A camp oven is amazingly simple to make. Yet like all simple things, it can be complex.
An oven is a box that holds heat. The key to making a good one is to create a way to heat the box and to control the amount of heat.
How to Make a DIY Camp Oven
Too much heat and your food will burn. Too little, and it won’t cook properly. There are several ways to make a homemade camp oven.
1. The Tin Can Oven
If you’re car camping with your family or a group, this is an absolute natural. To make it, you need a number ten can, a can opener (preferably one of the wheeled kind that leaves a clean edge).
Leave one edge of the can lid attached to create an oven door. It’s a good idea to have one of those disposable foil bread pans, as well.
First, open the can and place the food inside in a pot that’s appropriately placed near your campfire or grill. Pork and beans are the perfect choice for this, especially if your crew is devoted to roasting hot dogs over the coals.
Next, collect at least four rocks of similar size and nestle them in a bed of coals. Then turn the can on its side, and place a layer of moist earth in the side of the can. Clay is best. This will give you a smooth surface on which to place your baking tin and it will help even out the heat.
Next, mix your baked item. A quick vanilla cake mix poured over peaches is a good recipe for this. Place the aluminum foil baking dish with the peach cobbler mix inside it on top of the clay. Close the can lid. Set the can on the four rocks that are in the coals.
Keep an eye on it to make sure that the can isn’t getting too hot or the coals burning down too much and it’s getting too cold. (This part takes a little practice. It’s not unusual for the first cobbler or two to be raw on one end and a little overdone on the other, but it doesn’t take too many to get the hang of it.)
2. The Any Iron Pot Dutch Oven
Of course, if you own a camping Dutch oven or a spider, you can just use that. But not everyone has one of these handy items. If you have any sort of iron pot with a lid, you can make it into a campfire oven. Simply make a bed of coals, as you did for the tin can oven.
Settle your pot over a bed of coals. Using this method, you can bake the food directly in the pot, or you can lower a pie tin or metal cake pan into the oven. Place the lid on the iron pot, rake coals up around it. Check on it now and then to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. Add coals or rake them away to adjust the temperature.
If you have the money, there’s a special iron pot called a spider that is made just for this kind of cooking. It has four legs, so you can dispense with the rocks or similar supports.
The lid has a handy little rim around the edge of it to keep coals from falling off, and a loop handle that’s set up so you can use an iron poker or similar implement to lift it.
3. The Cobb Oven
Cobb is a lump of wet clay, often with a bit of straw or grass worked into it. This one is a little more complex and is best suited to backyard camping or to a place where you’ll have a semi-permanent campground.
Mix a good grade of clay with bits of grass and straw. While it’s still wet, shape it into loaf sizes chunks, sort of like bricks.
These need to be damp, but dry enough to hold their shape. Set the base row into a rough semi-circle, with the opening wide enough to insert a small baking pan, but narrow enough that you won’t have a problem with placing something over it for a door.
Arrange the next row so that it leans just a little bit to the inside of the structure, then the next row, a little bit more to the inside, until you reach the top of your planned size and the loaves of cobb support each other. Think beehive shape, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
Let your oven cure naturally until it is only slightly damp. Wipe it inside and out with a moist cloth, then build a small (very small) fire inside it. Keep it burning for a few hours until the clay has completely dried.
To bake in the oven, shovel in a few coals from your campfire, and let it become warm enough that a dusting of flour in a pan will turn brown. Now, you’re ready to bake. Place your bread or cake in a metal pan inside the camp oven, and place a piece of bark or metal over the door to help keep the heat in.
4. Foil Pouch Baking
Depending upon what you are making, you can back food in aluminum foil. This works well for making individual servings of vegetables and meat.
Place the meat on the foil, then layer on canned vegetables, including some of the juices. Pull the long edges of the foil up so that they meet above the food. Fold the edges together, to create an envelope seal, and. then fold up the ends.
If your foil is thin, you might want to use two layers. Rake a layer of coals away from the campfire, and make a nest of hot ash in the middle of the bed of coals. Nestle the foil pouches on the ash, cover it with more ash, and then with coals.