Every style of camping has it’s own equipment. The backpack you take on a 12 day trek isn’t the same as the one you take car camping with your friends. That goes for stoves too. We reviewed the Jetboil Flash Lite cooking system, and for the trail? It’s awesome. But if you are cooking for a group of 8, you’d need 3-4 more minimum. Enter, the Camp Chef Deluxe Outdoor Oven.
Camp Chef has been making outdoor stoves for more than 20 years. What started as a goal in 1990 to build a better outdoor stove, turned into a company that can cook your dinner on the trail, or your back patio. Recently, they let busted wallet try out their signature camping oven and here is what we discovered.
What’s in the Box
- Two 7,500 BTU brass range burners
- One 3,000 BTU oven burner (Up to 400° F)
- 4 hour run time, on high, from a 1lb propane tank
- 7 hour holding 350 degrees from a 1lb propane tank
- 400 degree maximum temp in the oven
- Inside Oven Dimensions: 11″ L x 16″ W x 9″ H
- Full Dimensions: 12.5″ L x 21″ W x 18″ H
- Weight 32 lbs
- One Year Warranty
The Camp Chef Deluxe Camping Oven is a 32 lb rectangle of purpose and utility. It’s a solid 2 burner stove with an oven underneath. The 2 burners on top are smooth brass and easy to clean. The top of the cooking surface is enamel and wipes up quickly, the pan rest that covers the burners is also enamel coated, is removable and easy to clean.
The controls for the burners and the oven are on the front, have electric ignition, and have plenty of adjustment, not just on and off. The fold down top provides adequate wind protection for the flame and is high enough to protect the cooking vessels. The windscreen folds into the top and closes with a magnet, but is subject to warping a bit. It doesn’t always sit level, but does an o.k. job. I think it would benefit from some sort of clasp or locking mechanism. It hasn’t caused me any huge problems, it isn’t like you would lay this stove down or turn it over, but it was sometimes noticeable.
The inside of the stove has 2 racks and 3 rack locations that seem to be spaced well. It is much larger inside than you might expect given the dimensions of the box. While not the size of a home oven, I easily found cookie sheets and muffin tins at a dollar store that fit it. I store them in the oven along with hot pads when not in use. It easily accommodates a 9×12 glass pan (or a frozen pizza).
The stove has two carry handles that are sturdy and stay cool enough to move the stove while still hot after use. Otherwise it is mostly smooth on the outside, so it packs well in my vehicle for transport. The front oven door is glass and has three positions, closed, venting and open. The oven door handle is covered with a padded sleeve to prevent burns when in use.
The oven could benefit from some sort of leveling feet. It’s one thing to be cooking on a stove top that isn’t completely level, a fried egg never sits in the middle of the pan, but your oven needs a tighter tolerance in my opinion, I made some brownies on what I thought was a level ‘enough’ surface that simply wasn’t. This ends up affecting not only cooking time, but quality. The brownie mixture shifted to one side of the pan and half were dry while half were under-cooked. For later meals I shimmed the oven more level before beginning. Take your time to set the stove up right before you start.
Ease of use:
I’ve used a few different styles of oven while camping, I find this the easiest and most consistent to use. I’ve used a fold up oven that sits on a burner, but those have really uneven heating top to bottom AND they lose heat quickly in wind and cold, if they ever reach temp to begin with. Dutch ovens are big but I personally have a hard time determining temp with charcoal, much less maintaining it over longer cook times. Call me a heretic, but I’d trade in a dutch oven for this. It has one 3,000 btu burner, which sounds tiny and under-powered, but it’s inside an insulated box. The burner is more than enough to bring the oven up to temp on a cold day. Remember though, it isn’t just the air in the oven you need to heat, it is the food you put in it, muffins are easy, fill the oven with a casserole dish filled with meat and potatoes and this oven still keeps up.
Over several uses the strengths and weaknesses were self evident. While easier than charcoal, it doesn’t mean unattended cooking. This isn’t the same oven at home, the burner is set with a knob, not a thermostat. I found checking the thermometer every 10-15 minutes to be sufficient to make adjustments and maintain the target temperature. This isn’t the end of the world, you’ll make small adjustments from time to time, but you can’t just set it and forget it. This stove is a champ for 300-400 degrees, it would be nice to hold a lower temp, but the insulation works so well that it is a bit harder to do so.
Starting the burners is just like any other stove with electric ignition, push in the knob and slowly turn until you hear a click and it lights. The oven is a bit trickier, especially on a cold morning. It’s more like a pilot on an old garage furnace, you’ve got to hold it in, turn until it clicks, look through the peep hole to see that it is on, and then I suggest you wait, holding the knob in for another 10 seconds. I found that when you first light it, it has a tendency to go out easily. I don’t know why this is, but it was easily over come. The peep hole to look through is at a funny angle and it would be nicer if there was an easier way to see the burner. Stove top is a good size. You can fit a pan that can do a full pound of bacon (yes, that’s my personal measure of if a stove is big enough or not) and heat a full pot of water at the same time. When the bacon is done, pop it in the oven to keep it warm then use the burner for pancakes or eggs. Or both.
Let’s start here: It’s 32 lbs. This isn’t for backpacking. It’s for car camping and for groups. It’s as portable as a large 2 burner stove, but more versatile because of the oven. But it is useful beyond camping. Take it to your back yard and cook outside with it in the summer. Take it on a picnic. Got a cabin in the woods? Add this to your Christmas list. You can’t use it indoors, but you can use it outside on a porch. It’s compact enough to take in at night and store, and put back out when you need an oven.
There is no contest in my mind when it comes to group camping, this is the stove I want with me. I’m group camping this coming weekend and this will be the first piece of equipment in the van. Why? Because it is going to be cold out and the oven is multi-purpose. Cook your bacon in the oven while you cook eggs on top. Or, cook eggs and bacon in the oven at the same time in muffin cups (did I mention I’m a bit addicted to pinterest?). OR cook the bacon on top of the stove, then kick the oven on for a bit and shut it back off, BOOM you’ve got yourself a warming oven now to keep food hot until you are done frying eggs. Lunch? How about lunch AND dinner at the same time? We’ll throw a roast and potatoes in the oven all day after breakfast, and still have two burners on top to cook lunch or heat water with. We might even do cinnamon rolls one of the mornings. Why? Because why not?
Let’s not forget Tailgating. You better believe that next time I celebrate before a game this oven is coming with me. Pizza rolls, wings, fries, and anything else I can think of. So while this might not score high on ‘portability’ I think it makes up for it in versatility.
At $303 it might seem steep, but I think you’ll find after one weekend that it’s worth it. That’s why even though there are improvements that could be made, like a thermostat, and leveling feet, when you boil it down, this thing is just awesome. The main kind of camping that my friends and I do has a car parked 10 feet away. I’ve seen it as low as $206 with free shipping on Amazon and at that price it is a no-brainer.
You’ve spent a lot of money to go camping, you might as well enjoy the time outside. It makes your job cooking easier. It’s the simplicity of slow-cooker/dutch oven style cooking, without the hassle of charcoal. It keeps food warm in the oven so everyone can eat together, or when they each person is ready on their own. It cleans up easy, it lights well, it stores well (and you can store things in it during transport).
- Well insulated.
- Efficient gas usage.
- Cooks lots of food at once.
- Needs leveling feet
- Thermostatic control would be awesome