The Dutch oven has been the ware of choice in outdoor kitchens for hundreds of years. It’s simple and versatile. It works as a pot, a deep fry pan, and you can make just about anything you would in a regular oven. The Dutch oven is especially good for cooking one-pot meals for large groups of people. After figuring out the basics, anyone can prepare delicious, memorable meals with some coals and cast iron.
Basic tips for general Dutch oven baking:
For the most control and consistency with your heat, it is best to use charcoal briquettes. Coals from a campfire will work just as well, but they’re a little harder to gauge temperature with.
Place the coals above and below the Dutch oven as evenly spaced as possible. I like to go around the edge and then fill the space in the middle. Briquettes will last about 45 minutes to an hour, which is ample baking time for most dishes. If the baking time exceeds the life of the coals, it may be necessary to add more as the original coals fade.
For figuring out temperature, use the 3-Up-3-Down rule.
Take the diameter of the Dutch oven, add 3 to that diameter for the number of coals on top, subtract 3 from the diameter for the number of coals to go underneath. For example, a 12” diameter oven would have 15 coals on the top and 9 underneath to reach approximately 350°F. This is a good baseline to add or subtract coals from if hotter or cooler temperatures are desired.
These are loose ideas for dishes rather then recipes with specific ingredients. Some of the better dishes I’ve made were improvised from what was available in camp at the time. The possibilities are endless.
Meat, bacon or any sausage works well
Eggs (2 per person)
Cheese (use lots)
Strata is Latin for layers. Make sure the Dutch oven is well oiled. Chop up the veggies; grate the cheese and rip/slice the bread into small pieces. Scramble the eggs. If using meat put the bacon or sausage on the bottom (it makes for a nice crust) then add layers of ripped up bread, chopped veggies, and cheese. Pour a scrambled egg mixture over the layers and then add more layers. Pour more egg mix and top with cheese. Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until egg is set and cheese is melted. Let cool, cut into slices, and serve.
Seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary)
Beer or water
Green beans (fresh or canned)
Season the loin as desired. Salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary work well. Chop the onion. Put the loin and onion in a well-oiled Dutch oven and pour some beer or water in (about a quarter inch deep). Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Take off the top coals and the lid and add the green beans. Stir occasionally until the beans are cooked. Cut the loin into chops and serve with applesauce on top or on the side.
Pineapple Upside-down Cake
Yellow cake mix
Pineapple slices (canned or fresh)
Chopped pineapple (canned or fresh)
Cut butter into thin slices and place around the bottom of a Dutch oven. Sprinkle in some brown sugar and fill the bottom of the Dutch oven with a layer of pineapple slices. Follow instructions for the cake mix and add chopped pineapple. Cook at 350°F for about 25-30 minutes. If you can smell the cake, it means it is done. Remove the coals and let cool for about 10 minutes. With a pair of oven mitts or leather gloves, hold the lid on the Dutch oven while flipping it upside down. Set the Dutch oven on a sturdy surface and hit the top, which is actually the bottom, with a solid object to release the cake from the Dutch oven. Slice and serve.