Wood-Fired Cooker

(Updated 1/12/2008)

This versatile cooker is used for canning, roasting and baking. It is made from a 55 gallon steel barrel, a water bath canner and some rebar. It is fueled with twigs and small pieces of deadwood sustainably gathered from mesquite trees near our homestead.


Cooker is covered when not in use

Configuration for baking


The cooker is constructed by cutting a door in the side of the barrel using a jig saw with a metal cutting blade. The saw is also used to cut both ends out of the barrel. One of the ends becomes the fire pan by drilling about 1/2" air holes into it.


Fire pan

Door hinge detail


1/2" diameter holes are also drilled into the side of the barrel. A couple of 3' long pieces of 3/8" rebar are put through these holes to support the fire pan. A couple more pieces of rebar are used to support the canner, which serves as the oven box. Note the offset hinges, which are necessary to allow the door to hinge past the reinforcing bulge on the side of the barrel.


The barrel is supported on 3 rocks to allow air for combustion to enter from the bottom.

A small fire is built on the fire pan and more wood is fed as needed. When cooking is finished and the fire has gone out, the fire pan is tipped up on one side to dump the ashes into the bottom of the barrel. Periodically, when enough ashes accumulate, the barrel is set aside and the ashes are shoveled out.


Another view ready for baking



To use the oven for baking, rebar is passed through the 1st (lowest) set of holes in the barrel to support the fire pan and through the 2nd set of holes to support the canner which serves as the oven chamber. The rack for holding the canning jars is turned upside down to serve as a stand to keep the baked food up off the bottom of the canner. A couple pieces of aluminum foil are placed in the bottom of the canner to prevent burning the bottom of the food.

For water bath canning, the setup is the same as for baking except that the canning jar rack is in the normal position.


Roasting tomatoes for salsa.


Roasting chiles for salsa.

For roasting or grilling, the rebar is put through the 3rd set of holes (from the bottom) to support the fire pan and a grate of expanded-steel lath is placed on top of the barrel.


Pearl's Mesquite Roasted Salsa Recipe:

--Core 4-5 tomatoes, but leave skins on.
--Remove papery peel from 1/2 large onion.
--Roast these plus jalapenos to taste over a mesquite fire. An actual flame is good, in order to sizzle the skins of all ingredients.
--Remove heavily charred areas, if any, and process in blender or food processor to the consistency desired--chunky or smooth.
--Squeeze 2-3 large cloves garlic through a garlic press into this mixture and salt to taste. 
--For long-term storage, freeze or pressure can.      

Recommended reading:

Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer

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