The Prairie Schooner isn’t going to have a full kitchen. It isn’t even going to have a partial galley… Installing those items, changes the insurance and parking requirements of a van and makes it an RV. Those two bills would defeat our goal of über-frugal living.
That said, we have to be able to cook our own food, or we will be forced to spend too much on fast food and restaurants and eating out. That would be contrary to über-frugal living goal, also.
Camp stoves are handy, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, heat sources, capacities, and price tags… As you can imagine, as deep as your pockets go, there will be a product to fit the budget! But we have a small budget for procuring a cooking method that will fit our needs for versatility and simple cooking.
We are a soups, baked beans, red beans and rice, baked fish with lemon, biscuits and cornbread kinda couple. We bake a lot. (I would so miss my little toaster oven!) We simmer and sauté and slow cook. Slow food, is the best food! So, we decided on a medium-sized dual-burner camp stove that has a big oven… The Camp Chef Oven.
It runs on either green Coleman bottles of gas (2 for $6, WalMart) or propane with an adapter and hose. Other reviews state that a green bottle will run the oven for 5-7 hours! That should be do-able, in the frugal budget. We haven’t approached finishing one bottle, so we will have to get back with you on the longevity in Real Life usage conditions.
For our test, we decided to make a breakfast casserole the other day. You know the one — potatoe shreds, cheese, usually a meat, and egg. We didn’t have any sausage or bacon, but we did have some sad little mushrooms that were no longer salad-worthy…
We started out by (gasp!) reading the Owner’s Manual. The oven is very straight forward. Self-igniter, with an installed battery from the factory. Turn dials, with a
positive depression-click to the ignition setting. It is sturdily built, feeling solid and stable. The burners are well made and look like they should last a good long time, with proper care. It is heavy, probably a good 25-30 pounds, and it is relatively large at 18″ tall (before raising the wind breaks for the burners) and a footprint of 21″ X 12″. The dials are variable, but the adjustments are not as “graduated” as a home gas stove is – it’s a camp stove, but you CAN finesse them.
Install the gas bottle, let the air burp out of the line, and IGNITION! Quick and simple. If you choose to not use the electronic ignition, the oven has a sight hole that will allow a long necked lighter through…;)
We played around with it for a while before we cooked our dish.
I have a 20-year old oven thermometer that has been in four stoves… I know he is accurate to about 5 degrees. So, we popped him in the oven before we started.
We lit the oven, and cranked it up to High. It took about 10 minutes to hit 300, around 15 minutes we hit 400. The thermometer that is built in, indicted (consistently) 75 degrees hotter than it really had attained. I will need to see if I can adjust the internal temperature gauge, or if my old thermometer will be traveling with us. The oven continued climbing, on High, but it had already hit the highest temp we will use (cornbread at 425), so we moved on.
We then played around with the dial to see if we were able to attain and maintain a steady 350 by only using the flame size. (As opposed to having to crack the door to let out heat, or increase the flame to increase heat.) With very little effort, we could hold a steady temperature. This is looking promising!
Beware: The exterior get extremely hot! Do NOT place anything delicate near it. Watch those forearms, too!
Then, we popped the 6-cup Pyrex dish in the oven. It wasn’t fridge-cold, but it also wasn’t room temperature, either. It was chilled. Initially, the door opened and cool food inserted, dropped the temperature significantly. But it quickly rebounded and resumed the 350F.
Over the course of 35 minutes of cooking, it only climbed by about 10 degrees above our preferred target temp. Were we to cook something much longer, I would have cracked the door to release some heat to maintain the correct range of heat.
At 35 minutes, it was sufficiently bubbly, and we turned off the heat and removed the test casserole. it was just as done on the back side, as it was near the door – consistent temp from front to back. It was cooked just as well as it would have in the toaster oven or the big oven, and in the same amount of time.
We served it up, and sat back to enjoy our meal, pleased with the fact that we would be able to cook any foods we want in the Prairie Schooner!
A simple two-burner Coleman stove looks to be about $80, where our Camp Chef Two Burner Stove with Oven was $200! In my opinion, being able to vary your meals to include lasagna, biscuits, baked fish, etc. will be well worth the additional price tag.
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