Tips for using Dutch Ovens While Camping

Dutch Oven on a campfire When camping, Dutch ovens are one of the best tools to use for preparing delicious meals. If you’ve never used a Dutch oven when camping before, you may be surprised at how useful one...

Dutch Oven on a campfire
Dutch Oven on a campfire

When camping, Dutch ovens are one of the best tools to use for preparing delicious meals. If you’ve never used a Dutch oven when camping before, you may be surprised at how useful one can be for cooking outdoors. To enjoy the maximum benefits, you’ll need to know a few “tricks of the trade” first.

Choosing a Dutch Oven

You’ll enjoy preparing delicious meals a whole lot more when you choose the right oven to begin with. Dutch ovens vary in size; however, most people find a 12-inch one is perfect for use while camping. The ideal oven will be high-quality cast iron with at least three sturdy legs to elevate it above the heat source. These legs should be at least one inch high and made from very thick metal.

The oven should also contain heavy bail wire that is securely attached to either side of the kettle. Check to make sure the areas where the wire is attached are actually extensions of the kettle rather than separate pieces that are riveted on.

Orange enamel dutch oven
Orange enamel dutch oven

Check the lid carefully to see that it:

  • Fits tightly
  • Is concave on the bottom
  • Has a hollow area underneath the handle that will allow you to slide a lid lifter underneath it
  • Contains a rim around the edges that will prevent ashes from getting into your food

Cooking with your Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens will ideally be used with charcoal, although some are also perfect for cooking over an open fire with. To better control the amount of heat, use what is known as a charcoal chimney, sometimes called a charcoal starter. Charcoal chimneys can be purchased in camping supply stores rather inexpensively.

Fill the chimney with charcoal, using around twice as many briquettes as the diameter of your lid. Next, use kindling or newspaper to help get the fire going. After about 20 minutes, the charcoal briquettes will turn a grayish color, meaning they are now ready for cooking. You may now place your Dutch oven on top of the coals.

Rule of Three

You’ll need to heat your food evenly on the top and bottom, which means you must divide your coals. A good rule of thumb is the “rule of three”, which states you should have more coals on the top than you do on the bottom. Take the diameter of your lid and subtract three from it. This is the number of coals needed for the bottom. Add three to the diameter, and this is the number of coals you should place on top. For example, if you are cooking with a 12-inch lid, you would place 15 coals on top and 9 on the bottom.

For best results, arrange the coals evenly on the top and bottom. Every 15 minutes, you should rotate the oven and lid a quarter turn to prevent your food from becoming burnt in certain areas or developing “hot spots.” The oven and lid should be rotated separately from one another.

Cooking your Food

Once you have arrived at this stage, all that’s needed is for you to simply allow your food to cook. The interior temperature of your Dutch oven should be between 325 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit at this point, so you can adjust your cooking time accordingly. Most recipes will require around 30 minutes or so to cook, but others may take longer, particularly if you are using a bigger oven.

That’s really all there is to campfire cooking with a Dutch oven. Experiment often, and you will be surprised at the number of delicious dishes you are able to create. To find the right Dutch oven for your next camping trip, please feel free to contact us.