There is just something about cooking over an open flame. When it comes to camping and outdoor cooking, one of my favorite activities (other than camp crafts) that we did in Girl Scouts was using a tin can stove to cook with a buddy burner. I couldn’t wait to try the activity with my own kids.
Whether you are looking for a camping activity to do with kids, or you are searching for a DIY emergency cooking stove, learning how to make a buddy burner and tin can stove can be a great family experience.
How to Make a Buddy Burner and Tin Can Stove
- corrugated cardboard (not printed with bright inks or coated)
- short, flat tuna can or pet food can
- candle wax, old crayons, or paraffin
- empty large metal coffee can (or other #10 can, like the large vegetable cans schools use)
- punch style bottle opener
- tin snips
- empty soup can (to melt wax in)
To make a buddy burner, cut your corrugated cardboard into long strips the same width of your tuna can. (We cut ours a bit too wide, causing it to stick out and our stove to get too hot.) Make sure to cut across the corrugation so the holes show on the sides. Roll your cardboard tightly and fit it into the tuna can.
Next, melt your wax. You can use a double boiler, or improvise by placing your wax in an empty soup can and then placing it in a pot of water on the stove. (Be sure to use tongs to remove the soup can, as it will be hot!) Carefully pour the melted wax over your cardboard, making sure it goes into corrugation holes. Allow the can to fill at least 1/2 way with wax.
To make your tin can stove, use your can opener to make punch marks approximately 2 inches apart, all around the bottom of your #10 can. Next, use your snips to make an opening on the other side of the can that is just big enough to slide your buddy burner through.
Cooking with a Buddy Burner
To cook with your buddy burner and tin can stove, simply light the buddy burner and slide your #10 can over it. You can cook directly on your large can, if you want, or you can use an empty tuna fish can or even a small skillet. If you choose to cook directly on the can top, spray it with a bit of cooking spray first to prevent food from sticking.
We made simple cheese quesadillas on ours by placing a tortilla on top, adding shredded cheese and folding the tortilla in half. Lightly brown each side, using a spatula to flip the quesadilla over half way through cooking. With a bit of salsa and sour cream on the side, they turned out pretty yummy. You can also use your camp stove to cook eggs (even egg in a basket), grilled cheese, pancakes, and more.
Caution: The can will get very hot. Children should be supervised at all times. Please consider the ages of your children; I would not attempt this with kids under 8.
When you are finished cooking, do not try to blow the buddy burner out. (The wind will make it flair up.) Using tongs or oven mitts, flip the #10 can upside down and use the flat end to smother the flame. You can re-use your buddy burner by adding more wax to it. (In fact, you can add pieces of wax to it while it is still burning, making sure it is ready for the next time you plan to use it.)
Making a buddy burner and tin can stove to cook quesadillas on with the kids brought back so many memories of my own scouting days. Not only was it fun, but they also learned how to make their own emergency stove, and had a chance to do some outdoor cooking, valuable lessons they will remember for years to come.
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