Dutch Ovens: 5 steps to better camp cooking

Dutch Oven

The Dutch Oven will transform your camping experience.  If you are outside with the family, you all will be burning calories, even more so if it’s cool. Living off burnt sausages and burgers for more than a day is not the answer.   With a Dutch Oven you can get a good warm meal with all the nutrients to refuel the family, preventing some of those “tired and irritable” moments.

1. Dutch Oven: What is it?

A Dutch Oven is a large cast-iron pot.  Simple.  But, like most simple things, it is really effective.

It is very easy to cook with, and as you can get heat to the food from above and below, it works as an oven, enabling you to stew, boil, fry, bake and roast.

Watch our video that explains how it works:

2. Seasoning your Dutch Oven

Before starting out with your dutch oven you need to season it.   This is puts a non-stick coating around your oven, protecting the metal from rust, and making it easier to clean up when on camp.

  • If new, clean your dutch oven (the only time you do this with water and detergent), and dry it – you don’t want water getting to the cast iron.
  • Smear a thin layer of unflavoured vegetable fat all over.  Inside, outside, lid, legs, handle – everywhere.
  • Put it on your BBQ.  You need to cook the fat into the iron to give it the non-stick coating.
    You can do this in your oven, but this process smells, so I recommend you do this outside.
  • Repeat at least twice to ensure all the oven was covered.  Do it more if you can as that will give the oven greater protection and it will be easier to clean on site.

You may need to repeat this process (except the first step) at the start of each season.

3. Cooking

Cook with charcoal briquettes.  These give a lot more control over the temperature as they are a uniform size (unlike lump wood), and give a relatively consistent heat (compared to a fire).

You don’t necessarily need many, for example, five below and a few on top may be enough for a stew.   The more you add the hotter the oven.

You will need to get a supply of briquettes to replace those that burn out.  You can place new briquettes next to ones that are still hot, or alternatively, get some started by placing them around the edge of the fire.

To start the initial batch of briquettes off you can use a briquette starter.

We typically use our Dutch Oven with our tripod (click here to see our tripod setup).

Follow this guide to position the briquettes for different types of cooking:

  • Baking: More heat from top so bottom doesn’t burn.
    3/4 coals on top; 1/4 underneath.
  • Roasting: Heat comes from both top and bottom.
    1/2 coals on top; 1/2 coals underneath.
  • Stewing and simmering: Most heat from bottom.
    1/4 coals on top; 3/4 coals underneath.
  • Frying and boiling: All the coals underneath.

To avoid heat spots, which can cause food to burn, rotate the oven about every 10 minutes.   Twist the oven about 1/3 of the way around (lift it, twist it, and place a leg where the previous leg had been).  If you have coals on top, twist the lid in the opposite direction.

I also recommend you get some Hot Gloves, a pastry brush for sweeping ash away from the lid before you open it, and a Lid Lifter or suitable hook to lift the lid off without touching it (and it also keeps the coals balanced on there without them falling off!).   You should also find something to place the lid down on so it remains upright but not get covered in mud or grass.  We use the griddle from our portable BBQ, since that is not in use when we have the oven on it.

Our Dutch Oven plus BBQ set up

4. Cleaning

After serving up the meal, start the cleaning process.  This sounds a lot of work but it really isn’t.

  • Remove all food.  Any burnt on food gently scrape away with a wooden spoon.  Do not use a metal spoon as that will remove the seasoning.
  • With the oven cool, add a few inches of water.
    Never add cold water to a hot oven as it will crack the metal.
    I recommend leaving your oven to cool and warm some water in the kettle (doesn’t need to be boiling).
  • Place the lid back on the oven and warm it up.   Since the oven is seasoned, this process will pull the food way from the oven’s sides.
  • Try and get the above going before you eat (it only takes a moment)… then enjoy your food.
  • Once full (you, not the oven), remove from heat and let cool.  Then discard the dirty water and rinse out with warm water.   The oven should be clean.  If not, repeat.
  • Dry the oven, then place on a low heat, over the fire, or next to the fire, with the lid slightly off.  This will remove any remaining moisture within the pores of the iron.
  • Finally, before packing it away, use a paper towel and smear unflavoured vegetable oil over the oven to give it a bit more protection.  Wipe off any excess.

Never use soap.  Detergent will remove your seasoning.

5. Get one

As with most things, you can get Dutch Ovens and related equipment from Amazon.

You can get Dutch Ovens in a number of different sizes (and you can stack them on top of one another too if you need to cook more things with the same set of coals).


Dutch Oven Camp Recipe Favorites

Try these Dutch Oven favourites.

Cooking should be relaxed and simple.  Chop an onion, thrown in some spuds, add a tin of beans, and have a beer…

Obviously safety around hot things and campfires must be understood by kids, but helping cook in a dutch oven is something they will enjoy.

Cowboy Stew

A favorite of “Stinky Pete” I guess. You don’t have to stick to the recipe exactly for it to work.

Follow our step-by-step guide to this really simple recipe.

Breakfast

When waking up on a cold damp morning, getting the fire going and a warm breakfast is just what’s needed – something you can’t do if you are mainly camping off BBQs.

  • 1lb Sausages (Quorn ones work well as well)
  • Frozen Hash Browns
  • 12 Eggs (yes, a lot)
  • 1/2 lb Cheddar Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

Grate cheese.

Preheat Dutch Oven with coals underneath.

Cut or tear sausages into little pieces and put in oven.  Stir until sausage is cooked (or just heated through if using precooked sausages).

Add the hash browns.  Stir and fry until hash browns are browned.

Remove from coals.  Mix eggs and pour over the top of the sausage and potato base.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cover Dutch Oven and add coals to the lid to cook the eggs from above.

When eggs are cooked, sprinkle cheese, cover and cook for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Pizza Casserole

This is a creative meal.

  • 2 packs of rolls
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Jar of pizza sauce
  • Mince

Grate the cheese (or slice mozzarella).

Brown the mince in Dutch Oven then remove.  Let the oven cool.

Line the bottom of the oven with 1 pack of rolls – can use sliced bread if rolls are not available.

Spread pizza sauce over rolls.  Add mince.  Add cheese.  Add the remaining pack of rolls to the top.  Bake (i.e. most of the coals on top) for 30-40 minutes.

More Dutch Oven Recipes

We’ve got a whole section dedicated to Dutch Oven Recipes.

Click here to view more tried and tested Dutch Oven recipes.

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Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

32 Comments
  1. Dear Gav, the Dutch oven really seems to be a multitalent at the campsite! We only started our camping adventures last year and are still in the process of assembling all our gear. What brand of Dutch oven do you recommend? We are a Family of max. 4, what size should we go with?
    I would really appreciate your advice.
    Thanks in advance and greetings from cold Hamburg/Germany
    Neva & Family

  2. […] control for cooking. Depending on the cooking method (frying, baking etc.), you’ll need to distribute the briquettes differently if you are going to get the food cooked right every time. Also, the number of briquettes you need […]

  3. […] But one of the big changes to how we cook is when we got a Dutch Oven. […]

  4. […] If you want to do a lot of campfire cooking for your family, I recommend you get a Dutch Oven (see our article on how to use a Dutch Oven for more info). […]

  5. […] heat water, but it’s hardly going to cook Christmas dinner. No, it would have to be my trusty Dutch Oven, where you can even roast […]

  6. […] I mentioned before, we also have the trailer “box” that has tent, chairs, dutch oven, fire grill and tripod, charcoal & wood, charcoal starter, tarps, […]

  7. […] meals are advisable. This doesn’t mean burnt sausages on a disposable BBQ either.  We use a Dutch Oven, which can cook up up plenty of warm […]

  8. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  9. […] Getting something like this enables you to have a small fire off the ground, cook over it, or use it as a BBQ. It also works well as a good place to cook food in a Dutch Oven. […]

  10. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  11. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  12. […] I like camping too. I therefore really like cooking around the campfire, usually with my Dutch Oven. […]

  13. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  14. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  15. […] and a really easy recipe to make at the campsite if you have a Dutch Oven (see our guide to cooking with a Dutch Oven if you’ve not used one […]

  16. […] The curry is really easy to cook in a Dutch Oven. […]

  17. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  18. […] Camping ✫ Getting Started with Campfire Cooking ✫ Camp Cooking Posts ✫ Camping Recipes ✫ Gas Camping Stove Guide ✫ Dutch Oven Guide […]

  19. […] supply a fire pit with kotlich and dutch oven. If you want to move the pit to a different part of the meadow to be by the swings/dens etc then […]

  20. […] of food, and don’t worry about the diet too much. A nice warm stew with dumplings cooked in a Dutch Oven should keep you going. You could also make some Bannock over the fire to go with it (use wholemeal […]

  21. […] smaller charcoal chimney is actually ideal for cooking with Dutch Ovens, as you don’t need as many coals, but we did find it does enough coals to BBQ as well. […]

  22. […] Alternatives include the trusty BBQ, cooking over a fire, and using a Dutch Oven. […]

  23. […] As you know, when we go camping we like to have a campfire. We often cook things up in our Dutch Oven. […]

  24. […] BTW, if this has whetted your appetite for a real camping experience, check out how to improve your camp food with our guide getting started with a Dutch Oven. […]

  25. […] chilli cooks in our Dutch Oven (see our guide to Dutch Oven cooking for more info). This can either cook with the lid on, with the pot down in the fire embers or over […]

  26. These are expensive but wonderful!

  27. […] do like to cook when camping, usually cooking something in the Dutch Oven.  This means we eat well and have something a bit more adventurous than burnt burgers cooked on a […]

  28. […] This book is full of recipes that kids can do, generally by cooking in an used tin can, but also covers cooking in a paper bag, in leaves, and even making toast on hot rocks.  It even gets into cooking with a Dutch Oven. […]

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