Cooking in the great outdoors can sometimes be a major turn off for potential campers. Many think it’s too complicated and not even possible. That is because they may have never experienced cooking with a dutch oven before.
So what is the best dutch oven for camping for experienced campers all the way through to the beginner?. This will vary for many folks, but there’s just one absolute must when it comes to choosing a dutch oven. It must be cast iron!.
Over the years the humble dutch oven has changed, and in some cases for the worse. Many manufacturers are leaning towards enamel based dutch ovens these days which I find horrific for camping. Chipping is a major flaw in the enamel design and nobody wants flakes of enamel in their food right.
Sticking to the classic cast iron is simply a must in my opinion. The classic dutch oven dates back to the 17 century and in America these fought after pieces of cooking equipment were so valued that people started modifying their wills. In one particular case, it was noted in their will for half the dutch oven to be be split between their 2 grand children.
Now times have changed and technology has improved obviously. But one thing remains the same. Cast iron is the best type of dutch oven, especially for outdoor activities like camping. They are heavy duty, durable and maintain heat for extended periods. Cooking up simple dishes without the need for power is camping at its finest. Invest in one of the best cast iron dutch ovens for your next camping trip and see the difference.
*Tip: A 6-quart Dutch oven is a good entry point in regards to size. This is sufficient space to cook a whole chicken and stew to feed a few people. For larger families, consider a 10 inch plus size.
The Best Cast Iron Dutch Oven For Camping
Lodge L12DCO3 Deep 5qt, 8qt, 10qt Review
One of if not the longest serving cast iron cookware produces known, Lodge continues to be a dominant force. Since over a decade, Lodge still produces the best almost non stick dutch ovens I have seen. Having been made in the USA since the 1800’s, it feels like you are buying more than just a dutch oven when you buy a Lodge. History is what also comes included. When you research more about the lodge company you will learn all sorts of intriguing facts and just how important the humble dutch oven has been over the years.
This particular Lodge comes in 3 different sizes to cater to a large variety of campers. It comes with the required features for camping including the 3 x 1.5″ legs to provide a stable surface while sitting on the coals. A deep 5 inches of cooking space with snug fitting lid which helps to maintain heat and acts as a great heat induction system. I found the walls of the Lodge to be nice and dense yet not over the top heavy. So camping with this D.O doesn’t present a ‘burning’ issue to me.
Because this Lodge D.O is deeper than the traditional 6 quarts, it’s recommended to add a few extra coals around the sides to cater the extra height. Don’t worry if you are somewhat confused with what to do because Lodge includes a handy guide and even a beginners guide to cooking with recipe book.
The cast iron surface comes pre-seasoned, so no preparation is needed before you head out into the woods to cook. On going seasoning will be required as with any quality cast iron product. It’s important to note that placing very cold food into a hot surface like this could result in sticking. So be patient and start of on a lower temperature or bring along the oil.
What I Like About The Lodge Dutch Ovens
- From my research Lodge is the only Cast Iron cookware made in the USA. Majority of other brands are made in China.
- The shear amount of versatility you get in regards to cooking options. The lid is cast iron, but when flipped over can be used as a griddle.
- The 5″ deep sides allow campers to cook masterpieces in the outdoors like whole chickens, bacon and eggs, classics cobblers, stews, chilly beans, roasts, and even lasagne all from using the Lodge Dutch Oven.
- Comes with a bail handle for use on a cooking tripod.
- Lid can be flipped and used as a griddle for cooking things like eggs, bacon, steak, fish etc.
- Made from long lasting ‘lodge’ quality cast iron meant to stand the test of time. I could easily see this dutch oven lasting my lifespan and being handed down once camping is no longer possible for myself.
My Only Complaint
While I don’t have any hesitation recommending the Lodge as simply the best all round cast iron dutch oven, it is heavier than what you may be expecting. Especially if you have used the aluminum kind before. It’s a great camping and home kitchen D.O. but for long hikes and such it may get a tad too heavy to carry around.
Best Dutch Oven For The Money – Budget Minded
4 Qt 1 Gallon Texsport Dual Handle Review
This 10″ D.O is a good alternative to the Lodge variety if you are on a tight budget. While not as well known for cookware, Texsport have an established name in camping cots.
This dutch oven also has 3 legs and a bail handle to hook to a tripod. It’s a little smaller than the Lodge but could feed 3-4 servings at a time in my opinion. The actual height from the legs to the top of the handle measures about 7.6 inches. Unlike the Lodge, the Texsport needs to be seasoned before use. It comes with a thin wax lining to prevent rust before use. To remove this wax you have to heat the dutch oven. To season you need to heat light olive oil (Or your preferred ‘high smoke’ capacity oil, vegetable shortening) to about 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Have the oven upside down so the oil runs out rather than building up inside the oven.
Pros Of The Texsport
- Great Dutch Oven for first timers made from thick cast iron. Has the legs for even and stable cooking.
- Heavy duty lid that heats up fast like the rest of the oven. A quality lift lifter is recommended if you don’t have a good pair of heat resistant gloves.
- Perfect size for small camping sites with 2″ deeper sides compared to some other brands.
- Inverted lid is great for all round coal cooking as coals can sit easily on the lid without compromising dinner.
The inner edge corners could be a little more rounded for easier stirring. But for baking use its fine. As mentioned earlier, there’s a wax covering that needs to be removed before seasoning. While not a huge choir, still something to consider if you plan on getting one the day before camping. Its worth noting some people have classified this dutch oven as ‘rough’. Meaning it doesn’t season all that well and should be done twice before first use.
Note: Texsport have a family size 20 QT dutch oven but it doesn’t have the feet traditionally seen with camping editions.
Camp Chef 12 Inch 9 1/3 QT
The Camp Chef brand is very similar to the Lodge in popularity for cast iron cookware, with the biggest difference being the history and being made in the USA the Lodge boasts. However this Camp Chef is still one heck of a fine dutch oven for camping. Slightly rougher in texture than the Lodge, but have had no problems in regards to food getting stuck or when it comes to cleaning this dish.
But Is The Camp Chef Worth Buying?
- If you’re tossing up between the Lodge and Camp Chef dutch ovens, and looking for a reason to go with the Camp Chef then you will love the fact a lid lifter comes included with the Camp Chef.
- Comes pre-seasoned like the Lodge which is huge bonus
- The lid design is quite nifty and well thought thru. The total capacity is 9 1/3 Qt. with the lid handling 1 1/3 Qt leaving 8 for inside. The lid also acts as a frying surface which is great for breakfast in the outdoors.
- Very handy temperature channel for inserting a thermometer without needing to lose heat by lifting the lid. We recommend using a BBQ Replacement Thermometer to use to measure the temperature.
Whats Holding You Back?
- Unfortunately, the Camp Chef is not American made which doesn’t disregard the quality. But some folks prefer to buy USA made when possible.
- Handle on lid is slightly uneven. But this is mainly an aesthetics thing.
Which Dutch Oven Should You Buy?
There’s multiple ways you could look at it. For shear quality and knowing you are keeping Americans working, then the Lodge Camping Dutch Oven is right for you. But if you like the idea of a high quality product with more features and don’t mind the fact it’s made in China (What isn’t these days..), then the Camp Chef is a great choice. You cant really go too wrong with either of these models. However, if a strict budget is required, the Texsport cast iron is the safest bet while not loosing too much quality.
Camping Cooking Tips With A Dutch Oven
- Dig a small hole and place coals at the bottom of the hole and then put the oven in surrounded by more hot coals for a even cooking experience. The possibilities of food to cook using methods like baking, braising and stewing are possible in a even cooking oven.
- Hang the dutch oven using a trip accessory. This is not the traditional way of cooking but tends to provide more entertainment around the fire. The base of the cast iron is in direct contact with the flames. While this is not the most even method of cooking, the benefit of using cast iron is that the heat will insulate very well inside the dish. However, not the best method for baking things such as pies, pizza etc as it can burn the bottom without being a stirring type of food such as a stew.
- Avoid aluminum and enamel coated ovens. Preferably buy a cast iron with legs for better stability. While aluminum weighs about 1/3 less than a cast iron, they don’t retain and distribute heat as evenly as a cast iron version.
- The ideal temperature for baking in a dutch oven is 350º, but maintaining this heat evenly can be difficult. The trick is to use evenly sized charcoal briquettes. Buying quality briquettes will prove to be a winner. They burn for longer and more evenly than using left over coal from a fire.
- Good rule of thumb is 2 briquettes per inch of oven. So if you have a 10 inch oven, then 20 briquettes would be a good number. These briquettes ideally should be placed in a circular pattern 1 inch apart underneath the base of the dutch oven. Place 8 underneath and the other 12 on top and around the oven.