A reflector oven is a type of cooking supply designed to be placed in front of a heat source so it can capture the emanating heat and cook any food that has been placed within its enclosure. Most designs for a reflector oven appear as a box or cylinder that has one side open, with the remaining sides angled toward the back of the oven so the heat is directed around the food. A rack or shelf usually is mounted in the center of the oven so food has a level place on which to sit in the center, surrounded by the walls on all but one side. Although there are models designed to be used in a home with a fireplace, many models are portable for camping or hiking and can be folded flat when not in use. Cooking with a reflector oven requires trial and error to determine exactly how far from the heat source it must be placed and great caution in doing so, because the surface of the oven can become incredibly hot.
When in use, a reflector oven relies on the radiant heat from a fire or other heat source to cook food. The heat given off by a fire can be captured by the oven and then reflected at an angle down toward the food that is resting in the center of the oven. The cooking effect is almost identical to baking in a traditional kitchen oven, although the level of heat can be much harder to control. The material from which the reflector oven is made can be aluminum, steel or tin and must be able to withstand high levels of heat without melting.
The fire or heat source that is used with a reflector oven must be able to provide consistent radiant heat for the duration of the cooking time. Certain types of fires are unable to do this or will burn too low to create enough heat for the oven to capture. The placement of the reflector oven also is important, with the most effective range being from 1 to 2 feet (from 30 to 60 centimeters) from the fire. If the oven is placed too close to the fire, then the rack and walls will act like a frying pan and sear the food; at too far of a distance, the heat will dissipate before being captured. Even with optimal placement and construction, a reflector oven can regularly have temperature variations of as much as 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) over the course of cooking.