I like simple. So although more complex designs can be found, a reflector oven is very basic, fast to assemble and portable. Pilfer a loaf pan and baking sheet from your kitchen or buy one instead from a second-hand store. A hacksaw or power cutting tool is also important. I recommend a power drill and electric cutting tool since they do a better job at cutting, leaving an edge that is easier to sand smooth and one that requires less finishing work. Additionally, grab six small bolts with nuts and 4 feet of aluminum foil.
OVEN CONSTRUCTION: Cut the baking sheet in half down the middle. Sand the edges to remove metal burrs. Next, drill three holes in both long sides of the loaf pan. Drill corresponding holes in the baking sheet halves. Try to make the holes evenly spaced out and about 2 inches from the cut edge of the baking sheet, tightening the nuts so that bolts secure the baking sheet half to the loaf pan. Drill two holes in the bottom of the loaf pan 4 inches apart, roughly centered in the bottom of the pan. Take the aluminum foil and wrap it around the oven, so that it creates the last two sides of the oven as it is wrapped. Pinch it on to the corners of the baking sheet so it stays in place.
If foil isn’t available for the project, two log sections can be used instead to reflect heat into the oven. Better still would be to use a large-diameter log split into two halves, placing the cut side against the oven structure. Even a fence-type setup of smaller sticks will work to reflect the heat, but the foil wall is going to be the simplest method that also works the best.
RACK IT UP: A wire rack like those in modern ovens can be improvised with a coat hanger bent to support the weight of a full tray of food. Use the thickest metal coat hanger available, and remove any plastic coating on the wire before use. To make the oven capable of holding a baking tray, insert the makeshift rack into the holes in the back of the oven and place a baking tray on it.
To regulate heat on the inside of the oven, move it toward or away from the camp fire. Oven technology doesn’t get any easier or caveman-esque than this. Now, how do like your eggs?
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This article was originally published in the AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN™ Winter 2016 issue #205. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.