A Dutch oven is one of the most versatile pieces of camp cooking equipment you can own. Sauté, steam, simmer, fry, and bake – if you can imagine it, you can make it in a Dutch oven.
When we first got our Dutch oven a few years back, it opened up a new world of camp cooking to us. Recipes that would have been impossible to make on a camp stove, all of a sudden became entirely do-able.
While it takes a little practice to get good at cooking in a Dutch oven over live coals or embers, the entire process is a lot of fun. There is a bit of experimentation when it comes to different heat levels, coal ratios, etc. But once you get the hang of it, you’re in for a treat.
If you’re new to Dutch oven cooking, we’ve got a short primer to get you started below. If you’re a well-seasoned pro looking for some new recipes to try out, you can skip to the recipes.
Certain Dutch ovens are made specifically for camping.
Unlike a home Dutch oven, which has a flat bottom and sealed in enamel, a camping Dutch oven is made entirely from cast iron, has support legs on the bottom, and comes with a flat flanged lid. Coals or embers can be placed underneath and on top of the lid, allowing you to heat from both sides.
Camping Dutch ovens also come in two different depths. Shallow Dutch ovens are the most versatile option and are best for baking, while deep Dutch ovens are best for making large amounts of soups, stews, or anything else with a lot of liquid.
↠ Lodge 10” 4 qt: This Dutch oven is the size and dimension as the one that we own. It’s relatively inexpensive, comes pre-seasoned, and is great for somebody just getting into Dutch oven cooking. Ideal for 2-4 people.
↠ Lodge 12” 8 qt (deep): This is a deeper and wider Dutch oven that is great for making larger quantities of soups and stews. Ideal for 6-8 people.
How to cook in a Dutch oven
There are lots of different ways to cook with a Dutch oven, but here are the most common.
For baking, you want to create an even ambient temperature inside the Dutch oven. (Similar to setting the temperature on your home oven) This is achieved by placing hot coals or embers underneath the Dutch oven and on top of the lid. Cast iron does a great job of radiating heat, so by heating from the top and the bottom, you evenly distribute the heat through the inside.
Due to the insulating properties of the ground, you will find you need proportionally much more heat coming from the top than from the bottom. So, you will want to have more coals on top of the lid than you will have underneath your Dutch oven.
You can also use a Dutch oven as a heavy-duty, fire-resistant pot and place it over a campfire. Since it’s made entirely from cast iron, there’s nothing that can melt or warp. You can even use it on a camp stove like a regular pot, provided that legs fit through the grate.
Like we said above, it’s super versatile! You can learn all about Dutch oven cooking in this primer.
Dutch oven accessories
↠ Chimney Starter: Ditch the lighter fluid! A charcoal chimney is a quick, natural way to get your coal lit. This collapsible version is great for camping because they lay flat and come in a carrying case.
↠ Lid Lifter: A lid lifter can be really handy. We own this 4-in-1 lid lifter from Lodge, which functions as a lid-lifter, bail hook, pot stand, and lid stand. It folds up and fits inside our 10” Dutch oven.
↠ Long Metal Tongs: If you’re using charcoal briquettes, a pair of long metal tongs will allow you to move and reposition them with ease.
↠ Heat Resistant Gloves: We’ve tried a lot of different welding mitts, and these heat resistant grill gloves are far superior.
↠ Tripod: If you frequently camp in areas that don’t provide grates over the campfire, you may want to pick up a tripod to hang your Dutch oven over the fire. This will allow you to adjust the height dial in the heat for a perfect low simmer.
↠ Liners or Parchment Paper: One of the secrets to easier Dutch oven baking is to use liners where possible. You can pick up single use, pre-cut liners, but we prefer to make them ourselves out of parchment paper.
If you’re looking to class up your camp menu, try these campfire steamed clams. We love to make this when we’re camping near the coast. The garlic and white wine sauce is perfect for dunking grilled bread in, too.
This is one of our more ambitious Dutch oven recipes, but there really is nothing as show-stopping as freshly baked pie in the woods! We’ll walk you through how to make this epic dessert at your campsite.
These enchiladas are pretty fool-proof and a great beginner recipe when you’re learning to use a Dutch oven. Veggies and beans rolled in tortillas, slathered in enchilada sauce and cheese… there’s really no way to go wrong with this meal!
If you’re looking for a great appetizer or side dish, this pull-apart cheesy garlic bread is super easy to make and is good for sharing with a group. All you need is a round loaf of bread, shredded cheese, olive oil or butter, and garlic (lots of garlic!).
If you’re not up to making a homemade pie on a camping trip, this apple cobbler is the next best thing. Juicy apples, under a buttery, biscuit topping spiked with cinnamon and sugar, this is the perfect end to any camping meal.
This lasagna is a great family-style meal. This easy vegetarian preparation is pretty low fuss and could be easily customized with different fillings. It’s a great recipe that takes advantage of the Dutch oven’s baking capabilities.
This West African-inspired Sweet Potato Peanut Stew is one of the most popular Dutch oven recipes on our blog, for good reason! It’s super satisfying and full of flavor. While it happens to be vegan, this is definitely a stick-to-your-ribs meal that is perfect for cooler nights.
This easy chili is as simple as opening five cans (black and kidney beans, tomatoes, chipotles, and beer) and chopping up an onion. It’s spicy, flavorful, and you don’t have to spend the whole evening cooking.
This Chicken Cacciatore from Family Spice is a camp-friendly take on a traditional Italian “hunter’s stew” using chicken thighs. It’s packed with mushrooms, olives, and basil, simmered in a tomato-wine sauce.
This “Mountain Man” breakfast is a classic casserole combining hash browns, sausage, eggs, and cheddar cheese. This recipe from Lodge is a great base to which you can add all sorts of extras (think, bacon, onions, chiles, mushrooms… go wild!).