.  The dutch oven was a deep , three legged, cast iron pan with a concave lid to allow coals to be placed on the top.  The heat of the oven was controlled by adding or reducing the amount of coals.


    Skillet - The chuck  wagon cook used a skillet for frying food.  Its long handle allowed the cook to set the skillet on the fire without burning his hands.  Bacon and wild game were commonly fried in the skillet.  Beef was less common in chuck wagon meals because any cattle slaughtered for a meal on the trail represented lost money for the owner of the herd.

    Meat Grinder - The chuck wagon cook didn't always have the highest quality meat available on the trail.  Sometimes the meat was tough.  The meat grinder was used to grind tough meat into smaller pieces, similar to today's hamburger meat.  The meat grinder was mounted on the work shelf.

    Coffee Grinder-Coffee was a staple for cowboys on the trail.  They drank it with every meal.  The cook carried whole coffee beans in the chuck wagon which had to be ground up in order to make coffee.  The coffee grinder was mounted on the side of the chuck wagon.

    Sourdough Keg - Sourdough biscuits were a staple on the trail.  The chuck wagon cook kept a keg filled with sour milk, sugar, and yeast on hand to mix with flour to make the biscuits.  Even though cowboys always wanted biscuits with their coffee, few besides the cook were willing to work with the mixture in the sourdough keg because of its bad smell.


    Alarm Clock - In order to make sure the cowboys had a hot breakfast, the cook had to wake up long before them.  Since there was no electricity, the cook would wind a mechanical alarm clock, relying on its bells to wake him up.
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