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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker > Test Report by joe schaffer

Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker
Test series
by Joe Schaffer


INITIAL REPORT - April 4, 2016
LONG TERM REPORT - August 24, 2016
Muffin Maker top

TESTER INFORMATION:
NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 68
GENDER: Male
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

    I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about 30 solo. In summer I'm a route hiker moving nearly every day. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair, etc. Summer trips have been 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); 1 to 2 miles (1.6 to 6.4 km) on snowshoes.

INITIAL REPORT
 

THE PRODUCT:
        Manufacturer: Backcountry Bakery
        Web site: www.backcountrybakery.com
        Product: Muffin Maker bottom
        Color: Gray
        Received: 3/31/16

MSRP: $29.99 US + shipping

MY MEASURES:
    weight: 3 5/8 oz (102 g)
    height: (assembled) 2 3/4 in (7 cm)
    packed height: 2 in (5 cm)
    circumference at top: 6 in (15.25 cm)
    well: 2 1/4 in x 3 in x 1 in (5.7 x 7.6 x 2.5 cm)
    well volume (ea): 2 1/2 oz (73 g)

MFR MEASURES:
    weight: 3 oz (85 g)
side
MY DESCRIPTION:
    This is a 6-inch (15.25 cm) round pressed pan with 4 one-inch (2.5 cm) deep wells supported one inch (2.5 cm) high by a wire stand with a 3/4-inch (2 cm) handle pin with a 7/16 inch (1.1 cm) head. I believe the pan is aluminum, with a clear coating in each well. The pin and stand are stainless steel. Each well is very roughly the shape of a squashed isosceles triangle, roughly half as large at the bottom as at the top; and all are the same size.

    A pin looking somewhat like a rivet fits flush to the top of the pan, extending about an inch (2.5 cm) up to the head, makes a handle for placing and removing the pan. The pin is hollow and threaded to receive a Phillips-head screw inserted from the bottom. A washer helps secure the stand as the screw is tightened into the pin.

    The stand is made from a single piece of 1/8 in (3 mm) wire bent almost to a circle on each end. The bottom circle is 2 11/16 in (6.9 cm) diameter, with the stem formed by bending the wire about 7/8 in (2.2 cm) toward the center, then rising 2 in (5 cm) where the wire once again bends to form a circle about 1/4 in (6 mm) diameter. The larger circle is the base. The smaller circle interfaces with the bottom of the pan.

    The basic shape of the pan is round, with 1 1/4 inch-wide (3.2 cm) indents about 1/2 in (1.3 cm) deep at the outer edge between each well.

    The product is intended to be used inside a single wall, covered pot with a diameter of 6.2 in (15.6 cm) or more.


IMPRESSIONS:
   The pan itself seems sturdy and well made, with smooth edges and finish. It's tidily compact.

   As for the stand, I don't carry a screwdriver. I doubt I can assemble this product in the cold, or manage not to lose the smaller pieces. I think it wouldn't take much ruminating to engineer a snap system not reliant on teensie parts that have to be screwed together. If the handle head were replaced by a vertical circle, then a hook peg could extract the pan with no burning of knuckles. The stand isn't all that big, but it is a clumsy piece to pack.

    I clench teeth at scorching my steel pot more blue than it already is; and I may be wrong in believing an aluminum pot at high risk of melting. I'd think any lining would suffer. I believe I'll snag a pot from the thrift store before risking real pots.

    Packaging indicates the product has a patent pending, but no application number to search it. There appears to be no trademark registration. I don't find country of origin on packaging, product or website. My partner likes the logo display on the package, but I'd feel more apt to reach for it if I saw an image of something to eat. Kudos for the eco awareness of minimal packaging.

    I love the idea of a lightweight cooker. I dearly miss my pancakes and muffins from years ago when I carried a 5 lb (2.3 kg) system that age and common sense forced me to give up. Perhaps this product might yield a return to huckleberry muffin heaven, a result which could easily overwhelm all of my pre-test concerns.

    A kitchen pre-test of the baker produced a positive result. I can cook if all that's required is to get wet stuff hot for a while. I spread a bit of olive oil about with a piece of paper towel. I stirred up a bowl of pancake mix, maple-almond granola, rolled oats and fresh apple. I plopped it in a heavy stainless steel pot with a lid at medium range-top heat for about 25 minutes. All four of the little buggers dropped right out of the pan. The outside had a wonderful crunch and the inside was moist and perfectly textured. I'm presently seeing this product as a great deal of fun for shorter, social trips. Indeed, if I can get the same result in the outback, the Muffin Maker should entice compatriots to carry more liquor.



LONG TERM REPORT

FIELD CONDITIONS:
batter    Apr 20-23: Kibbie Ridge, Stanislaus NF, CA. 10 mi (16 km) trip; test at 7,200 ft (2,200 m); 50 F (28 C); campfire. Pancake mix, rice, corn meal, wheat bran, rolled oats, chocolate chips, yeast; 1 batch.
    Apr 26-27: Pt. Reyes National Seashore, CA. 5 1/2 mi (8 km) trip; test at 1,000 ft (300 m); 45 F (25 C);
briquettes. Pancake mix, rice, corn meal, wheat bran, rolled oats, 1/2 apple, 1/2 cup apple sauce, yeast; 1 batch.
    May 14: Blue Lake, Tahoe NF, CA. 1-night car camp. 5,920 ft (1,800 m); 50 F (28 C); campfire with grate. Bisquick, rice, wheat bran, rolled oats, chocolate chips, yeast; 1 batch.

IMPRESSIONS:
    An assembly key point is that the little washer goes top side of the pan, not under the screw head. No tools are required. I nested the assembled muffin maker in a steel fry pan and domed lid from the thrift store. Neither has turned blue.
cooking
    Pictures show the product of the Kibbie Ridge trial, which produced splendid results in campfire coals in about 25 minutes. The Pt. Reyes trial was not quite splendid, with the batter not fully cooked after 2 hours. For some reason, 3 lb (1.4 kg) of briquettes just wouldn't make enough heat in the cold and windy conditions. The Blue Lake test on a grate over lots of hot coals cooked faster than I expected--I could have eaten sooner! The muffins dropped out with a bit of coaxing from a spoon.

    It may be instructive to note I don't cook, don't follow directions, measure by the handful and splash and tested with a conglomerate easily reckoned as sludge. Still, there was no forage left even for the ants and I merrily look forward to furthering perfection of the output.

    The pan did not come clean enough that it would have been ready for use again without washing. It does rinse clean easily with plain donewater. On Kibbie Ridge water was at a premium; and I never like having wash water with food particles unless I'm going to drink it. No issue as I had a bear can to store the unwashed pan; and car camping I rinsed it and put it away in the trunk. I used a cotton ball soaked with olive oil to grease the pan, and while that seemed to test ok at home, it didn't work as well in the outback. Possibly the way-less-than-room temperature made the oil less viscous, or maybe the cotton needed recharging; and perhaps I should have turned on my headlamp to see what I was doing. I also overloaded the pan the first two times, which could have caused sticking to parts not oiled as the muffins grew out of the wells.

    Perhaps with more practice I'll get it figured out, but I'm finding it difficult to make the correct amount of batter. I made a couple batches at home that barely rose. But two times in the woods the batter swelled significantly out of the wells. I don't want left-over batter; and I don't want to make a partial batch. Maybe the instructions could make a suggestion about whether the pan or coating could suffer if some of the wells were left empty; or the minimum amount of batter to put in each well to avoid heat damage.


    The instructions certainly declare what common sense should make clear enough, that metal so hot it cooks wet stuff is hot. The wire base stays hot much longer than the pan. The edge of the handle pin cools quickly. I find myself fumbling a bit figuring out how to extract the muffins. At home it was simple enough to spill them out, but in the dirt I didn't have much target area and the muffins didn't want to succumb to gravity even at some urging of inertia. I found it necessary to hold the pan steady to effect an extraction, and intent on that process I might have been better served to wear a glove.

   
Indeed it seems I have become a minimalist in every regard when it comes to food preparation in the woods. Making muffins consumes valuable chair time where I could be scratching and spitting. Minimizing vessels took my hot chocolate mug out of production while warming the batter for an hour to let the yeast work. (By the third test I came to realize the muffin pan works just as well for that.) I felt like my mom after cooking all day for Sunday dinner only to see us inhale the product of her labors in under a minute. The muffins are great, but they're gone in a split second and then there's still clean up. Out in the hinterlands there really isn't a lot of difference between pancakes and muffins, and pancakes cook a whole lot faster without having to be spot on in the measure of raw material.

    Whining aside, the product does a good job of making muffins in the outback. My compiled system of pan, Muffin Maker and lid is about a third the weight (and could easily be less with a lighter pan/lid) of my long forsaken pancake system, and fully assembled remains small enough to fit in big-mouth bear cans. Muffins are fun, and I like the Muffin Maker for short, social trips. So far I've just not had many of those.

 
Quick shot impressions:
    a) works
    b) compact
    c)
great gift
    d) assembly concern

Thank you Backcountry Bakery and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.  This report concludes my test.


Read more reviews of Backcountry Bakery gear
Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker > Test Report by joe schaffer



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