Camp oven cooking is part of Australian outback history. Over the ages shearers, drovers and bushmen have used the camp oven.
There are various ways and means to feed yourself and the family when camping and part of the enjoyment of these trips is to sit around a campfire at night and cook up a nourishing meal. From simple methods such as wrapping potatoes in alfoil and placing amongst the coals, jaffle irons and the old fry pan or hotplate to camp ovens, camp smokers and LPG barbeques.
What better to do it in than in a camp oven. A look around your local camping store, BCF (Boat Camping & Fishing) store or web sites such as Aussie Disposals will usually provide a good variety of items available.
What Is A Camp Oven?
A definition of a camp oven is a metal pot with a heavy lid, used for baking over an open fire; Australian equivalent of the dutch oven.
Camp ovens can be made from cast iron or spun carbon steel. They come in various sizes such as 10 inch, 12 inches, 16 inches etc or are measured in volume capacity such as 7.5 litre, 12 litre or 4.5 quart, 6 quarts, 9 quarts etc .
The shapes can be round or oval. Some camp ovens have a flat lid surface suitable for placing hot coals for the cooking process.
Some brand names for camp ovens are Bedouri, Coleman, Camp Chef, Furphy and Hillbilly’s BushKing and BushRanger.
How To Preparing Your Cast Iron Camp Oven
A camp oven must be seasoned before it is used. Being of cast iron, this material is porous, and the inside of the oven has to be treated to seal the surface.
- Peel off any labels, fill it with water and slowly heat but do not let it boil.
- Wash it in warm water (no detergent), rinse and then dry
- With a soft cloth or paper towel smear cooking oil (eg: olive oil) outside and inside of the camp oven as well as the lid
- Repeat rubbing the oil in say 3-4 times a day for 2 days
- Turn on your home oven appliance to very hot (say 250 deg C), place the lid and the camp oven upside down in the oven and bake for about 1 hour. You may want to
- place some alfoil under it to prevent any oil dripping onto the bottom of the oven. Repeat applying oil to the surface during this time but be careful not to burn
- yourself as the oven will be extremely hot. Don’t be surprised if there is smoke when you open the oven door. A protective coating should form on the camp oven as the oil glazes on the surface.
After using the camp oven and prior to storage give it a wash. Don’t use cold water as this may cause it to crack and avoid using detergents. It is always a good idea to wipe more cooking oil to its surface before storage as this will prevent rust. A good camp oven bag or box would be ideal to store it.
How To Build A Fire For A Camp Oven.
Building A fire for a camp oven is fundamentally rhw same as building any camp fire expect the goal is to create hot coals that radiate heat instead of a raging flame. This sounds simple in theory but there is certainly an art to it and below are the tricks to getting the perfect result with your camp oven.
When starting a campfire every precaution should be taken to prevent any spread of the fire as well as prevent any danger to yourself or children. Always wear shoes around the fire and take precautions to avoid burns. Clear or rake about 5 meters of the surrounding area of leaves and any flammable material and keep well away from overhead branches, tents or RV’s.
Get some paper and kindling together as well as some dry split timber or wood to add to the flames as it catches on. Certain types of timber burn better and create more hot coals than others and it is the coals that are ideal for camp oven cooking as too much flame can overheat the camp oven. A long handled shovel is ideal to remove coals from the campfire to place under and around the sides of the camp oven as well as onto its lid.
Do not use accelerants such as petrol. There is a product called ‘Little Lucifer Firelighters’ that come in a packet of small white cubes that the manufacturer claims to have a special odourless and smokeless formulation and these are suitable for lighting briquettes, coal, charcoal, coke and wood.
To Do This:
You will need to start the fire about 45 minutes prior to commencing cooking to generate enough coals for the camp oven
Dig a hole in the ground near the campfire a little larger than the camp oven you intend to use. This is to allow enough room under and around the camp oven to place some hot coals from the fire
Ensure the camp oven has been “pre heated” from the main campfire itself by placing it very close to the hot coals and rotating every 5 minutes to give all sides some direct heat.
Test the heat of the camp oven by placing a small piece of paper inside. If the paper goes yellow it is likely to be moderate (162 – 190 deg C), light brown likely to be hot (190 – 205 deg C), dark brown likely to be very hot (260 deg C) and if it goes black very quickly and even burns then the camp oven is way too hot.
If cooking a roast or the like it is a good idea to place a small cake rack or trivet in the bottom of the camp oven to prevent food from sticking to heated base. It will also provide better convection airflow for efficient cooking and allows fat to run off giving you healthier food.
Place some coals in the bottom of the hole you have prepared but not too many, you only want to warm the bottom of the oven. Once this is done, place more coals around the sides and on the lid. This method gives a very constant heat and does not burn the bottom. To monitor the temperature and judge when to replace the coals, place your open hand approximately 2 inches from the top of the lid and coals. It should almost be too hot to keep it there for more than a few seconds.
Once these coals have cooled they need to be replaced immediately to maintain a constant heat in the camp oven. The coals underneath the camp oven will also need to be replaced, but not as often. (Perhaps every second change of the ones on top). This all may take time at first to judge how often the coals need replacing, but you will soon become an expert with practice.
For a roast allow roughly about 1 hour of cooking time for every 1 kg of weight
Cut vegetables such as potato and pumpkin and place around the meat about 1 hour before the meat is ready. Smaller frozen vegetables such as peas and corn can be wrapped in alfoil “parcels” with a small amount of butter and a drop of water. These alfoil parcels can be placed on the top of the roast. You may need to cut down the amount of coals on the lid just slightly during this last hour to avoid burning the alfoil parcels as they will be quite close to the underside of the lid.
Once cooked, it is best to wrap the meat in alfoil and let rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to settle before slicing and serving.
What Are Some Simple Camp Oven Recipes
It really is quite amazing what you can actually cook in a camp oven once you know how to use it. From the classics like Damper and Lemonade Scones to the more exotic recipes like Creamy Garlic Prawns, you will find you will be using the trusty dutch oven more and more when your off the beaten track. We have taken the time to compile some of our Camp Oven favourites below.
- 4 cups of self-raising flour
- a pinch of salt
- 50 grams of butter – melted
- 1 stubby of beer
- 1 bread tin
In a large bowl sift the self-raising flour and make a well. Into the well add the melted butter, beer and salt. Gently mix the batter and knead to smooth dough. Place dough into a pre greased and floured bread tin and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.
- 500g chicken breasts / thighs / legs
- Jar of Pataks Korma curry Paste (3-4 tablespoons)
- 2 onions
- 1 green capsicumFresh basil/coriander
Handful of shredded coconut
- Handful of cherry tomatoes
- Handful of sultanas
- 4 baby potatoes
Handful of frozen veggies (optional)
- Tin of coconut milk
Brown chicken and onion together in a hot camp oven.
Chuck, throw or toss all ingredients into the camp oven and simmer on low heat for an hour. Serve with rice.
- 4 Cups Self Raising Flour
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- Rub together
- Add handful of sugar
- and 400 mls milk
Place all the ingredients into a bowl and knead well
Place in hot camp oven
Bake for 30-40 mins
Damper is cooked when it sounds hollow to a tap
Number of Serves – 12-15
Brief Description of Recipe – These scones take no time at all to whip up and are fail proof.
Preparation Time – 5 minutes
- 3 cups Self Raising Flour
- pinch salt
- 1 cup lemonade
- 1 cup cream
Place all ingredients into bowl and mix to a light dough.
Place on floured bench and roll out to desired thickness. Cut and place into very hot Camp Oven 230º and cook 13 – 15 minutes.
Creamy Garlic Prawns
- 750g raw peeled and tailed prawns (thawed not frozen)
- 1 clove garlic (or crushed garlic paste)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 115 g butter or marg
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Heat butter and garlic in the camp oven
Add flour and stir until combined. Remove from heat
Gradually add chicken stock, cream and wine and stir until combined
Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens and boils
Add mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste
Bring sauce to the boil and add prawns
Cook for 5 min or until prawns are cooked
Add chopped parsley (fresh is best) and stir until combined
Serve on a bed of hot steamed rice.
Mini Meat Loaf
- 500g mince
- 1 egg
- 1 small onion
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon chilli sauce
- 10 stuffed olives,sliced
- ¼ cup red wine
- Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Mix thoroughly with clean hands
Spoon mixture into two greased enamel mugs
Bake in camp oven for about 25 to 30 minutes
When done, separate around edges with knife and remove onto plate
Serve with salad or vegetables
Amazing Omelette In A Bag
In a ziplock sandwich bag, put enough of your favourite omelette fillings for 1 serving: onion, bacon bits, chopped ham, cheese, salsa, etc. Add 2 raw eggs. Zip the bag and shake to mix thoroughly.
Drop bag in boiling water in your Camp Oven and cook for about 13 minutes. Open the bag and out slides your omelette. Can be eaten directly from the bag so there is no washing up!
Camp Oven Pizza
- 1 Cup Plain Flour
- 1 Cup S/R Flour
- Sachet of yeast with small amount of water
Pad out into bottom of oven after coating bottom with butter or margarine.
Tomato paste, onion, capsicum, meats, cheese etc.
Lid on. Some coals on top, few underneath and cook for 20-30 mins
Mix all together in a bowl – cup sliced or diced bacon, 3 eggs, cup milk, cup cheese, 1 sliced or diced onion, cup pastry mix (add anything else you have capsicum, frozen veg, peas, beans etc.)
Coat the bottom of the oven or quiche dish with butter or marjarine. Place mix into oven or dish. Cover with lid. Place coals on top and underneath oven. Cook for 30-40 mins
Potato And Pumpkin Soup
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 2 tbsps plus 2 tsps oil
- 1 small onion\cooked (diced)
- 1 tbsp red curry paste
- 2 large potatoes (cut into cubes)
- 500g pumpkin (peeled and cut into cubes)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup coconut cream
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- fresh mint leaves to garnish (optional)
Heat oil in the camp oven over a moderate heat. Add onion and curry paste; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes, or until onions have softened. Add potato, pumpkin and stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Using a food processor, blender or a potato masher to purée soup. Return soup to camp oven, add coconut cream, and reheat. Remove from heat and season to taste. Garnish with chopped mint or a drizzle of cream if desired.