Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tutorial re-post: How to Make a Cardboard Box Oven

We originally posted this tutorial in 2008, in the first couple of months after starting our blog.  It was really popular so we wanted to re-post it for all our new readers who haven't seen it yet.  It's one of my favorite tutorials and it's lots of fun, too!

Did you know that you can make a cardboard box into an oven that works just as well as your oven at home? You can! And with this type of oven, you never have to worry about what to eat when the electricity goes out.

You need:
1 cardboard box (for this method, it needs to have a slide-on top, like a box that holds reams of paper. See pictures)
matches (or a lighter)
aluminum foil
1 round aluminum pie plate (or anything to place your charcoals in)
3 wire hangers
scissors or a knife
whatever food you want to bake

Line the inside of your box and lid with aluminum foil. If you'd like, use a sponge and dab some Elmer's glue around the inside and cover to hold the foil in place (this is especially useful if you plan to keep your box oven, and not just make a new one in an emergency).
Once that's done, use some scissors or a knife to poke three holes in a straight line on each end of the box, about halfway down from the top. You'll see what these are for in just a minute.
Meanwhile, straighten out your three hangers.

Put the three straightened hangers through the holes. These will act as a shelf to place your food on (sorry if it's kind of hard to see the wires in the picture above!  It was so bright outside).

Next, bend your wires so that they will remain taut inside the oven. You don't want heavy food bending the wires and sitting directly on the charcoals.
This step might be kind of difficult, so you may want an extra pair of hands and some pliers.

It doesn't have to look pretty, it just has to work! Next, poke some other random holes in your box so that oxygen can get in and gases can get out.  Now, we actually did NOT poke extra holes in this particular oven, because by the time we finished making our wires taut, our three holes we poked in each side had become fairly large, so we figured they were enough. If your holes on the side remain small, use your knife or scissors and poke a few holes on the top of the box, and maybe one or two on each side.

Next, let's turn up the heat!
Place some charcoals in your round aluminum plate. Each charcoal briquette supplies 40 degrees of heat, so 9 briquettes will give us a 360 degree oven.

Light your briquettes with the matches or a lighter (it will probably take a few matches. Be sure that each briquette burns).

Let the briquettes burn for a while...

Until they look like this! Then you're ready to go.

With your tongs, pick up the hot plate of charcoal

And slide it carefully between your wire shelf onto the bottom of your box.

There! Use the tongs to straighten out the charcoals and spread them out a bit.
Meanwhile, put together whatever you want to bake (actually you should probably do this before you light your charcoal so that you don't waste the heat as you mix up your food). We're making an apple spice cake that my mother-in-law had in her pantry - just add water!

Place your food on the wire racks
And cover with your oven top (Note: this is not an advertisement for Office Max! :) ).
Now just set a timer like normal, or watch the clock. Note: If your recipe calls for a longer baking time (more than 45 minutes to an hour), you will probably have to switch out your charcoals around the 45-minute mark.

Do not use your oven on a wooden deck or on grass, or anything flammable. We are cooking in a concrete deck. Never use this oven indoors.
Time's up! Let's see how it looks:

And..... It's done! Carefully life the pan out of your oven (use hot pads!) and enjoy!

If your three-month supply consists solely of pantry items like we suggest, you truly can live comfortably with no electricity. Just prepare the (baking) recipes we've provided on our site, use this oven, and you're set! You can bake anything in this oven. My mother-in-law has even baked an entire turkey in one. Be creative! And don't forget, you can store this oven along with your food storage so you don't have to keep making one every time you need one.  Making a cardboard box oven would be a great family activity, or even something that your youth group could do.


Anonymous said...

You don't include holes near the bottom of the box to allow oxygen to the charcoal to keep it burning hot? I've made these while camping but always put a couple of finger sized holes.
Also, you can use a "Baking Bag" like those used for roasting chicken and such, to make a SMALL window in the side. Then you can keep a peek on what is cooking. Don't put it in the top, as this lets out too much heat.
On cold days, or to keep the heat longer for stews or baked beans, tuck an old quilt or some other insulation over the whole thing.

Becky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky said...

You know, I would think it would be most beneficial if we take the oven box and put it into another (bigger) box with some kind of insulations matter (packed straw, ash, dirt) to help maintain the heat to the center. I am going to try this.
Thanks a million for your photo tutorial.

The WoodLand School said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial! My family was inspired to make an oven of our very own!

One question - our cake tasted like charcoal ... I'm wondering if that's just the way the oven works, or if I didn't add enough air holes, or if it was a problem that I lit the coals in the box so I wouldn't have to move hot coals, or ... ???

Thanks again for taking the time to write up this post!

Hannah said...

Hi The WoodLand School-

Thanks for your comment and that's great that your family made the oven.

I really don't know anything about your cake tasting like charcoals. Perhaps you didn't have enough air holes, like you said? What kinds of charcoals did you use??

Do any other readers have any suggestions?

Candy said...

For girls camp we made similar ovens by turning them on their sides having a flap door (the way a real oven door opens) This way it was easier to change out the charcoal by just sliding it in under the food. It has been so long that I don't remember about air holes. We made cookies and they were fabulous!

Anonymous said...

For any baking time 45 minutes or less you could just place an empty pie tin in the oven before hand and use tongs to transfer the hot coals in. That way you don't have to 'carefully' anything, just drop the coals in.