CAMP OVEN COOKING
Bedourie Camp Ovens
Wilderness Expeditions use traditional cooking utensils in keeping with our pioneering heritage. We use "Bedourie" camp ovens rather than fragile cast iron ovens.
Bedourie camp ovens are made of spun steel instead of traditional cast iron. The lid and pan base are flat, fitting in a pack bag without rub points on the pack bag or animal. The steel construction bends and dents rather than breaking, should a load be thrown or collide with a tree. Damage may be treated with some basic panel beating in the field.
The oven is named for Bedourie Station, a sheep and wool property in Western Queensland. Camels were used to transport the wool clip. Loads thrown by camels had a long way to fall, which resulted in broken cast iron ovens. The management tired of the cost of replacements, so the spun steel version was invented.
The Bedourie oven has a lid that overhangs the base and is handy as a frying pan. The overhang prevents ash and coals falling into the contents. Triangular wire handles are provided on both the lid and the base pan. These fold flat against the sides to aid packing.
Bedourie ovens are made in two common sizes: 10 inch and 12 inch. 20 inch models are rare, but hold enough to feed 20- 30 diners. They are "Spun" into shape in a lathe, using a wooden rod or metal rollers to press sheet steel into a mould. This is known as metal spinning, a very different process to punching shapes using a press.
I find that the diameter roughly equates to the number diners that the contents will provide for. We use a 10-inch to cook for 8 to 10 people and a 12-inch for 12 to 14 people.
Cooking in a Bedourie camp oven is more delicate than using cast iron, as they are thinner, and steel conducts heat more directly compared to cast iron, resulting in hot spots. A metal rack or trivet can be used to give an airspace between the pan's base and the contents, to reduce the potential burning of cakes and like baked items. The oven should be placed on a measure of good even coals in a hole dug in the ground, or behind a windbreak. Another measure of coals is placed on top of the lid. The hole or windbreak stops one side being cooled by any wind to assist even cooking.
Handles or camp oven irons to lift the lid can be bent up from fencing wire - make small hooks to engage the oven’s handles, and legs long enough so you can attend to cooking without bending over too much. Do not forget to fold out the oven handles before placing the oven on the coals. A pair of Multi-Grip pliers is useful for handling the lid or base when separated. The wire handle supplied with the oven is not very practical as it is too short, and gets too hot to hold over a hot fire.
Wash using hot water and soap rather than harsh detergents that will remove oil from the pores of the steel. Prevent the oven rusting by drying on the coals after washing, and then coat the hot oven with vegetable oil or mutton fat. Paper towel is ideal for this. The steel will develop rust surprisingly quickly if not protected.
Bedourie ovens should be transported wrapped in Hessian or placed in a Hessian bag with some Hessian or newspaper under the lid to prevent rattling and drumming. The Hessian will also stop the fire black staining other items in contract with the oven.
See this link to Southern Metal Spinners for more information.
Cast Iron Camp Ovens
(To be added)
(To be added)