reflector oven by fire
A reflector oven, drawing heat from the fire. Tim MacWelch

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Primitive cooking techniques, like roasting a piece of meat on a stick, can yield some incredibly delicious results. But if we are able to improvise something a little more sophisticated, our cooking options could be almost limitless. The reflecting oven is one of these camp cooking upgrades. These simple ovens catch the heat of a fire and focus it into a central baking area. In use for centuries, the reflectors can be any size, virtually any shape, and made from almost any new or cast off sheet metal. Here’s how to make one with some tin snips and a little ingenuity (and we recommend some leather gloves, too).

Gather Your Supplies
For its most basic incarnation, you’ll need some sheet metal, some snips to cut it, and a pan or grill to place inside the unit. For the one pictured, I “borrowed” an old cookie sheet from the kitchen (please don’t tell my missus). For larger and heavier units, I’d definitely recommend a drill and some pop rivets to secure the joints, or sheet metal screws—whichever you prefer.


Make Your Shapes
A simple wedge shaped reflector oven is the easiest to build. Fold a large rectangular piece of sheet metal in half to create the main piece. Then cut some 90 degree triangles to build the sides. If you’re good with sheet metal and have some specialized tools for it, this entire project will be a breeze. I just used the snips, my gloved hands, and cut some interlocking tabs to join the two triangles to the main piece.

Set It Up
The final bit is the easiest: just put it all together. I used several stones behind the unit to make it stand up by the fire (though integrated legs are better). I also used stones in the front to support the pan. More traditional set-ups involve holes in the side panels which allow you to use spits and skewers, and to place rods that would support a pan or grill. However you build it, just make sure that it is sturdy and able to stand up to the weight of the food—and the likelihood of being bumped by the cook.

Maintain Your Coals, and Cook
A large bed of coals is just what you need for baking in the reflector oven. Build up a large fire, allow it to go to coals, and then set your oven right next to it. You can also use coals and flames, when cooking forgiving foods like a roast on a spit.

Have you made something like this for your camp? Please share your plans and results by leaving a comment.