A new recipe: What to expect from the Cooking merit badge redesign

cookingWhat’s on the menu for the revamped Cooking merit badge, served up later this year?

The BSA’s volunteer-led team isn’t ready to dish on the main course just yet, but I was authorized to give you a taste — an appetizer, if you will.

OK, enough cooking puns. Here’s what I know: 

Eagle required

As I mentioned in October, Cooking MB is set to become Eagle-required on Jan. 1, 2014. Any Scout who has already earned Cooking will not need to re-earn it. His existing, Cooking merit badge will count toward the Eagle rank beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.

A Scout who has sewn the green-ringed Cooking merit badge onto his sash may replace it with a silver-ringed version beginning on Jan. 1, if he chooses. It’s not required.

release date for redesign

The volunteer-led team hopes to release the revamped Cooking MB before Thanksgiving 2013. Hey, just in time for all those teenage boys to help Mom and Dad prepare their family’s feast.

What are the big changes?

The new requirements will merge four sets of materials into the improved Cooking MB:

  1. The best parts of the existing badge pamphlet
  2. Insight into nutrition from the Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top heart hospitals
  3. Suggestions from the BSA’s volunteer-led team
  4. Additional content, including indoor/life-skill cooking, more information about careers in cooking, better nutrition and menus, new material on food allergies, and more on preventing food-borne illnesses

Types of cooking

To better prepare Scouts for life, the new Cooking MB will focus on three kinds of cooking: indoor, outdoor, and backpacking. That makes sense, because not every meal is prepared outside, and encouraging a complete understanding about food will make for better-rounded Scouts.

And the emphasis on healthy cooking will make sure Scouts don’t become too well-rounded, if you know what I mean.

What else is new?

Other expected additions include:

  • Cutlery kits: How to create one for home use, personal use on a campout, and patrol use
  • Heating: Home appliances, fires, at-home grills, and camp/trail stoves
  • Cooking methods: Baking, roasting, broiling, pan frying, stir frying, microwaving, foil packs, and more
  • First aid: Choking, allergic reactions, food allergies, and food-related diseases
  • Choosing what to eat: MyPlate, serving size, limiting fat and sugar intake, special diets
  • Planning/shopping: Considering whom you’re cooking for
  • Backpacking/trail food: Leave No Trace, weight considerations, special equipment

Keep up with merit badge changes

Be sure to bookmark my Calendar of New Merit Badges to keep track of changes to Cooking merit badge and other merit badge news.

42 thoughts on “A new recipe: What to expect from the Cooking merit badge redesign

  1. “Release date for redesign” – Thanksgiving 2014? Seems like a long ways off for something that will be required for Eagle beginning Jan 1, 2014. Do you maybe mean Thanksgiving 2013?

  2. I’m not sure what this statement means: “To better prepare Scouts for life, the new Cooking MB will focus on three kinds of cooking: indoor, outdoor, and backpacking” because the current requirements cover cooking indoor (#7), cooking outdoor (while camping #4) and while backpacking (#6). From reading this – I’m guessing the requirement changes are not going to be substantial and scouts shouldn’t wait to see if the new requirements are easier – they might as well start on this now.

    • Based upon my experience when a Merit Badge becomes Eagle Required, it gets harder. Based upon what bryan has said today and in the past I doubt it is going to be easier. Why do you think the new requirements are going to tougher? Isn’t there supposed to be an expectation that Eagle Required MB’s are going to be more in depth.

      Also I highly doubt that the requirements are going to be anywhere close to being the same. The added focus upon indoor cooking is definitely going to change because when I did the MB in the early, early 2000’s all I really remember is that it was very heavily focused on outdoor cooking instead of indoor cooking.

  3. Funny how most MB redesign’s make them tougher instead of trying to keep them at the same skill/work level and modernizing them a bit. At first glance with the list of suggested changes, this seems to be another MB that they are making harder. Not sure I agree with that philosophy.

      • Matt, you’re missing my point. A. I always thought this should be Eagle required, and I have not disagreement with as such. B. I think when they revise MB’s whether or not they are Eagle Required, they are on the whole making them more difficult to achieve.

        I don’t believe MB’s or anything in Scout’s should be a handout. But I do wonder at the difficulty creep that I’ve noticed in regards to MB and Rank advancement since I’ve been involved.

        I would argue that they should make things clearer when there is confusion, modernize graphics and text, replace outdated skills – but actually adding three – four new skills for an already reasonably challenging MB seems excessive. It’s my opinion though, you don’t have to agree. I just wanted to put it out there that it’s a change I’ve noticed.

  4. Bryan, watch your choice of words! You said “just in time for all those teenage boys to help Mom and Dad prepare their family’s feast.” Unless they put an age requirement/prerequisite on this badge, shouldn’t any Boy Scout be able to work on it if he chooses to do so? If my memory is correct, that can mean a boy as young as 10. I’m kidding a bit here because I know you didn’t mean “teenager” literally (and of course the majority of Boy Scouts are probably teenagers), but there are plenty of Scoutmasters and Troops out there that inappropriately add their own requirements to how blue cards and merit badges are handled. I’d hate to see them get some bad ideas on this one!

    • I assist my council Advancement Committee and this is most definitely a serious problem but really the only thing you can do is explain to the leader what there doing isn’t the right thing and the best way is to use the current year’s requirement book or the Guide to Advancement. The Guid to Advancement does a very good job at explain the technical parts of advancement

      I also though like to warn people not to get caught up in the little technical details because quite frankly the boys don’t care for it and only gives them another reason to quit Scouting. I have seen MB Counselor’s and BOR members abuse their authority and the truth is the only person they hurt is the Scout himself. As always I continually remind people that it’s more important to let your guys have fun and to get them outdoors instead of wasting time on these issues.

  5. It seems to me like a small step towards taking the “OUTING OT OF SCOUTING”! Any thing that can be cooked on a one burner stove can be cooked on a kitchen stove.

    • Part of the reason why National Task Force’s and Committees are taking the “Outing Out Of Scouting” is based upon feedback they are getting from the volunteers which is partly due to our paranoia with safety and how kids just don’t want to get outside as much as they use to. I do agree more “OUTING” is needed in “SCOUTING” but that change only can happen at the unit level.

      One other thing I realize that cooking on a one burner stove is almost exactly the same as the kitchen stove but the fact remains that when your cooking outside at extremely high temperatures or for me the bigger issue is extremely low temperatures there are some major differences. Propane and other cooking fuels just don’t work the same when the temperatures fall below zero. I don’t know about you but sometimes it can be quite an art to get propane started below zero and that definitely in my opinion makes things a little bit more challenging.

    • Really anything that can be cooked in a campfire could be cooked in the oven. I am now trying to teach our scouts (boys and girls) the bet way to do things when out on various camps, since their lat SM was a real mummies SM.

      • While I disagree with comments about others that volunteer their time, I do agree with the other part of your comment.
        I have a pizza pan that wedges about 3/4 way down inside 20 quart dutch oven and creates an air pocket underneath. I have baked bread, corn muffins, cake etc.

        However, if an active troop camps once every month, that is basically 1.5 days a month to cook at camp. Cooking at home gives another 29 days of practise each month.

        99% of cooking done as an adult is done at home.

  6. Bryan

    Check out NYLT Session 1 at James Ray in action.

    Facebook – NYLT 2013 Session 1 Spring Break



    I extend an invitation if you have time to come out and see the boys during session 4, July 16-22, 2013. I’m currently staffing session 1 and will be back for session 4.

    Great to see your work.

    Pedro Davila NYLT 2013

  7. We have a couple of scouts who have earned this already, several who are attempting now and several more who wish to participate during the upcoming summer camps. Will there be different guidelines for those already taking it compared to those who will attempt it during the summer?

  8. Great job on the changes! I think the scouts will see this is not harder, but actually more fun as it adds more hands on! Nothing better than a scout learning to be self sufficient in the cooking dept. Just think of the benefits when the scout goes off to college and can actually live off real food made by himself! I agree this should be an Eagle Badge! This Mom of 2 Eagles sure wishes the cooking my boys did consisted of more than hot dogs over a fire. Not much to that. There is so much more that the boys could do in the cooking dept, in and outdoors. Great job, Scouters, on this change.

  9. What do you do when a scout is halfway through a MB and the requirements change? Never really thought about it before. If he starts on cooking badge now, and doesn’t finish before requirements change, does he get to earn badge based upon today’s requirements, or does he have to satisfy all the new ones?

  10. When I was a Scout in the early ’80s you were required to earn the Cooking Skill Award to achieve First Class. It should have been called “Outdoor Cooking” since you had to sharpen an ax, build a fire, cook without utensils, as well as several other outdoor-only activities.

    The upcoming changes to the Merit Badge sound reasonable and appropriate: knowing how to cook for yourself and your family at home is a far more valuable skill than knowing how to do the outdoor “fun” cooking. I know a number of adults who think that cooking at home means pulling a box out of a freezer and popping it into the microwave (their ovens only get used for pizza). I’m looking forward to a generation of Scouts who know their way around the kitchen.

  11. I have bot seen this asked yet in this discussion and I apologize if it has, but will Cooking be added as A.) an ADDITIONAL ERMB (meaning the Scout will need to earn a total of 13 ERMB’s rather than 12, for a required total of 22), B.) as an option to one of the other ones or C.) will it outright replace another badge? I know that Sustainability is being added as an ERMB, but as an option in the Environmental Science category. I have not seen this addressed in other posts on the matter.

  12. I hate the idea of making this an Eagle required badge!! Just more work for already busy kids. Lets just pile on some more work and make their lives harder. Good way to keep kids interested in Scouts.(NOT) With a big Troop this is going to be a monster of a job. We have 70+ kids in out Troop. It is hard enough to keep kids interested and motivated.

  13. Andy, we have several Life Scouts who are done with all the other merit badge requirements but are on the cusp of finishing the projects this year, or maybe sliding slightly out into 2014. We were looking to offer Cooking MB to the boys but were waiting until the new requirements were released. We didn’t want to get a hodge-podge of new and old. However, it is already mid-August and no requirements changes yet! It seems to me that BSA should slip the date on making this Eagle-required for six months or so, do give those Life Scouts who might miss the Jan 1, 2014 date by a week or two, causing them to add a required merit badge. We all know how difficult it is to get things finished up around Christmas time. Any thought being given to that?

    • If the scouts start sometime this year (2013) using the current requirements, looks like then they can continue following the same set of requirements even if they finish it next year (2014). Reference: Guide to Advancement Chapter 7 para

  14. The paragraph below (from the Guide to Advancement) seems to leave the counselor some judgment in determining how much time has passed to continue with the old requirements. In addition to changing the requirements, Cooking MB is also becoming an Eagle required badge, so it would seem to be in the spirit of the new Eagle requirement to use the new requirements after they are instituted.
    I asked my Troop for some consistent application of which requirements to use. Our Troop is sponsoring a merit badge series of classes for this fall.

    Interested to hear what cut over date others plan to use. The choices seem to be:
    – after 1/1/14, all new starts have to use the new requirements
    – one option is to have all scouts try to complete the old requirements by 12/31/14; depending on the new list of requirements and the new counselor, old requirements may count as a potential partial
    – another option is to allow all boys who started the merit badge prior to 1/1/14 to complete the badge under the old requirements up until their 18th birthday
    – a third option is to establish some troop-wide cut over to the new requirements

    What is your troop doing? What to Do When Requirements Change
    The current annual edition of Boy Scout Requirements
    lists the official merit badge requirements. Once new
    or revised merit badge requirements appear in this
    publication, which is released each January, any Scout
    just beginning work on a merit badge must use the
    requirements as stated there.

    If changes to merit badge requirements are introduced in
    a revised merit badge pamphlet after the January release
    of the Boy Scout Requirements book, then the Scout has
    until the following January 1 to decide what to do. He
    may continue—or begin work—using the old merit badge
    requirements and the old pamphlet; or he may switch
    to—or begin work—using the new requirements and the
    new pamphlet. Unless it is otherwise stated in the merit
    badge pamphlet, Boy Scout Requirements, or official
    communications from the National Council, if a Scout
    chooses to use the old merit badge requirements and
    pamphlet, he may continue using them until he has
    completed the badge.

    There is no time limit between starting and completing
    a badge, although a counselor may determine so much
    time has passed since any effort took place that the new
    requirements must be used.
    The authoritative source for all merit badge
    requirements is the current year’s Boy Scout
    Requirements book.

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