Dutch Oven Tips

Howdy everyone! Thanks for stopping by the website. Below I’ve got a quick, easy to follow list of tips and tricks that’ll help you cook just about anything using a Dutch oven and a little hardwood lump. Make sure to bookmark this page for the future, along with the cast iron playlist that will help you keep your equipment in top notch condition and ready to cook anything you might throw in there.

First, let’s start with figuring out what size you need at camp. Below is a simple diameter-to-quart chart in case you’re looking to match a specific recipe. I bet you’re looking at this chart and thinking, what in the heck is the difference between deep and shallow when it comes to a Dutch oven? Well, hang in there, I’m going to explain it all below.

Choosing the Right Size

  • 10″ is about right for two people.
  • 12″-14″ will feed a whole bunch of people.
  • You can bake a pie inside a Dutch oven using a disposable aluminum pie plate.
    • If you do this, put some oil underneath the pie plate;
    • Choose a pie plate that is an inch smaller than your Dutch oven
    • Use pliers or another tool to take the pie out of the oven or you’ll burn your fingers up real good.
    • You can use the Dutch oven to bake anything in the aluminum pie pan; it will take a little longer than if you just cooked it in the Dutch oven but will be much easier to clean.

I have put together a guide so you will pick the right cast iron for whatever you need it for. Click here.

Shallow Dutch Oven next to a Deep Dutch Oven
A shallow Dutch oven next to a Deep dutch oven.

Shallow Dutch Oven vs. Deep Dutch Oven

  • Deep Dutch Oven is better for when you’re starting out baking recipes that rise, such as Breads, Cake, Pies, etc. The larger area inside this oven cooks a bit slower than the shallow oven, so you have more time to move your coals around and cook evenly.
  • Shallow Dutch Ovens are better for evenly cooking over high heat after you get some experience using them.
  • You can use either of these outside just like you do with your oven inside the house.

Camp Oven vs. Dutch Oven

  • Camp ovens have legs; Dutch Ovens have flat bottoms.
  • Camp ovens have a lip around the edge of the lid so you can put hot coals on top. Dutch ovens have somewhat rounded lids.
  • You can flip the Camp oven lid over and use it as a skillet in a pinch.
  • You can heat leftovers in foil on top of the camp oven lid.
  • Camp oven lids must fit tightly and they must be able to spin/rotate while in use.

Tip: You can smooth out your cast iron if it’s feeling rough. Here’s the video: Smooth Cast Iron

Choose the Right Fuel for the Fire

I hear it all the time. People use charcoal briquettes to cook their food with. Don’t. Just don’t. You don’t know the half of what they put in those things and you don’t want any of the food anyone cooks on them, either. They burn out quicker, as well.

Stick with a good hardwood like oak, mesquite, or pecan. Look for a good hardwood lump instead of briquettes. I’ve always used the Fogo brand, and found it to always burn longer and I cook using hot coals all the time so I’d know.

Tip: If the Dutch oven is cold, warm to body temperature before setting on a hot fire.

Which Tools are Must-Have for Outdoor Dutch Oven Use

A good coal shovel has holes in it to shake off excess ash.
  • You need a lid-lifter. If you don’t have one handy, you can use the nail removal side of any hammer under the lid’s handle to lift the lid off.
  • A shovel with holes in it, so you can shake the ash off. Ash does not cook, but it does insulate.

Cooking with Hot Coals

First thing first, you’ll need a trivet. The ones we sell on the website come with two set of legs so you can adjust the height.

  • Cast iron Dutch ovens hold and distribute heat well in general.
  • In windy conditions, if I’m cooking pies and cakes and brownies, use the tall trivet to avoid burning.
  • Windy conditions make the fire blow hotter and will increase the temperature of the coals.
  • Distribute coals around the outside of the trivet and on the lid of the Camp oven.
  • To ensure heat is distributed evenly, rotate the lid one way and the oven the other way every so often.

One of our favorite things to cook in a Dutch oven when it’s just Shannon and me at camp is pizza. It’s probably the easiest thing to start with when you’re learning how to cook over a fire. The video and recipe for pizza dough is already here on our website, so please feel free to grab that recipe the next time you are headed out to camp or just want to practice in your backyard.

When you’re done cooking, make sure you season your Dutch oven. Season the entire inside of the pan – including the lid!

As always, Shannon and I thank you for stopping by the website. Please take a moment to subscribe to our YouTube channel and click “like” on all of your favorite videos. Remember – anyone can cook outside with cast iron. If the first time doesn’t work out – keep trying. We’ll see y’all next time!