Camp Oven Cooking with Coals

People have been camp oven cooking with coals for well over 100 years, and it’s the most traditional heat source is to cook using coals rendered from a fire.

Regulating the heat of your camp oven is something everyone starting with camp oven cooking has trouble with, like anything the more you practice, the better you will get.

The key is to have a main fire and a seperate cooking area away from the fire to make it easier to manage your heat.

Photo showing camp oven cooking with coals, cooking a stew in a 14" vintage ETNA Camp oven from Glasgow.
“Cooking with bottom heat away from the main fire” | Photo credit – The Camp Oven Cook

Mastering Heat Control

When learning camp oven cooking with coals, the key is to start with fewer coals and work up to the optimal temperature, remember this phrase; 

If you start off too hot, you will ruin the food.

  1. Start out with less heat and after ten or so minutes check it, if you think it’s not hot enough add a few more coals, wait and check it again, and keep building it up until you think you have it at the right temperature. 

It may take a bit longer to cook your tucker, but at least you won’t burn it.

Common questions beginners ask;

  • Do I need to pre-heat a camp oven?

    No, you don’t need to pre-heat your camp oven. However, you should consider it when you are baking food in your camp oven, just like you would at home.

  • Do I need to replace the coals?

    That all depends on how long the recipe takes to cook, for example, if you are cooking something like damper than probably not. However, If you are cooking something like a roast that requires a few hours to cook then yes, just remember to change the coals when needed, and the frequency will also depend on the quality of the wood you are using.

  • Do I cook directly on the campfire?

    No, avoid placing your camp oven directly on an open fire. It’s hard to manage your heat control. It’s best to use a long handle shovel and take some coals and put them near the fire to heat your camp oven.

  • Will weather conditions affect my heat control?

    Yes, Conditions like rain, strong winds, cold weather and hot days can also affect cooking times and or heating performance of your camp oven and will need to be also managed effectively.

  • What wood do i use for camp oven cooking?

    The ultimate wood for rendering the best coals is the stuff that burns ‘hot and long’, like Gidgee however its not easy to obtain so just use what you can get your hands on, just make sure it’s aged and dry, just keep an eye on it and change when it cools too much.

  • Do i need to put coals on top of the camp oven?

    That all depends on what you are cooking, if you’re cooking a stew you only need bottom heat, if you are cooking a roast, you need top and bottom heat. View the full guideĀ here!