Eagle-required Cooking merit badge’s 2016 requirements now in effect

Cooking-EagleThe Cooking merit badge has a new recipe.

Requirements for the Eagle-required Cooking merit badge have been revised for 2016, with better organization, fewer redundancies and a more-focused approach.

This is part of the BSA’s continuing effort to improve its crop of 136 existing merit badges.

The Cooking merit badge now has seven requirements, down from eight, and each requirement now bears a headline that helps Scouts know what it’s all about. Here are the seven requirement subjects:

  1. Health and safety
  2. Nutrition
  3. Cooking basics
  4. Cooking at home
  5. Camp cooking
  6. Trail and backpacking meals
  7. Food-related careers

You can find the updated Cooking merit badge requirements in your 2016 Boy Scout Requirements book, at Scouting.org or in this PDF.

Eagle-eyed Scouters know this is the second time the Cooking merit badge has been updated in the past two years — a “really unusual circumstance,” says Scott Berger, chairman of the BSA’s Merit Badge Maintenance Task Force.

That means there could be three versions of requirements in use right now: one prior to the 2014 changes, one with the changes that began in 2015 and a third with the changes that began in 2016. Once a Scout begins working on a merit badge with one set of requirements, he generally may finish with that set of requirements. Or, if he likes, he may switch to the new requirements.

The latest Guide to Advancement explains this quite well:

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.

If a Boy Scout hasn’t yet started work toward the Cooking MB, he’ll need to use the new set of requirements, as confirmed by section of the Guide to Advancement: “Once new or revised merit badge requirements appear in [the Boy Scout Requirements book], which is released each January, any Scout just beginning work on a merit badge must use the requirements as stated there.”

So in other words, a Scout beginning work on Cooking MB on or after Jan. 1, 2016, should use the 2016 requirements.

What has changed?

Here are a few of the noteworthy changes:

  • A sub-requirement that asked Scouts to explain nine different food-related illnesses has been rolled into another requirement.
  • The previous requirement 3 (How to read a food label) has been rolled into requirements 1 and 2.
  • Sections on cooking at home, at camp and on the trail have been revised and improved to give Scouts a better experience.

Note to Cooking merit badge counselors

This comes from Berger’s team:

Cooking is a life skills merit badge. It is expected that the completion of this merit badge may take a longer period of time than some of the other merit badges. The counselor should keep the following in mind:

The meals for this badge may be planned, prepared, and cooked at different times. The goal is for the Scout to understand each phase of meal planning by working on one part of the process at a time. The meals planned and cooked for this badge may not count for any other merit badge or rank advancement.

These requirements and the content of the Cooking merit badge pamphlet were developed for the Boy Scouts of America for use within the United States of America. Adjustments should be made if traveling internationally. Scouts working on this badge in summer camp should plan around food they can get at the camp commissary.

The first aid–related information found in this pamphlet is a condensed version of that found in other BSA publications. The counselor should be familiar with the additional information on cooking and safety relevant to cooking found in the Boy Scout Handbook, Guide to Safe Scouting, First Aid merit badge pamphlet, and BSA Fieldbook.

This pamphlet reflects a second revision of requirements since 2014. A Scout may continue to use older Cooking merit badge requirements and the old pamphlet if he has already started working with them.

Otherwise, he may switch to — or begin work — using the new requirements as stated in the 2016 Boy Scout Requirements book. If a Scout chooses to use prior merit badge requirements, he may continue using them until he has completed the badge. Likewise, he should use the Cooking merit badge pamphlet that reflects the requirements he is following. See Guide to Advancement topic




  1. Great edit to a great merit badge. I love how BSA has continued to review and edit the requirements for all of the merit badges over the past decade. The quality of the merit badge program overall has only gone upwards since I’ve been involved in Scouting.

    And I agree: Whatever is cooking in that pot looks delicious! Being from Virginia, I have to assume that the pork is simmering at the bottom under all of those healthy looking vegetables.

  2. Bryan, I just checked on the Amazon Kindle web site for the new Cooking Merit Badge kindle version of the book and not only is the new book not there, but most of the Kindle Merit Badge books are no longer there. Do you know if they are just being updated, no longer supported, will be back soon, etc? As a Merit Badge counselor for several Merit Badges, the Kindle versions of the books work best for me! I would hate to lose this valuable resource!

    • Hey David, here’s the response I got: Since BSA now sells digital pamphlets through Scout Stuff, the Kindle versions have been discontinued.

      • Thanks for following up Bryan. This is very BAD news. The new digital pamphlets are a totally different product from the Kindle ebooks and while a Scout can have the Kindle ebooks on his phone and use it anywhere, the Pamplet product requires an Internet connection to use and cannot be shared. I have been to many Scout Camps in my life but never seen a program area at a Scout Camp with a WiFi connection for the Scouts to use the Pamplet. Again, thanks for your follow-up.

      • Sadly, my digital pamphlet was not updated for the requirement changes. They are not worth the investment if BSA is going to change requirements this quickly and NOT update the pamphlets we have purchased.

    • My understanding is that whenever they put out one of those interactive merit badge pamphlets, they remove the corresponding kindle edition.

      • I’ve always thought the interactive pamphlets to be a bad idea for that exact reason; they require an internet connection. I don’t feel that they stick with the traditions of Scout. Scouting should be about disconnecting the Scout from technology for a period of time, not immersing them further into it.

        However, a using an interactive pamphlet by a merit badge counselor should be the focus. It should be a teaching guide and tool for bringing media into the lesson. In that manner, it engages the Scouts.

        I just think BSA needs to refocus their efforts on providing leaders and counselors interactive tools instead of trying to market to the Scouts.

  3. A great improvement and long overdue. As a long-time counselor on this one, I have always wondered why so little time was spent on actual cooking. The other stuff is very important also but is presented in other MB’s, ranks, etc. I do think 3b is tilted and should have been: Discuss the benefits and disadvantages of cooking with camp stoves vs. a charcoal or wood fire. I personally prefer a wood fire as a trekker.

  4. I was on camp staff when they made a big switch from a camp cooking focus to a home cooking focus. I recall being quite frustrated by it at the time. It basically made it impossible to complete it at a week of summer camp.

    Now that it is 15 years later and I know many adults who can’t even cook a decent meal inside, I can understand the reasoning behind it. Not everyone has parents who cook or are willing to teach them how to cook.

    • Home cooking or not. I personally don’t feel this one should even be offered at summer camp. Especially with the new way it’s been written. But even before the revisions I never felt it was a good fit for summer camp. Personal opinion……..

      • I think that trying to do the entire cooking merit badge at summer camp is not appropriate. How do you make a menu and shop for the meal then cook it without a pantry to get things from. My experience had been the councilor makes the menu and you cook it. What they need to teach is how to cook and the health and safety issues. You can then cook at home and on camping trips. The best of both worlds. The more you plan and cook, the more you will understand the subject.

  5. I’m a counselor for this merit badge, and I get many requests to work on it. Following the requirements, EXACTLY as written, this is a frustrating merit badge for some Scouts to work on. Most don’t even read the requirements — I have to ‘spoon-feed’ the requirements to them. All that being said, I welcomed the 2014-15 changes to this merit badge — I thought it was “tighter”, and I welcome these changes even more. But at the same time, I wish there were fewer “compound” requirements (lots of smaller steps packed into every requirement).

    One criticism, however. Unless I’m reading the changes wrongly, the part on food-borne illnesses was removed. I considered that a really important part, which naturally leads into food storage and prep issues. Deadly-important too, when you read about complications from things like salmonella or e. coli poisoning. Or Hep-A (which, if you ask me, is exactly the reason why every restaurant we see has a particular sign in their restrooms, for employees — “Employees MUST wash hands…”). I want Scouts to know this…

    So I’ll probably be a “bad counselor” from here on out. I’ll follow the requirements, but when we get to sections about food storage and prep, I’m going to ask them why we keep things cold, clean (including hands), and not cross-contaminated. They’re still going to learn about salmonella, e. coli and Hep-A.

  6. Corollary to the Cooking MB: Pioneering MB!
    * Set up a Handwashing station. A simple tripod with a gallon jug of water and soap in a small mesh bag, towel hanging on it.
    *Dishwashing stands? Three bins? Drying racks?
    *Set up cooking stands for prepwork, even to cook on! The old Fieldbook even had pictures of a “raised” campfire!
    * Tarped over areas for rain protection.
    * Long term camps: set up food storage areas (Critter proof but maybe not bear proof?)
    * Really advanced : Table and chairs/bench for sumptuous repasts.

    Don’t forget the Catsup!

  7. The requirements show that you have to make more menus than you have to cook. Does the Scout have. To price the food out for all menus, or for just the ones he is going to cook.

  8. Bryan,

    Looking at the PDF link, it seems there is a snippet of the old requirements left at the top of the page. Kind of confusing.

  9. I’m not crazy about the “evaluate the meal on presentation” part for camping (5f) and trail (6e). The scouts in my troop don’t plate the food and serve each scout. They just put the ingredients on the table. At home cooking this is reasonable. Am I wrong?

    • I interpreted this to mean, evaluate the meal- presentation can be the appearance of what was cooked, even if not serving individually, and taste. Items may appear burned, inconsistently stirred or cooked, or nonappealing for a variety of reasons.

  10. Question regarding #5 Camp Cooking d. In the outdoors, using your menu plan for this requirement, cook two of the five meals you planned using either a lightweight stove or a low-impact fire. Use a different cooking method from requirement 3 for each meal. You must also cook a third meal using either a Dutch oven OR a foil pack OR kabobs. Serve all of these meals to your patrol or a group of youth. **

    I read this to mean the cooking is an individual task not a group project. One person gets credit not the entire patrol. I had another leader that thought if the patrol cooks the meals together all should get credit.


    • When the patrol sets up their duty list for a campout, they assign cooks and assistant cooks for each meal. The whole patrol never does the cooking. some prep, some start fire, some clean up. But no more than two should ever be charged with the cooking one meal. “Too many cooks spoil the stew!”

      • Yes, but when they are kabobs or foil packs, generally everyone holds their own stick or watches their own pack. So does this not count as cooking for req.#5, if the scout has done all the planning, shopping, prepping, but other scouts have held their own sticks over the fire? This is what one lovely counselor told my son after the trip. Really. Also they tried to nitpick over the size of the stove for requirement #5. It reads lightweight stove for camp cooking, not specifying whisper lite or backpack stove (done in req. #6), but yet counselors feel the need to add that in. Nope a coleman burner doesn’t count (again, said after the fact). Tried to say he needed to cook 11 grilled cheese sandwiches over a backpack stove for req. #5. Thank God for a sane scout master to keep in check parents that always want to up the ante. No wonder there’s a problem retaining scouts. Please correct me if we need to re-do this merit badge.

  11. HELP! My son is going for this badge at Summer Camp and we received the list of prereqs, and I’m very confused about #6.

    First, the list states that he is to complete 6D & 6E, but it seems odd to me that you would cook a meal without completing A&B (the planning)

    Also, his troop has only taken short day hikes where they brown bag their lunches, so there has only been one meal and no opportunity to cook….I’m concerned how we are going to meet this prereq within the confines of our normal troop activity. I’m handicapped and so I can’t hike with him on our own to meet the requirement. He’s done plenty of meal prep and cooking on camping trips and even coordinated duty rosters during his time as Patrol Leader, but not while hiking…

    • Hi Chuck! You are correct that the planning should certainly be done before the cooking. Most camps have the actual cooking as a pre-req, though, because they will not be able to do it at camp. Cooking is a merit badge that I really hate to see done at camp because there is much that can’t adequately be done in that setting. And if the planning part gets done first at camp, the boys come home with partials to complete the cooking at home.

      Please be sure to read the requirements carefully – none of the actual cooking has to be with the troop, although that can certainly be an ideal setting for it. Camp cooking can be completed with a patrol-sized group of youth and trail/backpacking cooking can be done for 3 – 5 people. So if the troop doesn’t have opportunities for your son to complete these requirements, maybe he can plan an outing with his patrol or with a group of friends, cousins, youth group, etc.

  12. Scoutstuff doesn’t seem to be offering the interactive digital pamphlets anymore.
    What the heck ?!

  13. Hi Bryan, I have a boy in my unit that started the Cooking merit badge back in 2012 and completed just about 40% of the requirements at that time. Fast forward 5 years, now he’s wants to complete this merit badge as he’s working on his eagle rank. He has reviewed both the old requirements and the new requirements and would like to finish this merit badge based on the requirements as they were back in 2012.

    I’ve spoken to several other scouters about this situation and I’m getting conflicting information. One set says that because of how long it’s been since he started the merit badge that he MUST move to the new requirements to complete this merit badge. The other group states that it’s the boy’s decision to choose to move to the new requirements or to use the requirements as they were when he started the merit badge.

    Can you please weight in on this situation?

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