How to Build Your Own Earth Oven, Plus Earth Oven Recipes

Use an outdoor earth oven to cook mouthwateringly delicious meals without an oven, without electricity, without a flame of any kind, and without effort.


| July/August 1978



Pit1

Choose a brush-free site for your pit.


PHOTO: RICHARD AND BECKY JOHNSON

Have you ever stopped to think what you'd do if — for one reason or another — electricity and natural gas suddenly became unavailable (or intolerably expensive?) Right away, of course, you'd have to learn new, non energy-intensive ways of performing old duties (cooking, washing, and so on.) And in all probability, the "new ways" you'd adopt would actually be ancient, primitive techniques that have served humankind well for thousands of years.

For instance, our family — for many seasons — has been using a "primitive" ovenless baking procedure; a procedure that requires only a few handfuls of kindling to cook an entire meal. I'm talking, of course, about the "steaming pit," or earth oven method of cookery that Native Americans (and other peoples around the world) have been using successfully for more than 10,000 years.

(Note: Click on Image Gallery link above for more illustrations and details about learning how to build your own earth oven.)

How an Earth Oven Works

The earth oven cooking technique involves little more than the slow, even release of heat (from fire-scorched rocks, or — sometimes — coals) within a sealed (underground) enclosure to cook food. Victuals prepared by this method are cooked slowly and evenly, and — as a result — the food's natural juices and flavors are sealed in rather than driven out. Also, since no combustion occurs during the actual cooking process, there is no danger of the vittles being burned.

Make Your Own Earth Oven

Step one in constructing an earth oven: Select an area free of dry brush and other fire hazards, and dig a hole measuring 2 feet wide by 3 feet long by 1 foot deep. Try to keep the pit's walls fairly vertical, and pile the excavated dirt as near the hole as possible without allowing it to fall back in. (You'll need the dirt later.)

Next, line both the pit's bottom and sides with fairly flat rocks... (Round stones can be used if necessary . . . the only problem is that they take up more room in the pit than flat ones do. Consequently, you may want to enlarge your "oven" a bit if you end up using oddly shaped rocks.) Whatever you do, don't use stones from a stream bed: Such rocks tend (because of the moisture that's trapped inside them) to explode when they're subjected to extreme heat.





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