Product Reviews

Product Review: Italia Artisan Pizza Oven

Earlier this month, our Boy Scout Troop camped on Whidbey Island at Fort Ebey State Park. We were in a group site located on a bluff with amazing views of Port Townsend, Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Canada. Friday night, we had gale force wind gusts, which made it a bit challenging to get all the tents up, but we managed.

Saturday dawned bright and clear with only an occasional shower. It was a great weekend and I was cooking for the Scoutmasters, which is always fun. The menu included a few favorites like biscuits and gravy, and cornbread, but I also field-tested a couple of new recipes, so in the coming weeks I’ll have some winners to share. The menu also included personal pizzas for lunch on Saturday, thanks to one of our scoutmasters.

Recently, Mr. Weddle purchased an Italia Artisan Pizza Oven from Camp Chef. It’s a self contained unit that hooks up to a propane tank. It can run on a 1lb disposable propane bottle or a standard bulk propane tank. It puts out 17,000 BTUs and oven temperatures can reach upwards of 700°F. And, it only weighs 47 pounds so it was easy to move.

It was designed to replicate the performance of a wood-fired brick oven from its double walled construction and specially designed burners to its ventilation and cordierite ceramic pizza stone. I’d say Camp Chef nailed it. The pizzas came out great! We were all very impressed.

I have to preface this by saying, in the five years I have known him, Mr. Weddle has never cooked on a campout. So, it was so much fun to see him get all excited to use this pizza oven and he, literally, took over my camp kitchen and personally made pizzas for all 10 of us scoutmasters, including himself. And, yes, that is a little pink rolling pin in his hand in the picture below. It was a gift from his beautiful wife so he could roll out his mini pizzas.

He brought store-bought pizza dough and a couple different jars of pizza sauce. He brought a variety of meats and some shredded cheese. I provided more cheese and some vegetables because he doesn’t “do” vegetables. I’ve mentioned several times in previous blogs how I have to sneak them into whatever I am making. So, between the two of us and a couple of other scoutmasters, we had quite the variety of pizza toppings.

Mr. Weddle divided his dough and made personal-sized pizzas for each of us. He was able to bake two pizzas at a time, and they cooked pretty fast so it didn’t take long at all to make 10 pizzas. The dough was cooked, the toppings were hot, and the cheese was melted and gooey, just as it should be.

Because it was cold and windy, he did struggle a little with maintaining the air temperature inside the oven. As a result, the stone was a little hotter than it probably should have been. Some of the pizzas did get a wee bit black on the underside, but it didn’t affect the flavor too much.

Overall, I’d rule it a success and told Mr. Weddle his pizza oven was welcome in my camp kitchen any time!

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Categories: Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dangerous Equipment Lurking in Your Camp Kitchen—Cutting Boards

plastic-cutting-boards-600There are many hidden health dangers lurking in your camp kitchen—from the germy sponges to the moldy forgotten foods to the bacteria-laced cutting boards in your chuckbox.

Cutting boards can be a highly contentious topic. Although there is some debate on which types of cutting boards are better and more hygienic, plastic cutting boards are not the safest option, which is contrary to what a lot of people think.

After all the slicing and dicing work done on a plastic cutting board, you will inevitably see little cuts and nicks across the surface. Those plastic cracks and crevices just happen to be the perfect home for dangerous bacteria to live in.

Most folks think that with plastic, you can just wipe the bacteria right off, but actually things like E.coli and salmonella are going to stick to the plastic more so than wood or bamboo.

Another drawback is the plastic BPA factor. The bits of plastic that come from those small knife scratches have to go somewhere—and that somewhere is in the food you’re chopping.

If you’re a die-hard plastic cutting board fan or have a bunch that you’re just not ready to part with, you can clean your plastic cutting boards by running them through the dishwasher. Stains can be removed by soaking them in a solution of 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water for about an hour followed by a good scrubbing with soap and water. Scratches can be removed and/or smoothed out with a steel-wool scrubbing pad.


bamboo-cutting-boardSafe alternative: Bamboo and Wood

While any wood board is still better than plastic, the best wooden cutting boards are made from bamboo. Bamboo is 16% harder than maple wood, which is the most common wood used for most cutting boards, and it is 1/3 lighter in weight than oak, yet in some instances as strong as steel.

Bamboo and hard wood have natural antibacterial properties. Although the knife cuts on these boards still provide a place for bacteria to hide, once the bacteria goes down into the crevice they die off slowly.

Totally Bamboo is a highly recommended brand for bamboo boards. The company uses premium grade all natural bamboo and non-toxic formaldehyde free food grade glue to ensure the utmost safety to their consumers. And, for the seriously germ-o-phobic, they carry a line of dishwasher safe cutting boards so, if you’re concerned about bacteria, just run it through the dishwasher once in a while.

An extra bonus with bamboo: It is a 100% renewable resource. Whereas trees have to be re-planted and have a much longer maturation time, bamboo simply grows back and can be re-harvested every 4 ½ years making it a great choice for the eco-conscious as well.

Categories: Care & Maintenance, Cooking Outdoors, Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Product Review: Have You Never Been Mallow?

mini_marshmallowsFor those Lucky Charms fans who eat all the marshmallows out of the cereal—you know who you are—these jet-puffed “mallow” bits are for you!

This has got to be a must-stock item for my camp pantry! My son will demand that this is a must-stock item for our home pantry as well.

What a relief!  I won’t have to listen to the complaints at camp and at home that there are not enough mini marshmallows in the hot cocoa.

Now, I can stock my camp pantry with just one kind of hot cocoa and campers can add mallow bits as they wish.

I can’t count the number of times I have been planning a camping trip with a group and asked the highly controversial question: “Do you want hot cocoa with or without mini marshmallows?” Oh, the heated debate that ensues. This is the Mason-Dixon Line of camping! People either love them or hate them. It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys! To satisfy both camps, I have always had to stock both kinds and I inevitably run out of one kind and campers have to resort to the (shudder) other kind.

And, just think of all the other possibilities! You could add them to ice cream and brownies. These would melt super-fast if you were making Rice Krispies Treats. And, there has to be a s’mores application somehow. I’ll work on that.


Special thanks to my friend Amy for sharing this and her picture, and my apologies to Olivia Newton-John, who’s song title I corrupted for the title of this post.

Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Product Review: Dutch Oven Dome

dutch_oven_domeJust in time for last Christmas, Camp Chef came out with a Dutch Oven Dome. I went and took a look at it and immediately added it to my list for Santa. Christmas morning, Santa delivered!

I’ve been using the dome for nearly a year now and if your weather conditions are cold and/or windy, the dome is a definite game changer.

There are two ways to use it.

On a Camp Stove

If you don’t want to pack coals, don’t want the hassle of coals or can’t use coals because of a fire restriction, but still want to use your Dutch oven, you can still use it on a camp or backpacking stove with a Dutch Oven Dome and Heat Diffuser Plate. The plate sits on the stove burner. Your Dutch oven sits on the plate. The plate efficiently uses the heat from your stove and distributes it to your Dutch oven. The dome goes over your oven and traps, diverts, and circulates the heat creating a convection oven. (Please see photograph below.)


With Coals

Place your coals on top and bottom of your oven just like you normally would. Place the dome over the oven and not only does it circulate the heat but it also insulates the oven from inclement weather.

Field Test

Last March I was a facilitator for an outdoor training for Girl Scout leaders. We were feeding about 30+ women so I brought my 2 12-inch deep Dutch ovens. It was very cold and rainy with overnight temperatures below the freezing point and we were getting a cold breeze off the water the whole weekend. Saturday night for dinner and Sunday morning for breakfast, we loaded the two identical Dutch ovens with identical recipes and used the same amount of coals on each.

I only had the one dome (should have asked Santa for two) so I thought this would be a great opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison and I domed one oven each time. We pulled them at the same time and checked them. For both meals, the un-domed oven was slightly undercooked and actually had to bake a little longer. The domed oven was perfectly done both times.

How Cold is Too Cold?

Below what temperature do I need to use the dome to level the playing field? I’m still trying to figure that out. If it’s not cold enough and I dome my Dutch oven, then I can end up with a hotter oven and risk burning my food. However, here in the Northwest, we have a lot of cold, rainy, windy weather and I like my dome so much it only stays in the equipment box in summer.

The Dutch Oven Dome with Heat Diffuser Plate included retails on the Camp Chef website for $37.50. If you want just the Dutch Oven Dome without the Heat Diffuser Plate, that retails for $29.16.

This Christmas, I definitely need to ask Santa for a second dome!

Categories: Cooking Outdoors, Dutch Oven, Product Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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