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Cooking Over an Open Flame: Why a Camp Oven Should be Your Go-To Piece of Camping Gear
Posted by Jen Mills, 14th April 2022
Basic Kitchen Kit
When it comes to camping, having a proper kitchen setup is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. No matter how rugged your camping style may be, having the right tools and equipment can make all the difference when it comes to meal preparation and cooking.
And one of the most basic and important aspects of any camp kitchen is having a designated storage container to keep all your supplies organized and accessible.
A large, tough plastic box with a secure lid is a great option for storing all your camp kitchen essentials. Not only will this keep your utensils and cooking supplies protected from the elements, but it will also help ensure that everything stays clean and dry.
And when it comes to cooking in the great outdoors, it's important to keep in mind that you'll need ample lighting for food preparation and cooking duties. That's why it's a good idea to include a designated head torch in your camp kitchen kit, to help you see what you're doing even after the sun goes down.
- Melamine crockery set
- Cutlery set in a case or roll up bag
- Plastic drinking glasses
- Large plastic platter
- Containers with lids for left overs
- Large, medium and small Ziplock bags
- Gladwrap and foil
- Camp oven lifter (a jack handle is a good substitute)
- Large camp oven
- Small camp oven
- Trivets for the camp ovens (a small round cake rake will do)
- Welding gloves
- Cake tins to fit the camp ovens
- 1 large, deep fry pan
- 1 flat skillet or grill
- 1 large pot
- 1 small pot
- 1 kettle or billy for boiling water
- Jaffle iron
- 1 large serrated/bread knife
- 1 large chef’s knife (Wiltshire are good as they have sharpening holders)
- 1 smaller chef’s knife (see above)
- Egg rings (silicon ones are great)
- Long- handled egg flip or BBQ slide (metal or heat-proof plastic)
- Wooden spoons
- Potato masher
- Long-handled tongs
- Large metal spoon
- Large meat fork
- Metal whisk
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Cutting boards (Teflon are great)
- Large and small mixing bowl
- Hand beater (yes, you can make Pavlova whilst camping!)
Camp Oven Sercrets
When it comes to touring, having the right cooking gear is essential to ensure that you can prepare delicious meals on the go. And when it comes to cooking over an open flame, a good quality camp oven should be at the top of your list. In fact, your camp ovens will likely be the most important pieces of cooking gear that you bring with you on your trip. They are incredibly versatile, allowing you to boil water, cook casseroles, bake bread, and even fry up your favorite foods.
To get the most out of your camp oven, it's worth investing in two different sizes: a small and a large one. This will give you greater flexibility when it comes to cooking different types of meals, whether you're feeding a group of hungry campers or just making a quick cuppa for yourself. When making your purchase, it's important to choose the best quality camp oven that you can afford, as they will last longer and provide better cooking results than cheaper, lower-quality options.
To ensure that you can cook with confidence, make sure that you also receive a trivet with each purchase. This small wire rack is designed to keep your food elevated off the bottom of the oven, preventing it from sticking and burning. And when selecting your camp oven, try to choose a style with a lip around the edge of the lid. This feature will help keep ash and coals out of your food when you lift the top off, ensuring that your meals are delicious and ash-free every time.
When it comes to cooking over an open flame, a good quality camp oven should be at the top of your list.
Seasoning Your Camp Oven
Cast iron rusts … and it rusts quickly. A good camp oven will develop a rich, dark coating over repeated use. This not only prevents it from rusting, but also creates a tough, non-stick coating on the inside.
Before you use your camp oven, you will need to season it; and this is not as hard as some people seem to think. The secret is to do it at home before you head off; then you are ready to cook the moment you set up camp.
We have a really quick – and definitely not traditional – way of doing it. This saves a lot of elbow grease.
Simply pop your new camp ovens upside down in your dishwasher – lids off, but included – and run it through a cycle. This removes the protective wax coating.
You do need to be there when the cycle stops though. If you come back an hour later (yes, it happens fast) you’ll find your camp ovens with a light dusting of rust. No dishwasher? Grab a scrubbing brush and some hot soapy water, but rinse very well when you are done. Again, dry them off straight away.
When thoroughly dry, spray the items all over with olive oil or vegetable oil (wipe it on if you don’t have a spray bottle); then put the camp ovens upside-down in your domestic oven, with the lids on a separate shelf.
Turn your oven up to 200 degrees C and leave your camp ovens in there for two hours.
Turn off the oven and leave it closed to cool down (you’ll fill your kitchen with smoke if you open it). Overnight is good.
Pull your camp ovens out, give them a wipe over with a dry cloth, then give them another light coating of oil. Repeat the whole process again and you are done – all without lots of back-breaking work.
Caring For Your Camp Ovens
When you are done cooking, you need to protect the coating you are building up.
Once you have taken the food out, allow your camp oven to cool a little; then slowly start tipping some water into it.
Never just dump cold water straight into a hot camp oven as this can cause it to crack or even shatter. Allow it to cool, fill it half to three-quarters full of water, then place it back over the heat to boil.
Using a wooden spoon or other non-metal utensil, swirl the water around and gently rub off any stubborn pieces of food. You can use a plastic dish brush, but don’t go too hard at it.
Never use detergents, as they will start to break down the coating. Only ever use plain hot water.
Tip out the water and repeat the process again if needed – remember to allow it to cool slightly first, and add the water gradually. I actually do mine over a gas flame and it’s so much easier.
Once you are done cleaning, give the camp oven a really good wipe over to dry it off; then spray or wipe over lightly with some oil. I like to put it back on the coals for 20 minutes at this point – to set the oil and make sure it’s completely dry.
Once done and cooled off, wrap it in an old cloth or canvas bag (you can buy these specifically for camp ovens) and put it away.
This seasoning method and care instructions should be used for all your cast iron cooking gear: Frying pans, skillets and even jaffle irons need to develop a good patina.
Cooking on Coals
As everyone will tell you, a lot of this is down to trial and error. But there is a basic guide.
To use your camp oven, you’ll need a good supply of hot coals. This means that getting a fire going is the first thing you should do when you pull up to camp … it needs at least an hour or so to make coals. Make sure you have enough wood on-site to keep stoking the fire as it burns down; but you don’t need a large fire to cook with – keep it as small as possible so you aren’t wasting resources.
Once you have coals, make sure you preheat your camp oven (unless a recipe states not to) before using it. Just sit it near the fire for five to ten minutes, occasionally giving it a turn; and remember to use welder’s gloves or a camp oven lifter to handle it from hereon in. A jack handle makes a good lifter if your camp oven didn’t come with one.
The easiest way to cook on coals – and the best way to stop yourself getting scorched every time you go near your camp oven – is to cook away from the main fire.
Dig a shallow hole about six inches wider than the base of your camp oven, and about six inches deep.
Drop a small shovelful of hot coals in and spread them around the base. Put in your camp oven and shovel a few coals around the edges.
You can now put your food in. Once the lid is on, shovel some coals on the lid if required. Pull up a chair and you can monitor your meal in comfort, without singed eyebrows and scalded arms!
This is also the best way to have excellent control over your cooking, and you can adjust your temperatures as needed.
The easiest way to keep constant temperatures is to start out with barbecue briquettes. We always carry a bag of these in case we can’t obtain firewood; or in case it’s too wet.
Ask any seasoned traveller how many briquettes to use for a medium temperature (180 degrees C in your oven at home), and they will quote you the mysterious rule of ‘Two for One and Three For All’.
This simply means that if you have a small ten-inch camp oven, you’ll need 20 briquettes (double the diameter). To understand where to place them, you use the ‘three for all’: If the diameter of the oven is ten inches, you minus three for the bottom, and add three for the top.
10 – 3 = 7 – put 7 underneath.
10 + 3 = 13 – put 13 on the top.
Total briquettes = 20 (or twice the diameter).
Simply adjust the formula for the diameter of your camp oven.
For a lower temperature: Remove one-third from the top and bottom.
For a higher temperature: Add one-third to the top and bottom.
Remember, if you are cooking for longer than 30 to 40 minutes, you’ll need to replace your briquettes. So keep some handy.
Most of our recipes run a medium temperature, so using briquettes is a great way to learn until you get better at judging coals. If you have a chance, practice with briquettes at home a few times before you go touring. You’ll be surprised how relaxing it is to have dinner ticking away while you sit outside enjoying the wonderful aromas wafting from your camp oven!
Once you get the hang of it, start experimenting with using coals.It won’t take long at all to build your confidence.
Having a well-stocked camp kitchen is essential for any successful camping trip. From a designated storage container to a reliable camp stove or grill, there are many different tools and equipment that can make cooking in the great outdoors both easy and enjoyable.
If you're looking to upgrade your camp kitchen gear, there are many great resources online where you can find high-quality products designed specifically for outdoor cooking. Check out our camp cooking section. With the right gear and a little bit of planning, you can enjoy delicious meals and make lasting memories on your next camping adventure.
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