Who loves a winter camp oven roast when outdoors? I don’t know about you, but it warms my belly just thinking about it! It’s the whole experience that I love, you know…. stoking the fire – creating some red hot coals – preparing the meat and pre-heating the camp oven ready to cook for the troops (who if they don’t eat – miss 9 year old’s life could take a serious turn for the worst any split second).
So as we head into winter and the fact I now have you licking your lips – I thought I would give you some pointers on ‘how Kerri and I go about using our camp oven when cooking a roast’. Oh, and one more thing…. for those of you who have been doing it for years – we’ve been testing this great ‘mini tripod’ that has made a world of difference to regulating heat for Kerri and I – it’s at the end of this blog. Make sure you check it out:
Date Written: 5th June 2017 by Jarrod Michael.
The first thing to know about cooking a camp oven roast is to know that you never use the direct heat from a flame to cook – “It’s all about using the heat from coals!” So before we even get started – we need to get some red hot coal action happening and we will use these coals on and around our camp oven to heat. Knowing that dinner will take an hour or two to cook (pending the size of the roast and the type of camp oven it is in) – ‘timing is crucial’ and that means getting a good fire roaring early in the afternoon, ready with hot coals in advance. As always.. preparation is king!
Helpful fire hint:
Keep in mind – you will need an ever evolving and continual supply of coals for the entire cooking period, so stoking the fire with wood periodically will be required.
It’s just like your oven at home – your camp oven must be pre heated before we put our roast in. In the case of pre-heating (and unlike cooking the meal), we simply use the flame in most cases. You can either hang it from a tripod over the fire, put it directly in the fire and – or, use the coals if you have enough of them. Once the camp oven is hot, it’s ready for use. Once again, timing is crucial… combining the pre heated camp oven, red hot coals and having the roast prepared all together is key.
One of the most common ways a roast is burnt in a camp oven, is from too much heat underneath. Possibly the easiest way to reduce this initially is to use a thing called a trivet. A trivet is a bit like a cake rack – it sits in the bottom of the camp oven (it’s only about 5mm high) and lifts your meat up off the base so it doesn’t burn as easy – they are an absolute must!
If you don’t have a trivet – I learnt a helpful hint many years ago from an incredible old-school cook (my mum), she used to use carrots or onions to do the same thing – adds flavour too!
We never cook our camp oven roasts in the fire – they are always to the side and away from the fire where it can have no impact on the cooking process. Depending on the fire pits (or not) available in each individual campground – the fire is always to one side and the cooking area is on the other.
The 70 / 30 rule simply means 70% of the heat (coals) on top of your camp oven & 30% of your heat at the bottom. The most consistent way to cook a camp oven roast is mainly from the top down – relying on heat conductivity. It will take some trial and error to know the amount of coals to start with – too little and it wont get hot enough – too many and you’ll burn your meat externally (raw in the middle). This amount of coals (heat) also varies between using different types of camp ovens, be it cast iron or spun/pressed steel (more about that below).
Using a shovel with a handle that is as long as possible makes life easy when moving the coals around.
There has been many a debate with putting coals around at the bottom of the camp oven. Because burning food from underneath is possibly the largest problem associated with camp oven roast cooking – we have found many different ideas from people over the years. Some put the coals underneath – some wrap them around the outside of the base and some simply use the hot sand from around the fire (they think the coals are too hot). We have found a solution that has made camp oven roast cooking so much easier and that is a miniature tri pod. This great little invention lifts your camp oven up off the deck, which means you can spread coals evenly underneath and manage the heat as you see fit! In short, the coals / heat is not driving excessive heat straight into your food. We have found it ideal for cooking pizzas, roasts and slow cooked stews – you name it… it’s unreal to use!
Throughout the cooking period, the hot coals that we have put onto our camp oven are going to cool down and need replacing at the right time. The time it takes varies considerably between outside temperature, the type of timber being burnt, the amount of coals used and more importantly, the type of camp oven you are using (more about that below). Once again, this is trial & error!
Whilst there are many different types of camp ovens – there are two main options based on materials they are manufactured with. I have listed the two below and given some pros and Cons.
I hope you have learnt something with the above, if not… it has got you excited to cook a good Aussie camp oven meal tonight! Obviously I have tried to keep it as basic – simple as possible and without over complicating it. In saying that, I would love to hear your thoughts… please feel free to comment below and talk soon!