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Tips for camp oven cooking

 top 10 

Wow the crowds with your camp oven cooking by following our top tips.

WORDS BY EMMA RYAN, IMAGES BY SHANE STIFFLE

Sure, you can heat up and serve something from a packet when camping but nothing beats the flavour you can get when cooking on coals with a camp oven. And don’t be put off by the lack of temperature control, all you need is practice … and our top 10 tips to get you started.

GUIDE

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Successful camp oven cooking is all about the availability of hot coals, and plenty of them. Get your fire going nice and early so you’ve got a good amount of coals ready for when you want to start cooking. The bigger the fire, the more coals, so build as big a fire as is safe. One-metre square is ideal. Click here for our tips on how to build a campfire.

 1 
Build a big fire and get it going early

Placing a cold cast iron camp oven on a bed of coals will significantly reduce the heat of the coals. Avoid this by preheating your camp oven in the fire before you place it on the coals to begin cooking.

2
Preheat the camp oven

Use a piece of paper towel to check the temperature of the oven before you start cooking with it. Place the paper towel in the camp oven once it’s been on the coals for 10-minutes or so. After five minutes:

• If the paper is black and smoking, the oven is too hot.
• If the paper is dark brown, the oven is very hot (approx. 230°C)
• If the paper is light brown, the oven is hot (approx. 200°C)
• If the paper is yellowish, the oven is moderate (approx. 180°C)

5
Get the temperature right before you start cooking

To help retain the heat of the base layer of coals, dig a small hole the size of the camp oven to put the coals in. This will be especially helpful in windy weather. Do this right next to the main fire to help retain the heat of the oven.

3
Dig a hole for your camp oven

Avoid placing too many coals beneath your camp oven as this can burn the base of your dish. Putting the majority of the coals on the lid of the oven allows the heat to disperse more evenly, creating a true oven effect. Stick to the rule of thirds: one third coals on the base, two thirds on the lid.

4
Apply the rule of thirds to your coals

“Avoid placing too many coals beneath your camp oven as this can burn the base of your dish. Putting the majority of the coals on the lid of the oven allows the heat to disperse more evenly, creating a true oven effect.”

If you prefer your food less greasy, placing a trivet on the base of the camp oven can help. When cooking a roast, this keeps the meat and veggies up out of the fat and gives them more of an all-over crisp. On the other hand, cooking without a trivet allows the meat and veggies to caramelise on the base of the oven, which will add delicious flavour to your gravy. However, your vegetables will be more stewed than crisp.

6
To trivet or not to trivet?

Cooking time for a roast is generally half an hour per half a kilo of meat, or a little less for red meat if you like it medium-rare. Veggies will take around 45 minutes, so do some simple maths and put those in midway through cooking your meat.

7
Nail your cooking time

The beauty of a camp oven is that, when cared for correctly, it should last you a lifetime. Season your camp oven after every use. Following cleaning, return your camp oven to the heat of the fire to ensure it dries completely, then coat it in a thin layer of vegetable oil inside and out using paper towel. This will help prevent rust and builds a protective, non-stick layer. It’s then ready to be packed away for next time.

10
Season your camp oven regularly

One of the trickiest parts of camp oven cooking that requires a certain level of steady-handedness is removing the lid to check on your food. As you can imagine, this becomes increasingly difficult if you’re downing cold ones while waiting for your slow-cooked meat to tenderise. Use a dustpan brush to remove as many coals and ash from the lid as possible before carefully removing it.

8
Use a dustpan brush to remove coals and ash

To clean the oven, first scrape out whatever food scraps you can. Put some water in the oven and return it to the heat, allowing it to boil away for 15 minutes or so. Avoiding putting cold water in a hot oven and vice versa, as the cast iron can crack. Once the water has cooled enough, use a metal scourer to remove remaining residue and give the lid a scrub. Avoiding soap will help retain your camp oven’s protective layer of oil.

9
Avoid soap when cleaning your camp oven

“The beauty of a camp oven is that, when cared for correctly, it should last you a lifetime.”

Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.

PACKING LIST FOR CAMP OVEN COOKING
» Camp oven
» Camp oven lid lifter
» Long handled shovel
» Dustpan brush
» Long handled tongs
» Long wooden spoon
» Paper towel
» Vegetable oil
» Heat-proof gloves

TYPES OF CAMP OVEN
We used a Rovin brand cast iron camp oven, sold at Road Tech Marine. It came pre-seasoned and ready to roll, so was a good choice for our purposes. There are a few types of camp oven on the market, however. 

CAST IRON CAMP OVEN 
The original and most popular camp oven, available from $30.

PROS
» Excellent heat retention, ideal for slow cooking;
» Even distribution of heat for oven effect; and
» Will last a lifetime if properly cared for.

CONS
» Heavy; and
» Brittle, can crack when dropped or when cold/hot water is added to hot/cold oven.

Affordable: Rovin cast iron camp oven - Find out more

Splurge: Snow Peak Japanese Cast Iron Oven - Find out more

SPUN STEEL CAMP OVEN 
A versatile, robust and lightweight alternative to cast iron camp ovens.

PROS
» Lightweight yet robust;
» Heats and cooks quickly;
» Lid can be used as a frypan; and
» Can be used on coals or gas.

CONS
» Doesn’t retain heat as well as cast iron; and
» Not as good for slow cooking.

Affordable: Dr Livingstone's Bedourie Camp Oven - Find out more

Splurge: Ozpig Big Boar No.6 camp oven - Find out more

POTJE CAMP OVEN 
A three-legged South African-style cast iron camp oven with a pot belly shape.

PROS
» Support legs allow it to nestle into the coals;
» Thick cast iron retains heat, ideal for slow cooking; and
» Rounded shape ideal for stews and curries.

CONS
» Big and heavy; and
» Not as good for roasts and cakes due to shape.

Affordable: OzTrail Cast Iron Potjie Pot - Find out more

Splurge: LK’s Enamel Coated Potjie Pot - Find out more

GUIDE

Tips for camp oven cooking

 top 10 

Wow the crowds with your camp oven cooking by following our top tips.

Sure, you can heat up and serve something from a packet when camping but nothing beats the flavour you can get when cooking on coals with a camp oven. And don’t be put off by the lack of temperature control, all you need is practice … and our top 10 tips to get you started.

WORDS BY EMMA RYAN, IMAGES BY SHANE STIFFLE

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

THERMOS is a registered trademark in over 115 countries. © 2016, 2019 Thermos PTY Ltd.   

Successful camp oven cooking is all about the availability of hot coals, and plenty of them. Get your fire going nice and early so you’ve got a good amount of coals ready for when you want to start cooking. The bigger the fire, the more coals, so build as big a fire as is safe. One-metre square is ideal. Click here for our tips on how to build a campfire.

 1 
Build a big fire and get it going early

Placing a cold cast iron camp oven on a bed of coals will significantly reduce the heat of the coals. Avoid this by preheating your camp oven in the fire before you place it on the coals to begin cooking.

2
Preheat the camp oven

To help retain the heat of the base layer of coals, dig a small hole the size of the camp oven to put the coals in. This will be especially helpful in windy weather. Do this right next to the main fire to help retain the heat of the oven.

3
Dig a hole for your camp oven

Avoid placing too many coals beneath your camp oven as this can burn the base of your dish. Putting the majority of the coals on the lid of the oven allows the heat to disperse more evenly, creating a true oven effect. Stick to the rule of thirds: one third coals on the base, two thirds on the lid.

4
Apply the rule of thirds to your coals

Use a piece of paper towel to check the temperature of the oven before you start cooking with it. Place the paper towel in the camp oven once it’s been on the coals for 10-minutes or so. After five minutes:

• If the paper is black and smoking, the oven is too hot.
• If the paper is dark brown, the oven is very hot (approx. 230°C)
• If the paper is light brown, the oven is hot (approx. 200°C)
• If the paper is yellowish, the oven is moderate (approx. 180°C)

5
Get the temperature right before you start cooking

“Avoid placing too many coals beneath your camp oven as this can burn the base of your dish. Putting the majority of the coals on the lid of the oven allows the heat to disperse more evenly, creating a true oven effect.”

If you prefer your food less greasy, placing a trivet on the base of the camp oven can help. When cooking a roast, this keeps the meat and veggies up out of the fat and gives them more of an all-over crisp. On the other hand, cooking without a trivet allows the meat and veggies to caramelise on the base of the oven, which will add delicious flavour to your gravy. However, your vegetables will be more stewed than crisp.

6
To trivet or not to trivet?

Cooking time for a roast is generally half an hour per half a kilo of meat, or a little less for red meat if you like it medium-rare. Veggies will take around 45 minutes, so do some simple maths and put those in midway through cooking your meat.

7
Nail your cooking time

One of the trickiest parts of camp oven cooking that requires a certain level of steady-handedness is removing the lid to check on your food. As you can imagine, this becomes increasingly difficult if you’re downing cold ones while waiting for your slow-cooked meat to tenderise. Use a dustpan brush to remove as many coals and ash from the lid as possible before carefully removing it.

8
Use a dustpan brush to remove coals and ash

To clean the oven, first scrape out whatever food scraps you can. Put some water in the oven and return it to the heat, allowing it to boil away for 15 minutes or so. Avoiding putting cold water in a hot oven and vice versa, as the cast iron can crack. Once the water has cooled enough, use a metal scourer to remove remaining residue and give the lid a scrub. Avoiding soap will help retain your camp oven’s protective layer of oil.

9
Avoid soap when cleaning your camp oven

The beauty of a camp oven is that, when cared for correctly, it should last you a lifetime. Season your camp oven after every use. Following cleaning, return your camp oven to the heat of the fire to ensure it dries completely, then coat it in a thin layer of vegetable oil inside and out using paper towel. This will help prevent rust and builds a protective, non-stick layer. It’s then ready to be packed away for next time.

10
Season your camp oven regularly
Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

“The beauty of a camp oven is that, when cared for correctly, it should last you a lifetime.”

PACKING LIST FOR CAMP OVEN COOKING
» Camp oven
» Camp oven lid lifter
» Long handled shovel
» Dustpan brush
» Long handled tongs
» Long wooden spoon
» Paper towel
» Vegetable oil
» Heat-proof gloves

TYPES OF CAMP OVEN
We used a Rovin brand cast iron camp oven, sold at Road Tech Marine. It came pre-seasoned and ready to roll, so was a good choice for our purposes. There are a few types of camp oven on the market, however. 

CAST IRON CAMP OVEN 
The original and most popular camp oven, available from $30.

PROS
» Excellent heat retention, ideal for slow cooking;
» Even distribution of heat for oven effect; and
» Will last a lifetime if properly cared for.

CONS
» Heavy; and
» Brittle, can crack when dropped or when cold/hot water is added to hot/cold oven.

Affordable: Rovin cast iron camp oven - Find out more

Splurge: Snow Peak Japanese Cast Iron Oven - Find out more

SPUN STEEL CAMP OVEN 
A versatile, robust and lightweight alternative to cast iron camp ovens.

PROS
» Lightweight yet robust;
» Heats and cooks quickly;
» Lid can be used as a frypan; and
» Can be used on coals or gas.

CONS
» Doesn’t retain heat as well as cast iron; and
» Not as good for slow cooking.

Affordable: Dr Livingstone's Bedourie Camp Oven - Find out more

Splurge: Ozpig Big Boar No.6 camp oven - Find out more

POTJE CAMP OVEN 
A three-legged South African-style cast iron camp oven with a pot belly shape.

PROS
» Support legs allow it to nestle into the coals;
» Thick cast iron retains heat, ideal for slow cooking; and
» Rounded shape ideal for stews and curries.

CONS
» Big and heavy; and
» Not as good for roasts and cakes due to shape.

Affordable: OzTrail Cast Iron Potjie Pot - Find out more

Splurge: LK’s Enamel Coated Potjie Pot - Find out more