A reflector oven is used as an alternative for baking or cooking food especially during an outdoor activity such as camping. However, a reflector oven is not only used in an outdoor activity, but can also be used at homes when there is no oven available. Just like an oven, a reflector oven is able to cook food, bake bread and pastry, and grill or roast meat. A reflector oven is basically a box or a container designed to enfold food on one side to cook through catching and reflecting radiant heat typically 8 inches away from an open fire or wood fire.
A reflector oven was a popular collapsible appliance back in Colonial America in the 1700s when ovens that we know and use today did not yet exist. In those years, a reflector oven was called either a “hastener”, “tin kitchens” or “tin bakers” and was placed on homes hearth’s in front of the fire for cooking food. A type of reflector oven called the solar cooker uses the sun as its primary heat.
Although the history of reflector ovens is limited, a Dutch painting called “The Cook” painted by Gabriel Metsu either between 1657 and 1662, shows a woman cooking in what seem to be a reflector oven. This only shows that a reflector oven was not only used in America but was also used in Europe.
A traditional reflector oven is characterized with its the back on the ground supported with two posts or a bracket and ensures that the center shelf is leveled to the ground. The tops and the bottom surfaces of a traditional reflector oven are at a 90-degree angle to each other and forms a triangular shape at the rear of the oven.
How does a reflector oven work?
How heat works in a reflector oven is simple: the food is cooked or baked through the reflection of the heat that goes through the shiny aluminum interior of the oven. The slanted top and bottom sides of the oven directs the heat towards the top and bottom of the pan.
Types of a Reflector Ovens
Modern Reflector Oven
A modern reflector oven is characterized with a flat rectangular back. Compared to the traditional triangular rear of an oven, modern reflector oven does not waste space at its rear and gives more usable cooking space in the middle of the oven. A rectangular reflector oven maintains a more uniform baking temperature inside the oven from the front to the rear of the oven.
A type of reflector oven that uses the sun as its heat source instead of an open fire. The sun is emitted through the oven using solar cooking devices.
Aluminum Reflector Oven
An aluminum reflector oven is a type of oven made from an aluminum. It is characterized as lightweight and possesses a shiny surface that reflects heat well and is relatively easy to clean.
Stainless Steel Reflector Oven
A reflector oven made of stainless steel tend to have longer lifespan because of its ability to resist bending and denting. But because of this, they are much heavier compared to an aluminum reflector oven. Stainless steel reflector oven is least expensive.
Advantages of a Reflector Oven
When you are outdoors starting a campfire, the use of a reflector oven serves a double purpose to your fire or even when you are at home lighting your hearth. Imagine just wanting to make yourself comfortable with the heat coming from the firewood and being able to cook at the same time.
The good thing about a reflector oven is that they can be carried anywhere as its part can just be folded when it is not used. It is a good option to take with you for outdoor activities because it does not have big parts that can take a lot of space in your trunk. It is easy to assemble and usually comes with an assembling guide sheet for a first-time purchase. In case, you make your own reflector oven, then you can just adjust the parts to make it easier for you to assemble them. A reflector oven can be used anytime and anywhere.
Cooking starts immediately when the firewood starts to produce heat. A reflector oven does not need a full lighted fire to be able to cook the food that you have. The closed rear of a reflector oven allows it to accumulate heat coming from the firewood that reflects heat above and below the food to cook it even with a minimum amount of fire.
Reduced Heat Resource Requirement
Since you can cook food immediately even with a small fire, there is no need for you to consume a lot of firewood. This also allows you to maintain the size of fire you will use in cooking and be able to put the fire out immediately when the food is cooked.
Can I make my own Reflector Oven?
Making your own reflector oven is possible. To do this, you must have the following materials before assembling them: stainless or aluminum, scissor, shear, gloves, drilling equipment, and cotter pins.
Here is a few easy steps to make your own reflector oven:
1. First, make sure that you have decided on the type of material you are going to use in your reflector oven: whether stainless or aluminum.
2. Layout the pieces on the stainless or aluminum using a drawing guide. You can layout the large back panel first, then layout the sides and support shelf of the oven. Before proceeding to the layout, you can use an existing reflector oven for reference to correctly get the parts and sizes of the sides and the back part of the oven.
3. Next, cut and trace the layout using shears. Make sure to wear safety gloves before using any cutting tools for safety.
4. Cut holes or openings on the pieces where you can use to assemble them together.
5. Drill holes in some of the pieces to insert cotter pins.
6. Join the pieces together using the cotter pins.
7. Lastly, buff all the cut edges or holes to make them have a smooth surface and edges.
When to use a reflector oven?
Although electrical and gas ovens are widely used in these days, a reflector oven is still available in outfitters to be used by campers or outdoor enthusiasts. On a cold day outside, it would be great to have some hot and own-made bread, or enjoy a roasted meat while enjoying a can of beer with a co-camper.
A reflector oven may not be a trend nowadays. Yet, even though they are not widely popular compared to electrical ovens, they are a good cooking option that will save you and your cooking needs in the easiest and quickest manner when staying outdoors. A reflector oven works like a traditional oven which allows users to cook, bake, or even grill or roast meat. It is mostly used by campers and those who enjoys staying outdoors technically because of their flexibility and multiple cooking purpose.