How To Make Bannock In A Billy Can Insert

Bannock breads in billy can inserts
It’s easy to make bannocks with just a billy can. In this article we show you how… Photo: Paul Kirtley

Bannock is a classic yet simple unleavened bread which can be cooked with a campfire. It’s great to make these when out in the woods. Delicious with butter when warm, they are almost like a large scone when dried fruit is added. Use your campfire in the evenings to bake these breads, then carry them with you for lunch the following day.

Bannock is deceptively filling. We are used to bread containing a lot of air. By contrast, bannock is dense, and goes a long way further than you would think by looking at it. Below is our favourite recipe for making campfire bannock…

Bannock Ingredients

Bannock is a straightforward recipe with few ingredients. Here we are going to make it using only the type of Zebra billy can many bushcrafters carry with them.

Bannock ingredients
Here is everything you need… Photo: Amanda Quaine

The ingredients you need for this recipe are as follows:

  • Plain flour
  • Powdered milk
  • Baking powder
  • Dried fruit (optional)

Bannock Method

As with any baking, mix the dry ingredients before any liquids. While travelling, flour and powdered milk tends to settle, reducing in volume as air is knocked out of it. Hence, it’s worthwhile getting some air back into the dry mix first.

Add the flour first. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
handful of flour
Three handfuls of flour. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Two handfuls of powdered milk. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
One teaspoon of baking powder. Photo: Amanda Quaine
Aerate the mix by lifting. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Add dried fruit if you wish at this stage. Photo: Amanda Quaine
A good handful should do… Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Now add a very small amount of water. Photo: Amanda Quaine
…And begin to mix with one hand. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Mix the ingredients before adding more water. It’s surprising how little is needed to make the dough. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
The dough will be sticky. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
If the dough is not consolidating, add a little more water. If it is too wet, dust a little more flour. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Continue to mix… Photo: Amanda Quaine.
A good consistency. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Rub off the dough stuck to your hands into the mix. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
The dough should consolidate into a nice ball. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Roll it around the tin to pick up as much material as possible. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
There should be little dough left stuck to the billy can. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Pre-warm the billy can insert(s). Be careful to move them off the heat with sticks rather than hands, so you don’t burn yourself. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Divide the mix into two. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
If you have two inserts, you can bake both pieces at the same time. If not, do them successively. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Shape the divided pieces of dough into a ball then flatten it out into a circular piece. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Make the bannock quite thin. This is important as it will not take too long to cook and will be cooked right through, rather than burned on the outside and doughy in the middle. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Place the flattened bannock mix into the pre-warmed insert. Note the light dusting of flour in the insert to help prevent the dough sticking to the container. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Take the time to shape the dough so it is a great fit into the insert. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Placing bannocks by the fire.
Sit the inserts vertically. This is very important. The bannock needs to receive as much radiant heat from the fire as possible. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Test the heat. Use the five second rule: For a good roasting heat, you should be able to just count to five before having to remove your hand. Less than five and you’ll burn the bannocks. More than five and they’ll take ages to cook. This heat needs to be monitored regularly as the common tendency is for the fire to fade and cooking time to increase exponentially. You have to manage a fire when cooking on it. Photo: Paul Kirtley
You should soon notice the breads starting to brown off. Photo: Paul Kirtley
As the bannocks cook, monitor the heat of the fire. This is not an oven you set and forget. If the heat of the fire is reducing as cooking progresses, you can always move the inserts closer. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The baking powder will make the bannock rise to an extent and you’ll see this happening. Once nicely browned on one side, you can flip the bread in the insert and cook the other side for a more even bake. Photo: Paul Kirtley
When cooked, the breads should sound hollow when you tap them. Also, you can insert a small pointed stick to see if it comes out clean of dough. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Break open to eat or share. Photo: Amanda Quaine.
Bannock bread containing dried fruit
Perfect! Photo: Amanda Quaine
Segment of bannock with butter and jam
Delicious with butter and jam! Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Bannock – How Do You Like Yours?

Please let us know if you try to method. We’d love to hear how you get on with it. Also, if you already enjoy baking bannocks, let us know in the comments below what’s your favourite addition to the basic mix or what do you like to eat with it? Do you like it savoury or sweet?…

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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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21 Responses

  1. Trevor
    | Reply

    Great instructional piece. As an alternative try replacing the dried fruit with precooked or ready to eat meats such as jerky, pepperoni or bacon bits.

  2. Edward van Zijll de Jong
    | Reply

    Great article . The way of instruction by pics is very pleasant. I like my bannocks with maple syrup or chocolade chocolate chips.

  3. Kevin
    | Reply

    Thanks, having just failed miserably trying the bread wrapped around a stick I think I’ll try this way. 99% sure I added too much water the first time so the mix was far too heavy to hang over the fire!

  4. gbh
    | Reply

    I put the lid on the insert, stick the whole thing on hot embers & rake more coals on top, all round heat without the hassle of propping things up – less easy to tell when it’s done tho’…

    • Duncan
      | Reply

      Yes I use the lid for a mini oven good fori individual pizzas too

  5. wyn
    | Reply

    Instead of carrying all those ingredients on different containers…..try mixing all the ingredients at home in a food bag preferavly zip loc. When ready to cook add water into the bag and knead…saves getting your hands covered in the mix and hel o s keep the mix clean. It also takes up so much less space.

    • Alan
      | Reply

      I agree with mixing at home.

    • Alan
      | Reply

      But I don’t agree with mixing it with water in the bag. I’d rather keep my garbage dry and stink free. The bags are also easily reusable if they’re only exposed to the dry ingredients.

    • Duncan
      | Reply

      Maybe but individual ingredients gives you more flexibility to use in different things. I’m use force tastes nasty if the milk powder is already mixed with flour baking powder and raisins 😀
      If your on fixed preset menu then yes makes sense

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      I’m not a fan of pre-mixing unless I’m on a short trip and have limited time. With only a few ingredients, you can make many different things but if you pre-mix, you are stuck with what you decided beforehand. Also, on longer trips lots of different pre-mixes for different things actually adds to the complexity of what you have in your food bag/barrel.

      Warm regards,


  6. David shaylor
    | Reply

    Thanks for the stimulation of this article with the clear pictures and instructions .
    This bread making lark is a great ritual weather on an expedition or at home . Getting the carbohydrate into the system can be about survival itself . If I can not cook for whatever reason I mix porridge oats peanut butter and honey in order to fuel up quickly . However if time allows it is great fun making bread on a fire . The bannock recipe sounds like Irish soda bread . I tend to make the Arab style flat bread that involves yeast and needs time to rise . However it can be fitted into the expedition routine with a bit of planning . The bread works as a wrap for the food and is still used as a food scoop instead of cutlery in many countries . it can be cooked direct on the embers .

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi David. Thanks very much for your comments.

      Warm regards,


  7. Alan
    | Reply

    Oh man do I love me some bannock! I eat it daily when tripping. That’s a nice simple way of preparing and cooking it.
    I prep mine a little differently to aid in cleanup. I mix the dry ingredients and water in the same pan I cook in and I mix it with a stick to keep my hands clean. Once mixed I dust the sticky ball with flour and press it flat by hand before taking it out of the pan and setting it on the flour bag while I preheat the pan for cooking. This keeps the stickies off your hands (mostly) and leaves only the cooking pan for cleanup. The mixing stick goes in the fire when done.
    I carry a small skillet so usually cook mine directly over the fire. Adding olive oil to the pan to give it a little fry is bit of heaven. I prefer to eat mine hot off the fire rather than cooking it up the day before.

  8. Dave Palfreyman
    | Reply

    I used to make bannock this way. I have also swapped plain flour for self raising flour and you don’t then need the baking powder. In summer when fresh berries are available I’ve added those to the bamnock mix too.
    I love making these for breakfast with bacon or sausages. And maybe a spare for later in the day.

  9. Richard Berrington
    | Reply

    Does anybody have a method of cooking bannock without powdered milk? Or any dairy products to be precise

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Richard, you can cook it without powdered milk. Just add a little sugar. Best, Paul

  10. Paul Glazebrook
    | Reply

    Paul, on my canoe trips, I’m usually leading a larger group (8-12 people). Most participants will be new to bannock. In these situations I make a large breakfast bannock by adding some canola oil, powder egg, powdered milk, cinnamon and raisins to the basic recipe. After the morning coffee is made, I rake coals out from the fire and cook the bannock slowly in a large steel frypan.

    Paul G

  11. Neeman
    | Reply

    Fry Pan Cake
    I use the same flour, olive oil and baking soda mix as bannock
    Mix it with water to a firm but pourable mixture
    Heat and oil a fry pan till drops of water will dance across the pan
    Pour in the mix and cover the pan and leave it
    When there are fixed holes in the batter on the top of the pancake, flip the cake
    Much easier than a bannock as you have no need to knead and have clean hands
    It is not so critical the heat of the fire to pan bake

    The mix can take anything you wish to put into it just like bannock

  12. Richard bisset
    | Reply

    Lock down bannocks .First time making so did it at home .come out great very nice with butter and jam ..look forward to making them around the camp fire .

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Richard,

      How are the bannocks coming along?



  13. Steven Patterson
    | Reply

    I will be having a go using this recipe in a few weeks time when I visit a bit of hillside woodland near Loch Lomond.
    I think I will premix in a bag, and give it a shake up, then remove what I need to mix with water in my Billy Can.
    I’ll be giving it a try with some lactose free formula instead of powdered milk, and hopefully be having it with some freshly foraged fungi, Berries, or one of each if I’m lucky.

    Thanks for another great article.

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