Going camping should be a load of fun for getting out from your comfort zone and into the heart of nature. When it comes to cooking, you can still include all the comforts of home by using a Dutch oven and we’ve got all the best advice when using one in the great outdoors.
What Do You Need To Know About The Basics?
All right, so you’ve got your camping gear, mosquito repellant, and bags of marshmallows ready to go- so what next? If you know anything about camping there’s one essential that will make all the difference taking with you on your next camping trip. A Dutch oven sounds like it would be better suited for taking along some cross-country pioneer trail. Keep in mind that your cast iron Dutch oven makes camping meals easier to prepare.
But for all the hassle of bringing heavy items that you’ll be cooking and grilling with, the classic Dutch oven is great for multitasking, especially for bigger meals that you’ll be preparing. Here are the main reasons you can get more out of cooking duties with this iconic cookware accessory.
Is a Dutch oven good for camping?
Out of all the items you can bring with you for cooking, a Dutch oven is your essential all-in-one cooking vessel that will cook more than chili or stew. This type of cookware has endured countless attacks over the decades labeling it as being outdated and primitive. It also suffers from a certain bias because of how it looks. Most people don’t even know what types of food you can prepare using a Dutch oven.
That’s fine, let the haters hate… We can attest to giving the Dutch oven dozens of practical uses including baking, cooking, frying, stewing, boiling, steaming, and many other simple tasks. It also makes a great carrying pot for supplies that you bring with you reducing the number of supplies you need to bring in separate containers.
How do you use a Dutch oven for camping?
To get the most from any Dutch oven, you need a campfire or grill pit where you can place your cast iron pot sitting over or next to a fire. It works better when the fire has subsided and the heat from the coals is providing your heat source for cooking. Many of the typical Dutch ovens have an additional handle that allows them to be suspended above a heated source. There are tripod legs that fold outward and hold the weight of your pot and the food inside.
For most state-operated and national camping sites, there is always a campfire pit with a grill, but if you’re really roughing it you’ll need a tripod stand to hold your Dutch oven over a campfire made from scratch. The suspended versions will have a chain that you adjust for keeping the pot at the correct height. This is usually no more than a couple of inches up to 5 inches above the coals at most.
Dutch Oven Cooking Tips
Planning ahead a menu is always the first thing to consider when going camping. You want to use items that won’t be perishable unless you have an icebox to keep meat and perishable ingredients. So it’s safe to assume that canned ingredients are perfect along with meats that won’t spoil if they’re dried or preserved. Unless you bring fresh veggies that aren’t going to go bad during your camping trip, try to keep these as cool as possible.
If you know your recipe by heart it’s no shame to copy the recipe onto paper or bring a little camping cookbook with you. Make no mistake- don’t use a smartphone to store this info unless you have a solar charger or backup power supply. You should be prepared to have enough supplies to make double or triple the amount of food. While going camping, you never know what you might encounter, so always bring extra backup supplies just in case…
What Do I Need To Know About Dutch Oven Essentials?
If you don’t own a Dutch oven yet, this is your lucky day! The first thing to remember is to buy a cast-iron Dutch oven without any question. Sure it’s heavy, it’s made of iron and there is a very good reason for this. Cast iron is tough and holds heat better than aluminum and thin-formed metal pots and pans you find in a typical kitchen. Cast iron is better is for two reasons;
The first reason is to deliver a level of heat that will cook specific meals to perfection using the residual heat. It also has non-stick abilities from seasoning the interior of your Dutch oven. Seasoning is a type of buildup inside the pot that allows food to come out easier. It can work in your favor if you season your pot after every use or even after a few meals in between. Needless to say, your Dutch oven will need to be properly seasoned before using it!
What’s the Best Dutch Oven for Camping?
Don’t buy a Dutch oven that isn’t at least 12-inches in diameter. This means that it will be a 6-quart pot that will feed enough people in your group. For a family that includes 4-6 people, a 6-quart pot will easily do the trick and allow you to make meals and dishes that will surprise you along the way. You might consider buying a smaller Dutch oven that fits inside your bigger pot.
This will give you two cooking vessels to work from if you’re making side soups or dishes along with your main meal. You can also make bread, cornbread, and baked goods inside a Dutch oven that we’ll cover in another great article here.
Are There Any Practical Camping Combinations With Dutch Ovens?
We’re talking about combinations that go great together such as comfort food you love while camping. How about the evergreen recipes that you might think were only made at home- such as hamburgers and fries or pasta? How about hot biscuits and fried chicken, or chili and cornbread? There are other great camping favorites including grilled steak and baked potatoes or clam chowder with freshly baked sourdough bread?
If you can imagine a combination that you want to bring along with you, don’t be shy. And if you thought that a Dutch oven is just for dinner, you’re wrong! It’s the essential cooking pot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Imagine cooking an omelet with cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then pizza or fajitas for lunch? The combinations are endless as long as you plan each of your meals ahead of time.
Can you use an enamel Dutch oven for camping?
These enamel coatings are all rated for different temperature considerations and will have a big disadvantage on open campfire flames. Unless you go for high-temperature enamel that can withstand camping grill temperatures, don’t risk ruining your pot. The enamel can crack and even separate into small bits on your food. An open flame can reach above 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so stick to enamel-free cast iron instead.
Non-stick surfaces are not as hard to maintain if you’re cooking with a Dutch oven anyway if you learn how to season your pot correctly. If you have one that already has an enamel coating, don’t take it with you to go camping, it could get damaged from the higher heat of your campfire.
Dutch Oven Recipes You Should Know Beforehand
The best secret is to talk to your family about what they want to eat during their camping trip. Consider others that are going as well so everyone is a happy camper… It’s essential to plan out all your meals from beginning to end using a preplanned calendar schedule. If you’re going to handle cooking duties, also bring everything that you’ll need including seasonings, spices, and enough ingredients for 2-3x over (just in case).
Cooking at your campsite should be as easy as possible, so plan for emergency situations too. You don’t know if there will be setbacks such as rain or bad weather, so have backup ideas for changing a meal if the weather is giving you hell. Have backup recipes that can be great comfort food if the weather gets colder or freaky at the last minute.
What can you cook in a cast-iron Dutch oven over a campfire?
Consider that a Dutch oven will work the same as any skillet, frying pan, boiling pot, steamer, and kitchen oven ever would. It’s an all-inclusive cooking accessory that will handle nearly anything you want to cook, fry, or bake. Consider what they were using on that pioneer trail for nearly a year and a half while crossing from the east to the west coast? A Dutch oven was a portable kitchen that could cook anything you put in it.
This is why you shouldn’t be afraid to try recipes that you enjoy based on what you already know. Despite the shape and overall look of a Dutch oven pot, you’ll be able to create home-cooked meals that will take on a whole new level of camping flavors. Be sure to check out other meals, recipes, and dutch oven info here.