Hobo Stove Cooking

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt
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Many years ago — OK, decades ago — I took a group of 8-year-old Brownie Girl Scouts on a day outing. The goal was to successfully hike a couple of miles, discover something new in nature and cook our own lunches. Eight-year-olds, you say? Yup! And each of the girls did successfully cook and then eat her own lunch.

Ah – one other parameter — we couldn’t cook with wood as there wasn’t any available where we were hiking in the Eastern Washington drylands. So, we chose to cook on tin-can stoves (click on the link to see how to make a tin-can stove) we had made during our regular meeting the week before. Each girl and leader carried her stove and the fuel necessary to fix lunch. I’m sure many of you have used these handy stoves. The fuel consisted of a tuna can with a tight roll of corrugated cardboard inside. After the cardboard was inserted in the can, we put a birthday candle in the middle, just the height of the cardboard, then carefully poured melted paraffin into the can up to the top of the cardboard. When ready to cook, we placed the little can under the tin-can stove and lit the candle.

At lunch time, we set all of the stoves on the gravel, in a line, two arm lengths from its neighbor. Each girl put her little tuna-can burner under the stove and one of the leaders lit it. Within a minute or so, the top of the stove was hot enough to cook on. We made eggs in a hole! First each girl put about a teaspoon of butter on the stove top – it melted quickly. Then, a slice of bread with an egg-sized hole in the middle was put onto the butter and an egg was broken into the hole. It took just a couple of minutes for one side to be cooked. Then we flipped the bread and egg onto another teaspoon of melted butter. Within five minutes, most of the lunches were cooked and ready to eat.

The best part of the whole process was each girl was responsible for the success of her own lunch and therefore had a strong incentive to pay close attention.

I’ve cooked many times on a tin can stove since then – a few burned meals when I wasn’t attentive, but mostly quick, tasty food after a day’s outing. Have you cooked on a tin-can stove? Share your best meal experience in the comments section below.