How to Make a Traditional Indigenous Earth Oven – Australia Day

Australia day earth oven

Want to try something different this Australia Day? Why not get your friends round for a feast of beef and veggies cooked in a traditional indigenous earth oven?! This cooking process takes a bit of time and some preparation… but trust us, it’s worth it. Not just for the unique experience, but also for the amazing smokey flavour that this oven will bring to your food. An earth oven steams, roasts and barbeques food all at once, and the results are worthy of a fine restaurant.

An earth oven, also referred to as a Kup Murri, is a common method of cooking in Indigenous and Islander tribes. There are numerous methods for making earth ovens, but the steps we are giving you are from Mipela Kitchen, which is a great website full of homestyle indigenous Australian cooking recipes.

Although you can cook any meat in an earth oven, we recommend that you cook beef (it would be blasphemy for us to recommend anything else!). Simply get your favourite roasting cut from you butcher as well as some hearty roasting vegetables like potato, sweet potato, onion, parsnips, pumpkin and beetroot, and you’re set to go.

Want to go the full Australian? Why not marinate your beef with some native Australian spices?

Making the Oven

You will need:

  • 2 x 10kg bags of wood (or equivalent)
  • Kindling, newspaper and matches to start the fire
  • 10-15 rockmelon sized stones
  • Hessian sheets or 2-3 old towels
  • Aluminum foil
  • Meat and vegetables of your choice!
  • Shovel

What to do:

Step 1. Check your council’s fire restrictions!

The first thing you need to do is check your council’s fire restrictions – if you live in a fire-prone area, your council may not permit backyard fires.

Step 2. Decide where you want to make your earth oven

Find an area in your backyard where you’d like to build your fire pit. Be careful when picking a space, since you won’t want any potential hazards around that you can set alight. Stay as far away from overhanging trees and unwanted debris as possible, and don’t place the oven too close to your house or verandah!

Step 3. Get digging!

Dig a hole that is about 30cm deep and 1 metre in diameter. If you don’t want to damage your grass, remove it carefully with the soil and roots intact, keep it moist and then return it when you’re finished.

Step 4.  Place stones neatly in the bottom of the hole.

Step 5. Put all kindling and wood on top of the stone.

Step 6. Light the fire.

Step 7. Let the fire burn down – make sure to supervise.

Step 8. Prepare your food.

While the wood is burning down, you need to get your food ready – i.e. season your meat and veggies and then wrap them in aluminium foil! Make sure to check on the fire often, to make sure that it is breaking down nicely. Once the fire has broken down (been reduced to ashes and charcoal instead of flames), you can move onto the next steps.

Step 9. Wet the towels/hessian cloths for step 11.

Step 10. Put the food into the pit.

Place the wrapped food on the hot coals and stones. There should not be flames while you are doing this!

Step 11. Cover the pit and food with the wet materials.

Place the wet towels/hessian cloths over the food and coals, making sure that everything is covered.

Step 12. Pile on the dirt you removed from the hole.

Once you are sure that your food and fire pit are covered by the wet materials, slowly pile the dirt on top – start around the outside and pile the dirt on towards the middle. Try to make sure that no steam escapes.

Step 13. Leave your food cooking in the ground for 4 hours!

Step 14. When time’s up, retrieve your food!

When time is up, retrieve your food by removing all the dirt from the towels and then carefully pulling them back to reveal your food. Be very careful as you do this, as the materials and food will be very hot!

Step 15. Unwrap the food, serve and enjoy!

And there you have it! A unique and rustic method of cooking beef and vegetables that acknowledges the traditional owners of Australian land. What better way is there to celebrate Australia Day?!