There’s nothing better when camping than food cooked over a fire. The tastes and smells of food cooked in the open surrounded by nature are beyond comparison. A few pieces of equipment are needed to cook over a fire, but one in particular is a fundamental part of every successful cooking session in the great outdoors: a Dutch oven.
Purchasing your first Dutch oven shouldn’t be difficult, but it can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure what to look for. Luckily, we’ve got our top pick ready for you. Plus, we’ve answered some questions you might have about how to choose and what to expect. Let’s take a look.
Best Dutch Ovens for Camping – Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven Series
Our pick is the Lodge cast iron Dutch oven series. Lodge makes excellent bare cast iron, perfect for cooking over a fire and deliciously seasoning your camp food. Lodge cast iron comes in a few different sizes including a “deep” option that gives you a little more cooking room.
Dutch oven tools and accessories allow you to cook your food over an uneven heat source by slowly heating and retaining the temperature in the entire oven. Once you’ve preheated your Dutch oven, you can pull it off the fire directly to cook without losing heat. It’s one of the only ways to cook low and slow over a fire to have a tasty meal.
Let’s break down a few things about the lineup.
Classic Dutch Ovens
- The original Lodge Camp Dutch Oven does it all — and it's been everywhere. A flanged lid holds hot coals and flips over for griddling,...
- PRE-SEASONED COOKWARE. A good seasoning makes all the difference. Lodge provides pre-seasoned cookware with no synthetic chemicals; just soy...
- MADE IN THE USA. Lodge has been making cast iron cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (pop. 3,300) since 1896. With over 120 years of...
Lodge brand’s regular Dutch ovens feature a solid cast iron material with a durable metal handle and snug-fitting lid. They have feet on the bottom so that you can rest the pot directly on the fire to preheat without it tipping over.
The flanged lid allows you to put coals on top without them falling off for even more heat distribution. It also flips for when you need a griddle to use over the fire. The entire setup is wide and slightly shallow without sacrificing cooking space. The oven comes in a few different size options: an 8-inch/2-quart model, a 10-inch/4-quart model, and a 12-inch/6-quart model.
The inches give you a broader space across the surface of the cast iron oven, making it easier for heat to reach into the middle of what you’re cooking. It’s just deep enough to cook your food and stir stews efficiently.
Deep Dutch Ovens
- 5-Quart Deep Camp Dutch Oven for campfire or fireplace cooking
- Seasoned cast iron ready to use
- Cast iron lid inverts for use as griddle
Lodge also offers a deep version of their classic Dutch oven. The deep version adds about two quarts to existing ovens, and the largest size they have is a deep version as well. The deep version features the same durable cast iron as the classic and has a metal handle for carrying or positioning. The snug-fitting top allows coals to sit on top safely and can flip to be used as a griddle.
The deep versions have the same circumference across the top but feature a deeper base that adds one to two quarts of capacity. The 10-inch has five quarts, as opposed to the classic’s four, and the 12-inch adds two for a total of six. There’s also a larger size 14-inch with ten total quarts.
The deep version is excellent if you want roughly the same size Dutch oven, but you need just a few more serving sizes. It’s not that much more expensive, either.
Caring for Your Dutch Oven
There are two types of cast iron Dutch ovens. Enameled cast iron is a coated cast iron that requires no seasoning process to be nonstick and can even go in the dishwasher. Bare cast iron needs a specific seasoning and cleaning process to be nonstick and to avoid ruining the surface of the cast iron. Here’s how you should handle this two-part care system.
The seasoning process is required before you can cook anything in bare cast iron. The surface isn’t naturally nonstick, but with the application of shortening or some other appropriate fat, it becomes highly nonstick.
The first time you use it—or after many uses when it begins to show wear and tear or food starts to stick—start by washing it with soap and hot water. Allow it to dry and don’t ever wash it with soap again (unless you repeat the seasoning process). Once it dries, place a thin coat of shortening or vegetable oil so that the surface is completely covered. Bake it at 375 degrees for about an hour, and let it cool down in the oven.
Dutch Oven Accessories
One great feature of Lodge Dutch ovens is the price: you won’t break the bank investing in one like you would with some of the better-known brands. Lodge routinely costs half to a third of what brands like Le Creuset offer, leaving plenty of room in your budget for accessories to make the most of your experience. Here are our must-haves.
You can’t touch the lid when you’ve got the oven resting over an open fire. It’s dangerous to get that close, and the lid will be hot. You don’t want to use an oven mitt either, because your arm would have to come too close to the heat of the fire to be comfortable.
A lid lifter hooks into the lid from a safe distance and allows you to stir or check what’s going on inside the pot without getting too close. It also helps you move the pot from the fire to the table when you’re ready to serve.
Now that the lid is removed, what do you do with it? Do you walk over to the table and put it down? Do you leave it on the ground? Do you like the taste of dirt in your food?
If you have a lid stand, you’ve got a safer and cleaner place to put your lid when you need to take it off to add ingredients or stir. It keeps the lid clean from debris and dirt, and it stays close enough to your cast iron Dutch oven that you don’t have to worry about the hot lid hurting anyone.
A tripod resembles a witches tool, but it’s a wonderful addition to your accessories. This stand uses three legs to hoist the preheated Dutch oven off the fire while allowing it to remain overhead for maintaining heat. It’s a lot easier than trying to move the pot on and off the coals as things get too hot or too cold. It’s the ultimate uplevel for your camp food.
We advised you to get a lid lifter, but for safety, you should also have a pair of fireproof gloves to go with it. This keeps your forearms safe from accidents and allows you to safely manipulate the lid and the pot without risking burns.
Fireproof gloves won’t catch fire even if sparks come off the flames. They’re not expensive, so there’s no excuse for not protecting yourself.
Dutch Oven Stand
This one isn’t essential, but we love it because it allows you to set down your cast iron Dutch oven without putting it on the ground or on the table where people will be eating. There are quite a few places you could set your Dutch oven, but because the ground is uneven, you could struggle if your pot is full.
A stand provides a level place to put your Dutch oven, plus you and your guests won’t risk burns by accidentally touching the oven if it’s on the table. Win-win.
Once you’ve seasoned your pan, you don’t want to ruin the nonstick layer. Scrubbing with soap is one of the quickest ways to do that, so here’s what you need to do instead.
After you cook, allow the oven to cool enough that you can handle it. Use a soft plastic spatula or specialized tool to scrape off any bits and pieces of food. After that, use warm water and a gentle cloth to rinse out any remaining film or food particles. Avoid soaking your cast iron Dutch oven. If you find that you have to soak it or use soap to remove food particles, it’s time to season again.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I choose the right size? It’s best to consider how many people you usually serve and whether or not you want leftovers. Here’s a handy guide to the average serving number for standard Dutch oven sizes.
- 8-inch/2-quart: 2 to 4 people
- 10-inch/4-quart: 4 to 7 people
- 12-inch/6-quart: 12 to 14 people
- 12-inch/8-quart: 16 to 20 people
- 14-inch/10-quart: 22 to 28 people
Make sure you know how heavy your cast iron Dutch oven will be. There’s a correlation between serving size and weight, and you need to be sure you can physically handle it.
- Why should I choose bare cast iron? Bare cast iron is excellent for camping because there’s no enamel to chip and ruin. You’ll be putting your cast iron through a lot, and the bare options have a durable exterior and interior that won’t show scratches or chips. Plus, it has a different type of lid made for campfire cooking and feet to rest on.
- Do I really have to season my bare cast iron? Although it might be tempting to skip the seasoning step, don’t do it unless you’re fine with your food sticking to the surface and never being able to get the residue and burned bits off. To get the most out of your cast iron cookware, you’ll have to get the concept of seasoning down.
- How do I know when it’s time to season it again? Seasoning should happen when you notice food getting stuck to the surface and it’s difficult to clean the interior with just water and a soft cloth. It’s up to you how often you want to do it, but the more you cook, the better seasoned it will be, provided you don’t wash with soap. Re-season if you accidentally use soap or if you notice food sticking.
- Why can’t I just use aluminum pots? Regular camping cookware has perks. It’s lightweight and easy to clean. It’s relatively inexpensive. However, aluminum heats up very quickly and has scalding spots. Cast iron, on the other hand, heats evenly and slowly with no hot spots. It is heavy, but the food will be better once you know what you’re doing.
- How do I use my Dutch oven over the fire? Make sure you preheat your Dutch oven by waiting until the coals are evenly hot; scoop them underneath the feet and put them on top of the lid to make sure the heat is even. Allow to sit for about ten minutes to get the cast iron the same temperature all the way through. The key to successful cooking with cast iron is to use coals on top as well, so that the pot acts more like an oven.
Choosing Your Camping Cast Iron
Once you’ve chosen your cast iron size and made your decisions, camp cooking will become a much-anticipated affair. Make sure you take the time to preheat your Dutch oven for a nice even cook time that won’t ever let you down.
Lodge makes quality and affordable bare cast iron that can withstand many camping trips. It’s nonstick if you season it well, and it has plenty of uses, not just for basic camp stew but even things like bread and pizza. Fire can impart a wonderful taste to food, so make the best of it with one of our favorite Dutch ovens from the Lodge line and make your camping trips unforgettable.
Last update on 2020-08-14 / This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API