Cooking with your Camp Oven

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.

Build some coals

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.

Pre heat the camp oven

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.  

Enter the meat

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! 

Helpful hint – Trivet:

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!

To the side of the fire

 

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 

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). 

Helpful Hint: 

Using a shovel with a handle that is as long as possible makes life easy when moving the coals around. 

Mini Tripod

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!

Turning over the heat

 

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! 

What type of camp oven?

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.

Cast Iron:

    • Pros of Cast Iron:
      • Cooks beautifully! Cast Iron conducts heat very well, consistently and evenly – giving a more regulated temperature throughout the camp oven
      • Easier to manage. Because it holds and conducts heat so well – you don’t have to replace the heat (coals) as often as you would a spun steel camp oven.
      • Taste – Now I must confess… “I personally cannot guarantee a roast will taste better out of cast Iron!” But it is a comment often given by customers who come into our store. 
    • Cons of Cast Iron:
      • Extremely heavy! More weight to store in your vehicle, caravan or camper trailer and hard on the back to lift in or out of the fire (even when empty).
      • Handle carefully. If dropped or knocked, cast iron can shatter into bits. Many a person has arrived at a camping destination after a rough road travelled and found a cast iron camp oven broken.

Spun Steel:

    • Pro’s for Spun Steel:
      • Lightweight: These are a pleasure to use – so easy to lift in & out of the fire – beautiful for transit as well
      • Tough! Whilst spun steel can dent a little, they are super strong & can’t break or shatter. They will handle almost anything you can throw at them
      • Diversification. Many spun steel camp ovens have loads of optional extra’s available. With the ability to separate veggies from meat, pizzas on the lid & even a frypan option. 
      • Keep the $’s local. Most spun steel camp oven are Australian made… discussion over!
    • Con’s for Spun Steel
      • Harder work to manage. Spun steel doesn’t hold the heat as well as cast iron. So there are two things you have to do differently: 1. Put less heat onto the camp oven and 2. turn the heat over more often.
      • Not as consistent. Spun steel is harder to get a consistent heat all the way around it, it does take a little longer to learn how to manage it with heat. 

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!

Cheers,
Jarrod

3 Comments

  • Chris says:

    Hey Jarrod,
    I am salivating already, what a great article. A fabulous way to while away a few hours tending the fire unless the fish are biting then Kim can do the cooking for a change!!!
    Thanks and Kind Regards,
    Chris & Kim

  • Marcus Lusty says:

    Great advice guys
    I will apply the 70 / 30 rule in future as I generally cook my meat/damper too much outside not enough inside from being too close the the flames
    Cheers
    Marcus

  • Peter Rob says:

    Jarrod, While most of your hints are worthwhile in suburbia, in the real world, not! For perfect camp oven cooking you DO NOT apply any heat below oven. Sit your camp oven on the ground adjacent to your campfire. Dice an onion and place in bottom followed by, in this example, a whole chicken. Place a sheet of alfoil over oven and fit lid. Cover completely with ash from fire, ash only. Then shovel glowing coals, once again completely covering. Sit back relax, have a few coldies, what ever, in 1 1/2 hrs you have a perfectly roasted chicken. Haven’t mentioned the roast vegetables, thats another story. **** BTW Thongs around a bush campfire are inviting a painful experience****

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