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Preparing a Campfire for Cooking

Camp oven cooking

 

 

Campfire Safety

Before you think about an open fire make sure there is are no Total Fire Bans in place. A Total Fire Ban (TFB) is declared when there are extreme hot weather conditions and a TFB prohibits the lighting of fires in the open air (or any other activities that may cause a fire, such as soldering, welding etc). Check your local Country Fire Authority website or your state Department of Fire & Emergency Services website for details.

If collecting wood be careful of snakes and spiders.  Animals make their homes in dead tree branches so ensure logs are empty of wildlife.  Collection of wood is restricted in some National Parks and State Forests in Australia so buy firewood beforehand.

Place a ring of rocks around the fire but leave enough area for fire to breathe and to be able to insert a shovel to collect hot coals. Keep a bucket of water nearby and keep children and pets well away from the fire area. Before leaving the campsite, make sure the fire is totally extinguished with water.

Camp Oven Fire

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.

Little Lucifer FirelightersDo 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.

The camp oven can be used directly over the campfire itself, or another method is to place it to one side of the campfire on a bed of coals.


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.

 

Heat Beads In the absence of available hot coals for camp oven cooking there is a product called ‘Heat Beads’.  These are small compressed briquettes that provide a high cooking temperature.  They also require to be lit about half and hour prior to cooking.  There is also a ‘Heat Beads Easy-Lite Barbeque Fuel’ that the manufacturer claims no firelighters are required "just the flick of a match".
Handy tools or items to have for camp oven cooking

- Camp oven
- Camp oven carry bag or box
- A camp oven lid lifter or a long tent peg or tent peg puller
- Oven mitt or welding gloves
- Long handled tongs
- A small broom (not nylon) to whisk the ashes off the lid
- Cake tray or baking trivet to fit inside the camp oven
- Cooking oil
- Paper towel
- Alfoil and grease proof paper
- Matches or gas BBQ lighter
- Paper and firelighters
- Wood or heat beads
- Axe
-
A tarpaulin to keep wood dry
- A long handled shovel to access hot coals
- A bucket of water to later put out the fire

 

Camp Oven

Camp Oven Lid Lifter

There are a number of camp oven cookery books available for recipes for food like roasts, casseroles, dampers, beer bread, lemonade scones and much more.

How can I prevent campfire burns?

burnt foot from campfireWhen lighting fires an accelerant should not be used.

Children should be supervised at all times around campfires and things such as fuel, lighters and matches placed out of their reach.  Ensure children do not wear flammable clothing. Have a First Aid Kit and a print out available of steps to take in the event of a burn injury.

Don't leave food scraps, beer cans or bottles in the fire.

Camp oven cooking / campfire

When manipulating coals for camp oven cooking, it is advisable to use a long handled shovel.  This will enable you to keep your body and hands far enough away from the fire (and smoke).

Do not use sand and dirt to extinguish the fire as they can camouflage the hot coals and retain the heat.  Extinguish the fire using water. Each year a number of people, particularly children, are treated for severe campfire related burns.  A number of those burns resulted the morning after a campfire when children have stepped on the hot coals.

 

 

 
 

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