Buddy Burners or Coffee Can Camp Stoves
How To - Fun
When I was a Brownie Scout, I was quite impressed when we made our own individual camp cook stoves. I won’t even say how many years ago that was, but that camp project has stuck with me all these years.
There are two main parts to the cook stove. There’s the buddy burner which is the heat source and then the actual stove which is a one gallon coffee can.
We made our buddy burners and camp stove cans before we went to camp. I suppose they could be made at camp, but it’s easier to have them made, packed and ready.
First, we made buddy burners.
• 1 small tuna can (or chicken etc)
• corrugated cardboard
• paraffin (candle wax)
Cut the top completely off the washed tuna can. Generally, you’ve done this when you made tuna or chicken salad anyway.
Cut a long strip of corrugated cardboard (the kind where you can see air holes). This strip should be the same width as the tuna can or just slightly more narrow.
Roll the cardboard up like a spiral or coiled snake. You should be able to look down into the air holes when the cardboard is wound up.
The cardboard should be rolled and fit to take up as much room as possible in the tuna can.
Melt the paraffin in a double boiler over low heat. Add small amounts at a time and let it slowly melt. If you have the heat too high, the paraffin can catch on fire. If it does catch on fire, stick a lid on the pan – quick.
Pour the hot paraffin wax in the tuna cans over the cardboard. It leaks in and around the cardboard. Fill to the edge or just below the edge of the can. This hardens up and will not slosh out. Just let them sit and firm up.
You can add a wick, but you don’t have to. The cardboard basically acts as the wick. If you want to add wicks to the cans, then do that will the wax is still warm – for obvious reasons.
You now have the heat source and need to make the stove. Think of the stove as a flat topped teepee to set over the buddy burner.
Coffee Can Camp Stove
• 1 gallon coffee can (can use smaller but needs to be pretty good sized)
Cut the top (or bottom) out of the coffee can. The cut side will be the bottom of the stove. Remember the teepee idea. The uncut side will be the top and cooking surface. Yes. You can see this in your head.
If you stick a closed can over your heat source (the buddy burner), then it will smother your fire. So, you need to cut a flap or door out from the bottom (the open end of the can). Make two cuts about 3 or 4 inches high and about 4 inches apart. This makes the flap. You don’t want to cut horizontally, or you don’t have any control on the heat. This little flap which is attached at the top will flip (or curl) up and down. It is the heat control. Wide open means a hotter cooking temperature. Close it some to slow things down.
When You’re Ready to Cook on Your Camp Stove
You want to put your buddy burner where it will not catch anything on fire. It does get hot. We usually put it on concrete. You can also buy metal plates to go under buddy burners.
Light the buddy burner. If you have a wick, then light the wick. If not, just catch some of the cardboard on fire.
Another cool trick for lighting the buddy burner or if you do not have matches or lighters is to use steel wool. Put the steel wood on top of the buddy burner. Take a battery. Place it on the steel wool with the bottom of the battery touching the steel wool (which is sitting right on the buddy burner). Pull some steel wool up and around and rub the top of the battery (the little bump). This will produce sparks and will get the buddy burner burning.
Place the camp stove over the buddy burner. Have the flap open to start with.
You can adjust later if you need or want to.
Let the teepee stove heat up. If it has a finish, then use an old cloth to wipe it down once it’s hot.
The flat top of the can is your frying pan basically. You can cook anything on top of the can that you would cook in a frying pan on the stove at home (within reason of course).
One favorite recipe on coffee can camp stoves is Sunshine Eggs. They are also called Toads in a Hole.
Sunshine Eggs (or Toad in a Hole)
• 1 slice bread (with hole cut in center)
• 1 egg
• salt pepper
Cut a hole about 2 inches around out of the center of your piece of bread.
Butter the bread frame and also the little round hole that you cut out. You can butter first and then cut out the hole. It’s a little messier to do it that way.
Put the bread frame on the camp stove top. Break an egg in the hole in the bread.
Add salt and pepper.
Let cook. Flip. Cook the other side.
Stick the little round bread hole that you cut out on the stove and let it brown too. It makes an extra little piece of toast to go with the Toad in a Hole.
There are loads of recipes that work on top of a coffee can stove powered by the buddy burner. Be creative and have fun.
When You're Done
When you’re done cooking, use a piece of tin foil to cover the top of the buddy burner. This puts out the fire. The buddy burner will cook for a couple of hours, so it can be used for more than one meal. It’s generally not suggested to use the same coffee can. Some of the stuff used to meld the can together is considered to be “not good” for reuse. It’s also kind of hard to clean up the coffee can stoves.
Be Safe - Always
Obviously this is a project where adults need to supervise. Kids can get cut on raw metal and also can get burned. But, with good safety precautions, this is a project that kids really enjoy. I always remember my “first time” and also the other memories made cooking food on coffee cans stoves.