Perhaps you love to cook at home and delight in expanding your culinary expertise. If you’re an avid camper or outdoors person, the perfect marriage between these two interests may be dutch oven cooking. Beginners find it relatively accessible, while more experienced foodies can tackle more advanced meals. The sky is the limit when it comes to dutch oven cooking. To take this step into creating mouth-watering food in the outdoors, you’ll need a good dutch oven. As luck would have it, you’ve come to the right place, and we are here to help you find the best campfire dutch oven for camping!
What is a Dutch Oven?
Simply put, a dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking iron pot with a tight-fitting lid. Usually, dutch ovens are made of cast iron, although you may find some aluminum or ceramic variations. They are well-suited for long, slow cooking.
The name “dutch oven” comes from a casting process developed by Abraham Darby. The English made traditional cookware from brass, which was expensive. Abraham visited the Netherlands, studied the Dutch method of casting brass in moldings made of sand, and later started his own brass mill in Bristol. However, he eventually realized he could make more cookware inexpensively by using a cheaper metal. He began experimenting with a way to make cookware out of cast iron using the sand casting method of the Dutch. Working with Welshman James Thomas, one of his workers, they figured out how to make cast iron cookware and, thus, the Dutch oven was born.
This versatile piece of outdoor cooking equipment has been in use for hundreds of years. In fact, Lewis and Clark carried a dutch oven on their great exploration of the American Northwest. For centuries, settlers, cattlemen, explorers, fur traders, colonists, and mountain men have used dutch ovens to cook.
Types of Dutch Ovens
There are a few different types of dutch ovens, and which you use will depend on how you’re cooking. Dutch ovens may be made of various materials depending on the type you use. For example, stainless steel dutch oven vs cast iron will have different applications. Ceramic dutch ovens are best for indoors, while cast iron is more popular and practical for camping. We’ll go over each here, although the remainder of this article will focus on the best campfire dutch oven.
Campfire Dutch Oven
When people hear “dutch oven,” these are likely what comes to mind. A camping dutch oven is typically a pot with three legs, a handle, and a concave, rimmed lid for holding coals. This design provides uniform heat distribution, allowing the device to be used as an “oven.” Occasionally, these don’t have legs and can be used on a stove, stand, or strategically placed on stones.
We believe that the best dutch oven for camping is cast iron. Some dutch ovens contain metals such as aluminum which is a lighter weight material.
Enameled Dutch Ovens
Although enameled dutch ovens are available in cast iron they are best used as home dutch ovens vs outdoors in a fire pit. Enameled dutch ovens have temperature limitations and are not recommended for use over an open fire for good reason. If you plan on cooking with higher temperatures over a flame best to go with a non-enameled dutch oven.
This is an Australian derivative of the dutch oven but made of stainless steel. It has a similar shape and functionally as the camping dutch oven. The Bedourie Oven is typically lighter than cast iron making it a good dutch oven like option for backpackers and those traveling with pack horses.
The name means “pottle, or little pot” and comes with a rounded bottom. These little pots are usually cast iron, have a bail handle and three short legs. It, too, has a recessed lid with a rim for holding coals. The Potjie looks similar to a cauldron.
This pot is popular in Russia and surrounding areas. Use with a modern or traditional oven, hearth, or open fire. It has a narrow top and bottom and a wider middle and has no handles. There are several different sizes available for preparing a variety of meals for the entire family.
Roasting Pan vs Dutch Oven
To use a roasting pan or dutch oven is often a debate when cooking indoors. While it doesn’t really apply to camping, we wanted to address it briefly because it’s a popular topic. People often ask, “can I use a roasting pan instead of a dutch oven?” If you’re cooking inside with a kitchen oven or stove, then the answer is yes, you can.
There are a few differences between the two, but both allow you to roast and cook meat and other food.
They each come in different shapes, from rectangular to oval and round. Depending on what you’re cooking, one may be better than the other. Depth and size are also critical factors. For example, if you’re cooking a large turkey for large groups, a large roasting pan may be your best bet, while a round dutch oven may suffice for a smaller cut of meat or a few chicken breasts and a small group.
One thing is sure, though. For camping, you’ll likely never use a roasting pan unless you’re getting creative or being innovative. If that’s the case, we’d love to hear all about it!
Best Campfire Dutch Oven Basics
Dutch oven cooking can be a lot of fun, but there are some nuances to how you use and care for your cookware. First, let’s talk about how to season a dutch oven.
How to Season Cast Iron Dutch Oven
The term “seasoning” always comes up when talking about cast iron. What it doesn’t mean is sprinkling spices all over your cookware. This terminology can be confusing, but it’s a pretty simple concept once you understand it.
Seasoning means rubbing cooking oil all over the cast iron to fill in the porous iron and create a nonstick surface. Many oils can be used for seasoning a dutch oven. Some common oils include vegetable oil and flaxseed oil. Pick an oil with a relatively high smoke point is best.
You can also buy spray oils made by cast iron companies. These are usually made with canola oil and allow for an even spray. Then, wipe down the cast iron with a paper towel for a consistent coating and put it away until subsequent use.
Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron
Some cast-iron cookware comes pre-seasoned, but if it doesn’t, you’ll need to do this before using it. Also, some come coated in wax to prevent rusting, and you’ll need to remove it before use. To do so, put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven, set it to 400 degrees, and set your dutch oven on the rack upside down until the wax melts out. Then rub the oil evenly with a paper towel and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.
While you can cook most foods in cast iron, you should avoid acidic foods like tomatoes until your oven is well-seasoned. These foods can leach a metallic taste (and iron) into your food.
And now you know how to cure a cast-iron dutch oven!
How to Clean Cast Iron
Cleaning cast iron is not all that challenging. It’s somewhat like cleaning any other pot or griddle. Always use warm water to avoid cracking or warping your cast iron. Use gentle scrubbing as not to scratch the cast iron.
Always hand wash your dutch oven, but do not use citrus or high acidity soaps. A mild soap should be ok, although some people avoid soap altogether. Immediately dry your cast iron to prevent rust, then rub oil on it.
And remember, some people elect to never “wash” their cast iron!
What Size Dutch Oven Do I Need?
If you want to camp and cook with your dutch oven, you’re probably asking what the best size dutch oven for camping is. Valid question, and of course, there is no one-size-fits-all.
Most recipes use a 12-inch depth dutch oven. A 12-inch classic dutch oven has a capacity of 6 quarts, or 24 cups, and feeds 12-14 campers. You can adjust your recipe as necessary and make less. The best size dutch oven for camping is dependent mainly on how many people you’re feeding.
Dutch Oven Size, Capacity and Servings
|Classic Dutch Oven||Capacity||Serves|
|16-Inch Dutch Oven||12 Quarts or 48 Cups||20+ Campers|
|14-Inch Dutch Oven||8 Quarts or 32 Cups||16-20 Campers|
|12-Inch Dutch Oven||6 Quarts or 24 Cups||12-14 Campers|
|10-Inch Dutch Oven||4 Quarts or 16 Cups||4-8 Campers|
|8-Inch Dutch Oven||2 Quarts or 8 Cups||2-4 Campers|
|5-inch Dutch Oven||1 Pint / 2 Cups||1-2 Campers|
|Deep Dutch Oven||Capacity||Serves|
|14-Inch Deep Dutch Oven||10 Quarts or 40 Cups||20+ Campers|
|12-Inch Deep Dutch Oven||8 Quarts or 32 Cups||16-20 Campers|
|10-Inch Deep Dutch Oven||5 Quarts or 20 Cups||8-10 Campers|
Bigger dutch ovens will also weigh more, so consider that. You don’t want something you can’t even lift! Cast iron is heavy as it is.
Also, consider what you’ll be making. There are classic 12″ dutch ovens and deep 12″ dutch ovens. A deep dutch oven is better for soups, stews, chili, pots of spaghetti, and the like. It prevents splashing and allows plenty of room for stirring.
It’s nearly impossible to bake anything in a deep dutch oven without burning the bottom. The heat source is too far from the top, and it takes longer for a consistent bake. Therefore, the best size dutch oven for bread or other baked goods will be a shallow dutch oven.
So, what is the best size camp oven? It depends entirely on how you plan to use it and for the number of campers you will be cooking for.
Best Cast Iron Dutch Oven for Camping
While there are many dutch ovens on the market, some brands stand the test of time. We think the best camping dutch oven is a Lodge dutch oven. It’s a brand synonymous with cast iron, has an excellent reputation, and has been made in the U.S.A. for over 120 years.
Lodge Camp Dutch Oven
With over 4,000 ratings on Amazon with an average rating of 4.8, the Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven is hands down the best campfire dutch oven. It comes in multiple sizes, including 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 quarts, so you can choose one (or many) to suit the number of people you’re cooking for!
If you want to do dutch oven cooking with charcoal, this is an excellent high-quality dutch oven. The flanged, rimmed lid holds briquets perfectly to allow for an even heat distribution from the top. This design makes it one of the best dutch ovens for bread, as we talked about before. The other cool thing is the flat lid can be inverted and used as a cast iron griddle!
This dutch oven has three legs for setting over hot coals or an open flame. All Lodge cast iron comes pre-seasoned from the factory with soy-based vegetable oil. And Lodge includes a dutch oven cookbook with purchase so you can get started right away!
Camp Chef Dutch Oven
Another great dutch oven is the Camp Chef Dutch Oven. This dutch oven is a 12-inch, 8 quart dutch oven with a built in thermometer notch. The Camp Chef has a flanged lid which is convenient for placing and holding coals on top of the dutch oven.
Best Aluminum Dutch Oven for Camping
Less commonly used are aluminum dutch ovens, simply because cast iron is popular. However, cast iron is heavy. Therefore, if you want to take a dutch oven into the backcountry, where weight typically matters, you’ll want to look towards lighter options. That’s where the GSI Outdoors Aluminum Dutch Oven comes in!
GSI is another reputable outdoor brand that makes high-quality goods, and this lightweight dutch oven is no exception. It comes in two sizes: a 10-inch (2 quart) weighs 3 pounds, and a 12-inch (5 quart) weighs 6 pounds. The 12-inch has three legs, but the 10-inch doesn’t. So, if you buy them both, they nest nicely.
You season these as you would with cast iron, using oil and heating them to begin. This helps create a nonstick surface. As with cast iron options, the lid on this aluminum version has a rim at the top of the lid, perfect for holding coals to heat the inside evenly as well as maintain heat retention. Set it over coals and add some to the top, and you’re ready to cook all sorts of delicious culinary goodies in the backcountry.
Reviewers find this an excellent substitute for heavier cast-iron if you’re looking for a lighter weight, more packable option.
2 in 1 Best Campfire Dutch Oven
Overmont Camp Dutch Oven
The Overmont 2 in 1 Dutch Oven with Skillet Lid is a popular dutch oven. This dutch oven is two cast iron cooking items in one package. The lid to this dutch Oven is also a convenient skillet. The Overmont camp dutch oven is a 5 quart dutch oven with a domed cover. Great for cooking roasts or even non-knead bread.
Best Dutch Oven Accessories
You might want to consider a few items for use with your dutch oven. While there aren’t really any specific dutch oven utensils, and many will work, there are some other things specific to dutch ovens that will make life much easier.
Dutch Oven Lid Lifter
A good lid lifter is also necessary. A dutch oven lid can be scalding (it is, after all, covered in hot coals), so having a way to remove the top to check the food inside is critical. As we’ve said, we like Lodge, so we believe the Lodge Lid Lifter is a good purchase. It’s heavy-duty with a comfortable grip and will fit the lid on your new Lodge dutch oven nicely!
Dutch Oven Liners
Dutch oven cooking can be messy. Luckily, several solutions make cleanup much more manageable, including liners. There are both aluminum and paper liners, but we like the Lodge 12-Inch Aluminum Foil Dutch Oven Liners. These disposable aluminum liners come in a 12-pack or 3-pack and work in 10″ or 12″ ovens. These are strong and won’t fall apart, and you can even lift food out of the dutch oven in them.
Dutch Oven Scrubbing Pad
The Lodge Scrubbing Pad is made of stainless steel and silicone. This scrubbing pad is durable and will help scrub away the toughest caked on food from your dutch oven without disturbing the seasoning.
Dutch Oven Pan Scrapers
Handheld Polycarbonate scrapers from Lodge. These Lodge Pan Scrapers quickly scrape out the inside of your cast iron dutch oven for easy cleaning.
Dutch Oven Tote
Although dutch ovens are a great outdoor cooking option they can sometimes be a little heavy and awkward to carry around. Add in a convenient Dutch Oven Carrying Tote and make the job of carrying your dutch oven to your campfire a little easier. Made using durable, weather resistant materials.
Best Dutch Oven Camping Recipes
If you’re new to dutch oven cooking, it is a great idea to load up on the best dutch oven recipes for camping. Because this isn’t a recipe post, we want to give you some of our favorite dutch oven cookbooks so you can get started right away. So, what recipe will you make first with your best campfire dutch oven?
Lodge Book of Dutch Oven Cooking
The Lodge Book of Dutch Oven Cooking – We couldn’t suggest a Lodge dutch oven without including their recipe book. Of course, if you buy one of their dutch ovens, it will be included, but if you already have a dutch oven, then throw this in your cart immediately! Lodge is the cast iron and dutch oven expert, so these thirty-four recipes will have something for everyone. Therefore, there is a meal for all occasions from meat to vegetables to desserts.
Camp Dutch Oven Cookbook
The Camp Dutch Oven Cookbook: Easy 5-Ingredient Recipes to Eat Well in the Great Outdoors – Of course, if you’re reading this post, you likely want to take your dutch oven camping on your next camping trip. That is why this is a must-have in your cookbook arsenal! As the title indicates, all recipes use five ingredients, making this book handy for cooking camp food. Add these ingredients to your camping trip food checklist. It also provides plenty of guidance for cooking outdoors, including prepping and cleaning. And it gives good directions for beginners, such as how many coals to put on top to reach certain low, medium and high temperatures.
Complete Cast Iron Cookbook
The Complete Cast Iron Cookbook: A Tantalizing Collection of Over 240 Recipes for Your Cast-Iron Cookware – While we recognize this is about cast iron cooking, not just dutch oven cooking, we still think it’s worth your while, especially if you’re new to cooking with cast iron. Not only does it come with over 300 recipes, but it also has tips and tricks for caring for your cast-iron, which is critical. Best of all, this book has something for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or have been cooking with cast iron for years!
Final Thoughts On The Best Campfire Dutch Oven
If you like cooking and camping, then it’s likely you’ve made it this far. Dutch oven cooking is a great way to marry the love of the outdoors with creating incredible culinary delights. We’ve given you a lot of information about dutch oven cooking and hope it gives you the motivation to get a dutch oven and get started.
We believe Lodge makes the best dutch oven for camping, and you can’t go wrong with any of their products. With proper care, you indeed will have a Lodge dutch oven for a long time and will be able to pass it down to the next generations. Therefore, don’t be afraid to buy more than one!
With all the right equipment, your family and friends will look forward to their time in the outdoors with you since you’ll be keeping them well-fed. They may even help with the cleanup!