How To Use A Dutch Oven For Camping & Cooking Outdoors

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How To Use A Dutch Oven For Camping

A dutch oven lends itself well to camping. It’s the ideal “everything” pot. You can make entire meals in one easy pan and they are really easy to clean up afterward as well. But learning how to use a Dutch Oven for camping purposes can be a tricky situation for first timers.

Even tho this heavy duty piece of cook ware has been in existence for hundreds of years, some folks unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure of having a camp fire cooked meal courtesy of the famous dutch oven. But this is all about to change. Once you learn the cooking techniques required to cook up a hearty camping dish from the comfort of your campsite, there will be no stopping you. In no time you will have random members from nearby campsites flocking to your outdoors kitchen for feed they will never forget.

Start With A Quality Piece Of Cast Iron

Typically made of cast iron, the dutch oven can sit directly in the fire or on coals. It won’t damage the pan in any way, in fact, it will gently age it to perfection.I wouldn’t recommend taking enamel coated aluminum dutch ovens camping as they are not suited to outdoor cooking. They can chip and fall apart very easily and also are not good heat distributors. When cooking on vacation, access to a electric oven is not possible, so ensuring you have the best camp cookware is critical to success.

Benefits of Dutch Oven Cooking Outdoors

A dutch oven can be used as a stove when camping. You can literally cook anything in them. From breads to cakes to soups and stews, you’re sure to find many great uses for this pan.

It’s the ideal must have pan to take camping. As an added bonus, the handle on a cast iron dutch oven can be used to hang it over the campfire. This pan is invaluable when camping. If you’re a seasoned camper you’ll want to own one for your camping and one for home.

The dutch oven was designed to be a one pot meal pan. You can cook over an open fire pit or place the pan directly into the fire. You can fry, bake, roast, stew or even bake with it.

You’ll see them used in old westerns. You’ll see them used by other campers. They are thick and readily absorb the heat and will retain it evenly over the foods that are being prepared.

How To Cook With A Dutch Oven For CampingSeasoning a new Dutch Oven

Now that you understand a bit of the background of your dutch oven. Let’s learn how to properly use it.

When you first get your dutch oven you’re going to have to season it just like you do any other cast iron pan. To do this you’ll heat it up and then put some oil in it. Rub this around and keep heating your pan until it begins to darken and absorb the oil. Never wash your dutch oven with soap, use only plain water otherwise you’ll have to re-season the pan.

The very best of the best cast iron dutch ovens come pre- seasoned which takes the hassle out of preparing it for a camping trip. Once the dutch oven is seasoned (like any piece of cast iron should be) food will be easy to remove from your pan each and every time.

The Dutch Oven Setup For Campsites

There are two ways in which you can set up the dutch oven for cooking. Both ways have there advantages and disadvantages. So one day you may go with in ground, while the next meal maybe a better choice for above ground.

1.The Tripod Method


This method of cooking is the easiest and quickest to set up, but has more draw backs in my opinion. A camping tripod specifically designed for hanging a dutch oven over a campfire is the easy way. Most of us know how to build a campfire, so putting one of these tripods with our dinner in the dutch oven over the flame is easy work.

Note: For this cooking method, your dutch oven needs to have a bail handle where the center is obscured slightly to allow for hanging purposes. The handle of the oven needs to connect to the tripod in order to hang.

While a tripod is very convenient and easy to set up, it has the draw back of un-even heat. While cast iron is extremely good at distributing heat, when it’s in direct contact to a burning hot flame on it’s bottom. Bad things can happen. Burning in particular. So I don’t find this method of cooking with a dutch oven and tripod the best for dishes like: baking foods like bread, cakes etc because these types of food need evenly distributed heat for the yeast to react with heat.

However, the tripod method words wonders for dishes that aren’t so dependent on even heat. Such dishes like stews, soups, curries, sauces etc which can be easily stirred to prevent the bottom from burning.

2.In The Ground Cooking Technique

How To Cook With A Dutch Oven For Camping
Boiling Soup Over Coals

This is the more reliable and better method in my opinion. This is a cooking method which requires hot coals or briquettes to heat the dutch oven to the recommended temperature of 350º. There are a couple ways in which you can cook using this method. One is in the ground and the other is on top of a Dutch Oven table.

Using a specific table for this purpose has the benefits of ease on your back and not needing to make a mess of the earth. While it is an extra expense, its still worth every cent if you plan on cooking with a dutch oven while camping.

The other method of using coals/briquettes in the ground can give a better baking environment. To do this you just need to dig a small hole, big enough to fit the dutch oven and a layer over coals under and around the dutch oven.

I’s best to use a high quality briquette like the John Wayne Briquette Charcoal over coal that’s from a left over fire. This is because you will get even burning temperatures and even lasting heat from a briquette over random bits of coal.

Place evenly sized briquettes around the base of the hole leaving about 1 inch gap between pieces. Place the dutch oven on top and layer a few around the side and on top of the dutch oven. By doing this you are creating a oven like situation and will have a much more even cooking temperature. As a guide, I typically allow 2 briquettes per inch. So if you have a 12 inch dutch oven, 24 briquettes would cover the job. Usually 10 underneath an the other 14 spread evenly on top and sides.

Equipment Needed To Cook With A Dutch Oven

Below you can find the typical tools needed to have a successful cooking experience using the dutch oven while camping. While you can improvise on some items, I highly recommend you don’t go dodgy on the lid lifters. It doesn’t always end well. These products are found on amazon and may or may not be accessed elsewhere.


 

Cooking Basic Foods Outdoors Is Possible

To bake bread in your dutch oven prepare your bread dough just as you would bake it in your oven. Place the greased dough into your dutch oven and place the lid on the oven. Set it down in the coals and check your bread in about an hour.

Stews and soups are cooked just like you would cook them on the stove top. Just prepare them and set the pan in the coals to heat. Dinner will be ready just like it is when you cook on the stove top at home.

You can also make biscuits with your dutch oven. Preheat it and then place your biscuits inside and cover it and place it in the coals. You can also place coals on the top of the dutch oven lid if you wish to heat it more evenly.

No one should camp without their dutch oven. There are so many ways to use it you’ll find it’s your go-to pan for every meal.

Learn More About The Humble Dutch Oven in this short but detailed video:

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