As you can see from the picture to the left, my daughter is holding up a basic coffee can cooker that I made. Sure you can get fancy and make all kinds of modifications to suit your needs but the whole point of making them as simple as possible for homeless folks is so that they can make them without a garage full of tools or a lot of time! All you need is a sturdy can opener and a metal coffee can or even a large food industry metal can that will serve the same purpose. You just use the can opener to punch triangular holes evenly spaced around the top rim and down around the bottom for ventilation. You can then put charcoal, pinecones or whatever inside to burn as fuel so that you can cook or boil water over. If you have the $ and time and tools, you can also buy grill grate and cut to fit around the top and voila! You got a grill for one! Turn it upside down and cover the bottom surface with foil and you can bake a biscuit or what have you under another can with coals piled on top of it. A coffee can oven if you will!
I like to use coffee cans that have a lip on them like the second picture shows. It helps give a pot or frying pan an added surface to rest on and comes in handy when poking a sturdy stick in to lift it to move to another location or to dump out the ashes. If you can cook over a grill, you can cook over a coffee can cooker! Just before stopping to use free wifi, I stopped where some older homeless folks hang out and gave them a few of these babies because I knew they needed something to cook on even if it was just to boil some water, simple things that don’t exist when you are un-housed!
Here’s what an “oven” looks like:
As you can see, I put this oven on a park grill but normally I just carry 2 bricks around in the van to put the cooker on. I used a smaller family sized can of corn for my “oven” but it works great if you don’t mind baking one biscuit or a mini pie. A short fat can would give you more room to bake with but you get the idea. The coffee can cooker in this pic is a little different at the bottom because I cut a flap into the bottom so that I could slide a mini pie tin of coals into it. You can cook off the surface in this model but I primarily use this type for baking only.
Now that you know what a coffee can cooker looks like and how to make one, you can experiment on your own!
Just for fun, here’s a recipe for a basic “cobbler” I showed a bunch of kids how to make:
Freshly picked blackberries, about 2 fistfuls full
Some sugar or honey to taste
First preheat your coffee can cooker by filling a mini pie tin with a handful of hot charcoal briquets, about 4 ought to do it. Slide the tin of charcoal under the cooker while you prepare the cobbler.
I took some aluminum mini pie tins and used a non stick cooking spray before piling in the blackberrys. Sprinkle in some sweetener. Mix enough water with the pancake mix to make a soft biscuit dough. Drop 3 tablespoons of dough onto each cobbler then place on top of your preheated coffee can heater. Carefully place your “oven” over the pie tin, then place 3 or 4 coals on top of the “oven” and allow to bake for about 8 minutes. Gently lift the “oven” up and check on your pie. Let it cook a few minutes more until the pancake mix dough is nicely browned and you’re done!