Baking Without an Oven

The art of cooking and baking using an oven was invented as early as the discovery of fire. Back then, our foremothers would dig pits, place hot pieces of charcoal in the pit, cover the charcoal with ash and place vegetables on top of the ash. They would then cover the vegetable with hot ash before covering the pit with soil. It is therefore not unusual that my father (currently in his 70’s) speaks of his culinary experiences as a child as having indulged in foods that had been baked in ash the whole night or the whole day.

The most amazing thing is that even renowned chefs still use that method of cooking or baking. Ben Shewry from Chef’s Table (Season 1, Episode 5) uses this method of cooking when he makes food for the parents and children from the basketball team he coaches.

Over time, ovens have evolved from fire pits and wood burning stoves to modern day gas and electric ovens. Though not everyone is able to get one or has space to keep one. 

This article shares 2 ingenious ways of cooking pizza and baking cakes without using a conventional oven.

The ‘3 Stones’ Method

I am not sure who came up with this method of cooking and I first came across it on a Facebook group that I am a member of.

The beauty of this method is that it is simple and it requires items readily available around most homesteads in Kenya. It mimics how the conventional oven works by concentrating heat in a chamber for even cooking. The benefits of using this method is that heat can be regulated by opening the jiko (charcoal burner) door if using one, or reducing the fire if using other sources of heat.

All you need is:

  • Three medium stones of similar size
  • A source of heat such as a jiko (charcoal burner), stove or a table-top gas cooker
  • A large sufuria (pot)
  • A lid
  • A smaller sufuria for cakes or a pan/sufuria lid for pizza.

How to set it up:

  • Switch on/light up your source of heat
  • Place the larger sufuria on top of the source of heat
  • Arrange the three stones inside the large sufuria in the shape of a triangle and allow heat for 20 min
  • Place what you’d like to bake/cook on top of the three stones (if you’ve made your cake batter, place it in the smaller sufuria then place the smaller sufuria on the three stones. If you’re making pizza, place the pizza on a smaller pan or on a sufuria lid then place that on top of the three stones)
  • Cover the larger sufuria with a lid and allow to cook and check your food after 20 min for doneness.
2. The ‘Hot Sand’ method

I remember the first time I baked. I think I was 12 years and it had bothered me that our conventional oven wasn’t working and no one was bothered to repair it. I was adamant about baking a cake. I had heard of a method of baking where one would use a jiko and sand. I wanted to try it out immediately and that is how I got to try out this method of baking. I asked a cousin who happened to be a chef at the time to share a chocolate cake recipe and even though the cake came out slightly burnt it was quite decadent and the moment was such an exhilarating experience that is forever entrenched in my mind! For a first time baker, that was such an accomplishment! I think this experience helped me touch base with the creative baker in me.

All you need for this baking method is:

  • A source of heat
  • A large sufuria
  • Sand
  • A smaller sufuria
  • 2 sufuria lids the size of the two sufurias

How to set it up:

  • Switch on/light up your source of heat
  • Place the larger sufuria on top of your source of heat
  • Place the sand inside the sufuria and allow the sand to heat for 20 minutes
  • After 20 minutes, remove half the sand and place the smaller sufuria with the cake batter (or whatever you’d like to bake)
  • Cover the smaller sufuria with a lid and pour the sand on the sides of the smaller sufuria
  • Cover the larger sufuria with the larger lid and place hot ash/hot coal
  • Check after 20 minutes for doneness.

You can now bake and enjoy all the dishes you’ve desired to prepare without having to use an oven.

Bon Appetit!

This article was first published on 11th April, 2018

One Comment Add yours

  1. Geri Lawhon says:

    I have what was call dinner on the rocks. It was a stone that was heated in the oven that you would then cook on at your table small strips of meat or fish. It also included three or four dipping sauces. It was very enjoyable and tasty.


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