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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

my first attempt at cooking in a camp oven with coals on a volcano

***UPDATE: When I tried this, I had not realized that the coals need to be on the CENTER PLATE, not on the bottom of the grill. That's why the pot didn't get hot enough and I had to add more coals.

***Nowhere in any manual or website is it made clear that you need to do this, so, learn from my experience.

For my first time using the volcano to cook in a camp oven with coals, I decided to "stick to what I know."

So what I made tonight is very similar to this recipe and this recipe, both of which I made a year ago.

It's also similar to this recipe, which I didn't actually make, but I submitted it to an online contest.

Cut up some shoulder roast*, and brown in butter.

*Actually, chuck roast is better. I should have used that.

Add fresh mushrooms, chopped onions, minced garlic, canned potatoes, canned carrots*, cream of mushroom soup diluted in milk, worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and bacon bits.

*You could use cut up fresh potatoes and carrots, but it will take longer to cook.

I previously mentioned that in a volcano stove, you use less coals than you normally would, and you don't use top heat unless you're baking*.

*Sorry, I disagree with the "no top heat" claim. I explain why later in this article.

Now, I was told that for the average dish, cooked in a 12 inch camp oven over medium heat, you need about 13 coals (for 350 degrees, all on bottom*.

*They need to be on the center plate, not the bottom of the grill. Otherwise it will not get hot enough.

But in order to brown your meat before adding the other ingredients, you need to start out with more coals on the bottom, and then remove them.

So I started with 16 coals. I quickly realized that I needed more*, so I added 9 for a total of 25.

*If the coals had been on the center plate, that might have been enough.

When the meat was browned, I added the remaining ingredients, then removed the coals until the number on the bottom was 13.

I don't know how 13 coals could ever equal 350 degrees; My infrared thermometer was reading 200. I could touch the lid without even using gloves!*

*Because the coals were on the bottom, instead of on the center plate.

I realize that number is subject to adjustment for altitude, but I live in Midland Texas, not on top of the Rocky Mountains*.

*It was because I put the coals on the bottom, instead of on the center plate.

So I put the original coals back, bringing the number back to 25. The thermometer averaged 250.

As the food appeared to be simmering well, I just left it alone, but I started another batch of coals anyway, in case some needed to be replaced.

If I were not using the volcano stove, then the number of coals needed would be 16 on top, 8 on bottom, for a total of 24.

I just checked it and added some Wondra flour to thicken. I'm going to let it simmer for a while longer and then take it off.

I ended up not needing that other batch of coals I lit, but it's always a good idea to have some on hand in case you need to replace coals that are burning out.

Usually it's easy to monitor the coals and swap them out as needed; In the volcano, you have to lift out the pot, which can be a hassle.

Frankly, I don't buy the "no top heat needed" claim, since you need more heat on top than on bottom for that "slow cook oven" effect.

It's impossible to have more heat on top, when there are no coals on top.

The recipe worked, but didn't have that special flavor that comes from a slow cooked oven.

So, if you're going to do this, put some coals on top anyway. Unfortunately, there's no information as to how many on top vs bottom*.

*Use about 90% less. Buy an infrared thermometer to monitor the temp.

This is definitely a "teach yourself" appliance.

Which is why I'm trying to compile some solid guidelines on my blog, based on my own experience, because there's just so very little information out there, outside of "hype".

Lipton onion soup mix would rock in this dish. And it's not to late to add it...

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