Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at supper time. When you know how to make pizza in a Dutch oven, you can have pizza anytime – and anywhere!
Sitting around a campfire with some good friends and a cooler full of beer seems like the perfect occasion for pizza. (Is there really such a thing as a not good time for pizza?) However, unlike most grillable types of camping food like burgers, brats, or kebabs, pizza is not quite as intuitive to make at a campsite. If you want pizza out in the wild, you’ll need to get a little creative.
Now everyone knows you need an oven to bake a pizza, right? Except: you don’t! But only the most well-heeled RVers bring a traditional convection oven with them out into the woods. For the rest of us, there’s the far more practical and affordable Dutch oven option. This cast iron cooking vessel allows you to stack coals or embers underneath and on top of it, producing omnidirectional heat inside. The effect is very similar to an oven. Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years and are tremendously versatile. They are also perfect for making pizzas.
So on your next camping trip, take your camp chef skills to the next level by making Dutch oven pizza. We’ve outlined everything you need to know to get started below.
Dutch Oven– There are lots of different kinds of Dutch ovens, but you’ll need the type specifically designed for cooking on a campfire. A camping Dutch oven has legs on the bottom (so you can place coals underneath it) and a lid with a rim (so you can place coals on top of it). They come in all different sized diameters depending on how large you want your pizza.
Chimney Starter – While not necessary, a chimney starter can help get your charcoal briquettes ready to go faster. This one is pretty cool as it packs flat for easy storage!
Parchment Paper – The deep walls of a Dutch oven can often make it difficult to get a spatula inside to retrieve your pizza. Parchment paper not only gives you something to lift the pizza out with, but it also keeps your Dutch oven nice and clean. (So you can reload and make another pizza!) You can use a roll of parchment paper from the grocery store and cut the sheets to the right size, or Lodge sells circular sheets meant specifically for Dutch ovens.
Metal Skewers – We placed metal skewers underneath our lid to create a gap that allows steam to escape. If you like crispy, crunchy pizza, then steam is the enemy. You want the heat inside the Dutch oven to be as dry as possible. If the lid sits snuggly, then all the moisture released from the dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings gets trapped inside and will result in a wet, soggy pizza. So it’s important to create a small gap to allow for proper venting. You could also roll up some foil to create spacers if you don’t have metal skewers on hand.
Tongs – If you’re using coals as your heat source, you’re going to have to jockey them around with something. We have a pair of metal tongs that we use to shuttle the appropriate number of coals into position.
Heat Resistant Gloves / Lid Lifter – Once your Dutch oven is up to temperature, the whole thing is going to be extremely hot (including the lid). They make dedicated lid lifters so you can safely remove the lid, but we prefer to use heat resistant gloves. They are much more versatile and multifunctional that the standard cast iron lid lifter. (No gloves and no lid lifter? We’ve seen people lift the lid with the rip claw on the back of a metal hammer.)
Pizza Dough – Whether you’re a novice or an expert, you have a lot of options in pizza dough. The most basic approach is to buy a roll of Pillsbury pizza dough. Moving up from there many grocery stores sell pre-made dough (we get our dough from Trader Joe’s). And then for the true purist, you can also make your own pizza dough. Here is our favorite quick 30-minute pizza dough recipe.
Cornmeal – A little bit of cornmeal can go a long way to improving the crust of your pizza. Sprinkle a little bit down on the parchment paper before you place your rolled out down on it. Not only will the cornmeal give your crust a subtle crunch, but it will ensure your pizza doesn’t stick to the parchment paper.
Low Moisture Everything – We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again, you want to reduce the potential for steam as much as possible. Sauce is inherently, well… saucy, so your best bet is to use as little as you can get away with. As for the cheese, many grocery stores sell specifically labeled low-moisture mozzarella – both fresh and pre-shredded. And finally, you’ll want to steer clear of liquid packed toppings (like fresh zucchini). Below we have some creative pizza topping ideas for you to try if you’re bored of the basic pepperoni & cheese!
Dutch Oven Pizza Topping Ideas
Mozzarella + Mushrooms + Bell Peppers + Black Olives + Tomato Sauce
PREPARE YOUR COALS: Start by preparing your coals or charcoal briquettes. You’ll need about 30 for a 10” Dutch oven, or 33 for a 12” Dutch oven. Once the coals/briquettes are ready, preheat your Dutch oven to 450. For a 10” oven, place 10 coals under the oven and 20 on the lid. For a 12” oven, place 11 coals under the oven and 22 on the lid.
PREPARE THE DOUGH: In the meantime, roll out your dough. Dust a cutting board with flour and using a water bottle or bottle of wine (who brings a rolling pin camping?), roll the dough into a circle. Dust the cornmeal onto a piece of parchment and transfer the dough to the parchment paper. Dock the dough all over with a fork (this will prevent the dough from bubbling up while baking).
BAKE THE PIZZA: Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the coals and remove the lid. Place the pizza, parchment paper and all, into the Dutch oven, lay the spacers across the top, cover, and return to the bed of coals. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden.