How do you find the best Dutch oven for camping? The ultimate camper’s cauldron, a Dutch oven lets you whip up hot, stick-to-your-ribs meals using nothing more than basic ingredients, coals, and a little patience.
The beauty of Dutch-oven cooking around the campfire is that it makes us humans feel connected to our raw, ancestral roots. There’s no need to feel intimidated about getting started with outdoor Dutch oven cooking! I’ll show you how to find a high-quality, highly rated Dutch oven that gets food hot without hassles.
In this article, we’re going to review the following Dutch oven models:
- Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven
- Overmont Camp Dutch Oven Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Lid
- Camp Chef 12 Qt Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Lodge L12DO3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven With Iron Cover
- DARTMOOR 9 Quart Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Uno Casa Cast Iron Camping Dutch Oven
- Keleday Dutch Oven 8 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven With Lid
A Buyer’s Guide to Dutch Ovens for Camping
A Dutch oven elevates the dining experience at the campsite. Let’s be honest about campfire cooking. Roasting hot dogs gets pretty tiresome. There’s no doubt that we all crave genuine, hearty meals while camping.
A Dutch oven at the campsite makes it possible to enjoy stews, chili, cobbler, roasts, and so much more. “Pot cooking” at a campsite is one of the best ways to feed a lot of people using fresh, real ingredients that are cooked to enhance flavor instead of heating everything over direct fire for a smoky flavor.
Why Should I Choose a Dutch Oven for Camping?
First, it’s important to note that a Dutch oven at your campsite isn’t necessarily intended to replace other cooking tools. Most people who cart along their Dutch ovens are also bringing grills and camping stoves with them.
However, a Dutch oven brings something special to the campsite by creating a slow-cooking environment for flavorful, meaty dishes. Dutch ovens also provide many more cooking options compared to a standard pot that you’re heating over a camping stove. Here’s a rundown of the culinary tactics that are possible for campfire cooking when you add a Dutch oven to the roster:
Boiling and Simmering: In addition to being great for soups and stews, cast iron Dutch ovens are also perfect for boiling pasta at campsites.
Searing: Camping Dutch ovens allow for high-heat cooking with very even heat transfers. This can give you the confidence to sear steaks, chicken, chops and more using skillet-style cooking instead of standard grilling.
Steaming: The ultra-tight lid on a Dutch oven creates a beautiful seal for steaming. Many people enjoy using camping Dutch ovens for steaming simple, healthy dishes of rice and vegetables. There’s also a bonus if you’ll be camping by the sea! Dutch ovens are incredible for steaming lobsters!
Sauteing and Frying: While it’s common to think of a Dutch oven as a tool for making hot, bubbling stews, you can actually use your Dutch oven for frying. Adding just a little bit of cooking oil makes frying on cast iron easy. This is actually a very fast, clean way to fry food at a campsite.
Braising: “Low and slow” cooking is easy with a Dutch oven. However, you have to know the right technique. Braising with a camping Dutch oven requires the use of dual-direction heating that relies on coals being placed both above and below the oven. This creates the moisture needed for proper braising. Once you’ve mastered dual-direction Dutch oven heating, you can easily braise tasty ribs, roasts, chicken thighs, and much more.
Baking: A Dutch oven is considered an “oven” instead of a simple pot for a reason. You can truly put your coals to work to whip up baked goods with an oven-baked taste. The trick is to place coals both above and below the pot to create an oven-like setting for baking. Baking bread with a camping Dutch oven is very common. You can also whip up pies, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, and much more.
I know that many people stay on the fence when it comes to making an investment in a Dutch oven because they think that this is something that’s only useful for campsite stew and chili. Once you realize that you can easily whip up breads, the economics tend to get worked out because you realize how easily and cheaply you can feed a crowd.
Why It’s Important to Only Select “Camping” Dutch Ovens
Dutch ovens sold for kitchen use should never be purchased for campsite use. It’s easy to confuse kitchen Dutch ovens with camping Dutch ovens because both are made of cast iron. However, kitchen Dutch ovens are generally sealed in enamel designed to make cleaning easier. This enamel can still become damaged when exposed to the direct heat of a campfire.
These designs are intended to only be used with stovetops and ovens. Camping Dutch ovens are made of full cast iron without enamel. The other main difference in design is that camping Dutch ovens are designed with support legs that enhance sturdiness at a campsite. Finally, camping Dutch ovens can be told apart from kitchen Dutch ovens by their flat, flanged lids that are designed to hold hot coals.
The Features to Consider When Shopping for a Camping Dutch Oven
It’s hard to shop for “special features” when looking for a Dutch oven for camping because these pots come with standard, primitive designs that can’t necessarily be altered. However, some small tweaks in design can affect your outdoor cooking experience. Next, let’s cover the core details of “Dutch ovens for camping 101” that you might not be thinking about if you’ve never shopped for a Dutch oven for camping before.
All camping Dutch ovens worth their salt come pre-seasoned to allow for nonstick cooking. Nobody wants to be scraping crusted, burnt food from pans late at night after cooking at a campsite! Pay attention to the details a manufacturer provides regarding how pots are seasoned. Some brands might use synthetic seasoning oils that are made of chemicals.
Steer clear of these products! When pots are heated over a fire, these synthetic chemicals can be released into your food. Always look for pans that are labeled as being naturally seasoned. This means that manufacturers have used soybean oil, vegetable oil, or some other type of plant-based oil to season their products.
You may already know that the specially shaped lid on an outdoor Dutch oven is designed to hold coals. However, you may not know that many manufacturers actually design their Dutch oven lids to double as griddles that can be used as supplementary cooking tools apart from the main pots. This is a bonus because you can whip up certain items without the need to clean out the pot.
When selecting a Dutch oven with a lid that’s good for griddle use, focus on the legs. Longer, sturdier legs provide a better design.
This feature isn’t standard. While it’s not necessary for using a camping Dutch oven, a built-in thermometer notch is a handy tool when you’re cooking in nature’s kitchen. The perk of having a built-in thermometer notch on your Dutch oven is that you can check the temperature as cooking progresses without the need to lift the lid.
If you’ve ever used a Dutch oven in a kitchen, you’ve probably noticed the short knob that serves as a handle. Camping Dutch ovens have a completely different handle design. Most feature what can be described as a large, bail-style handle with some fluidity that allows your pot to be moved in different positions around the fire.
The handle is also important because it’s what allows for the Dutch oven to be hung over the heat at the campfire. Always confirm that a Dutch oven has a camping-friendly handle before making a decision. You always want to confirm that the style of the handle appears rugged and sturdy.
How to Pick the Right Size for Your Camping Dutch Oven
Camping Dutch ovens are generally categorized as being either “shallow” or “deep.” Both can be useful at a campsite. Shallow Dutch ovens are often used for breads and desserts. However, they are also versatile enough to be used for making smaller portions of classic hot dishes. The advantage of a shallow Dutch oven when baking bread is that the lid is closer to the food. This works to your advantage if you’re trying to brown the tops of baked goods.
Deep Dutch ovens are used for making stews, soups, braises, and other hearty meals. The extra distance between food and the lid ensures that food doesn’t get browned. The obvious advantage of a deep Dutch oven is that you can easily feed a large crowd. Here’s a rundown of common Dutch oven sizes to consider:
8 inch/2 quarts: Serves two to three people.
10 inch/4 quarts: Serves two to six people.
12 inch/6 quarts: Serves six to 10 people.
14 inch/8 quarts: Serves eight to 16 people.
You also have to consider weight when shopping for a camping Dutch oven. The size of a Dutch oven doesn’t always give you a clue about its weight. Some designs are simply bulkier than others because some manufacturers choose to use thicker walls. The only way to know how heavy a Dutch oven will be is to actually look at the weight in pounds provided by the manufacturer in a product description.
Like all camping gear, your Dutch oven will need to be carried from the car to your campsite. Getting the biggest size at the lowest weight is a good strategy for getting as much room for cooking and baking as possible without feeling the pain of lugging around a heavy item. In my review list below, all of the Dutch ovens selected are within a weight range that’s considered reasonable when the goal is portability.
FAQs About Camping Dutch Ovens
Can I Bring the Dutch Oven From My Kitchen Camping?
No, you generally cannot use the same Dutch oven that you’re using in your kitchen at your campsite. Safety is the main concern. Most indoor Dutch ovens are coated in enamel that’s only considered safe when you’re cooking on an indoor stove. When exposed to the high heat of an open flame, this enamel will start to degrade. It’s important to shop for a separate outdoor Dutch oven for camping.
Can I Use My Camping Dutch Oven Inside on the Stove?
You have to take a look at the fine print provided by your manufacturer for this one. Most outdoor Dutch ovens can be used indoors. In fact, cast iron is a ferrous material that is generally compatible with induction cooking.
However, most people prefer not to use their camping Dutch ovens indoors for a number of reasons. The first is that camping Dutch ovens are slightly harder to clean than indoor Dutch ovens because they lack the special enamel used to seal indoor Dutch ovens. You may find that continuously using your camping Dutch oven indoors causes it to age prematurely due to a constant cycle of cleaning, drying, and seasoning.
Do I Have to Season My New Camping Dutch Oven?
Generally, you should be fine when you use your new camping Dutch oven for the first time without seasoning it. High-quality Dutch ovens are supposed to come pre-seasoned. You can continually season your Dutch oven by simply coating the pan with a small amount of vegetable oil. A camping Dutch oven should only need to be seasoned one to two times per year.
How Do You Clean a Camping Dutch Oven?
This is the topic that most people find intimidating about Dutch ovens. There’s no denying that Dutch ovens must be handled gingerly during the cleaning process. However, the process isn’t nearly as complex as most people assume it needs to be.
First, it’s necessary to gently remove any excess food or debris from inside the Dutch oven. While hot water is enough to get the job done, you can consider adding a small amount of detergent for grimier jobs.
Next, it’s important to thoroughly dry a Dutch oven using paper towels to ensure that no moisture is left over from the cleaning process. Allowing a camping Dutch oven to stay wet can promote rust. A clean Dutch oven can be seasoned using the vegetable oil of your choice while the interior is slightly hot.
Is Cooking With a Camping Dutch Oven Hard?
While many people feel intimidated by cooking with a Dutch oven at a campsite, the truth is that you don’t need to have any special culinary skills to use this option. The first step is to simply light your fire. You have a choice of using either charcoal or wood with a Dutch oven. Once your recipe is prepared, simply add ingredients before placing your Dutch oven over the fire to bring it to the desired temperature for the food you’re cooking. You can then serve your food when it’s ready.
Is Cooking With a Dutch Oven at a Campfire Dangerous?
Cooking with a Dutch oven at a campfire isn’t necessarily any more dangerous than cooking with other common campfire methods. Keep in mind that a Dutch oven can get extremely hot. You should have plenty of open space surrounding the cooking area to ensure that people don’t accidentally touch, brush up against, or bump into a Dutch oven while it’s hot.
If you’ll be using a Dutch oven to cook at a campsite with children, it’s important to always keep children separated from the fire. This is especially important when a Dutch oven is being suspended over the fire because there is always a risk of the oven being jostled or tipped over.
What Kind of Cooking Utensils Should You Use With a Dutch Oven?
If you’re purchasing a new Dutch oven for camping, this might be a great time to also upgrade your cooking utensils. The general rule is that wood, silicone, and heat-resistant plastic are the best materials for spoons and ladles when cooking with a Dutch oven. Many people assume that metal is the best material to use when cooking with a Dutch oven. However, the little-known secret is that metal can very easily scratch your Dutch oven.
Reviews of the Best Camping Dutch Ovens on the Market Today
1. Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven
This 8-quart Dutch oven brings a portable kitchen experience to a camp stove. Like all of Lodge’s cast-iron products, this oven is made in the United States. It features a flanged lid that securely holds hot coals. When inverted, the lid becomes a griddle. One big concern that all campers have when dealing with hot coals and fire is stability.
Fortunately, this Dutch oven’s design has integrated legs that allow it to sit securely over the campfire without wobbling or tipping. You’ll appreciate all the stability you can get when wielding this 18-pound cooker.
Another highlight is that Lodge sells all of its cast-iron cookware as pre-seasoned cookware. With this brand, you never have to worry about synthetic chemicals used during the seasoning process because Lodge only uses soy-based vegetable oil for seasoning. You’ll find that the iron gets better and better the more it’s used.
- Made right in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.
- Comes pre-seasoned without chemicals.
- Sturdy design.
- Amazing heat retention.
- Even heat distribution.
- Deceptively heavy.
2. Overmont Camp Dutch Oven Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Lid
This 9-quart camping Dutch oven is great for everything from skillet cooking to casseroles. The lid can be used for frying. Using a safe, nonstick surface, the Overmont Camp Dutch Oven manages provides tons of value for your money based on all of the different ways it can be used. It’s also a space-saving cooker because you’re getting multiple cooking methods for the weight of a single pot. This 13-pound cooker can almost be considered compact.
Overall, the heat distribution on this Dutch oven is good. The seal is especially effective for locking in heat for cooking up roasted meats that require high, intensive heat. While there’s no denying that this Dutch oven has heft, Overmont includes a lid lifter that makes light work of maneuvering your way through a cooking session. The pot also comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil.
- Weight is very manageable for the value and versatility provided.
- Great for skillets, casseroles, and fried dishes.
- Great seal for heat retention. The flavors are really locked in!
- While pre-seasoned, this pot requires meticulous upkeep with seasoning to maintain its quality.
3. Camp Chef 12 Qt Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Proving that bigger can certainly make campfire meals better, this 12-quart beast packs tons of features into a 24-pound design that more than justify packing along something so heavy. The design’s flanged lid easily accommodates coals. The lid also has a convenient loop handle.
The unique “legged” design of the lid allows it to be used as a skillet/griddle. This feature alone helps to justify the weight of the oven. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the walls on this Dutch oven are noticeably thinner than comparable options within the same weight category.
The standout feature of this Camp Chef Dutch oven might be its built-in thermometer notch that makes it easy to track cooking progress. While innovative, this classic oven offers a pre-seasoned finish that is easy to maintain with minimal seasoning upkeep. Overall, it keeps its patina much better than most Dutch ovens on the market.
- Above-average heat retention.
- Lid doubles as a skillet/griddle.
- Seasoning retains beautifully.
- Heats quickly.
- Pot feels slightly thin for the size and weight.
- Finish is a little rough.
4. Lodge L12DO3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven With Iron Cover
Like all Lodge cast-iron products, this pre-seasoned 9-quart Dutch oven is made in the United States. It is seasoned with all-natural vegetable oil instead of chemicals to ensure carefree cooking at the campsite. The gist of this Dutch oven is that it offers amazing heat retention and easy cleaning.
You’re not getting any fancy features with this pot. It’s simply a sturdy pot with a convenient wire-bail handle. However, it will quickly become a go-to pot for searing, sautéing, broiling, baking, frying, or grilling while camping. At 19 pounds, this Dutch oven is heavier than it looks. However, it’s easy to pack it along when you consider how many different things it can cook up for you!
- Weight is reasonable.
- Even heat distribution.
- Great heat retention.
- Made in USA.
- Pre-seasoned without chemicals.
- Heavier than it looks.
5. DARTMOOR 9 Quart Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven
The classic, clean-cut design of this Dutch oven will catch your eye immediately. Offering 9-quart capacity, this Dutch oven is pre-seasoned with all-natural vegetable oils instead of chemicals. You’ll notice immediately that it features a lid with legs. This is always a sign that the lid can be used as a skillet/griddle at the campsite to allow for versatile cooking for a crowd.
The deep-dish lid on this Dutch oven is designed to increase airflow for even cooking. Additionally, there’s a looped handle on the lid that makes carrying the pot a breeze.
This Dutch oven gets extra points for its built-in thermometer notch that allows you to detect food temperatures before serving. This pot also comes with a lid lifter that allows you to safely and conveniently lift the lid without direct contact with your hands. One thing that stands out about this design is the tight fit of the lid. It’s great for keeping coals out of food when you’re cooking with low visibility in the evening.
The thick walls on this Dutch oven do a fantastic job of retaining heat. The sidewalls also help to promote even heat distribution for beautiful results. At just over 21 pounds, this Dutch oven isn’t exactly on the light side for the amount of cooking space you’re getting. However, the extra heft is owed to the thickness of the design.
- Thick walls create even, well-retained heat.
- The lid doubles as a skillet/griddle.
- Built-in temperature gauge!
- Comes with a lid lifter.
- Pre-seasoned with natural oils.
- A little heavy for the size.
- Cover has a snug fit that keeps coals out of your food.
6. Uno Casa Cast Iron Camping Dutch Oven
This 6-quart Dutch oven is great for camping in pairs because it provides more than enough space for meals for two without the need to lug around something that’s as heavy as a 9-quart pot. It weighs just 17 pounds.
Una Casa’s pre-seasoned Dutch oven comes with a lid that doubles as a skillet. I appreciate the extra-long legs on the lid because stout legs can sometimes be difficult when you don’t have any smooth terrain to work with while cooking at a campsite. The handle on the pot is also noticeably sturdy. This Dutch oven comes with a lid lifter and tote bag as bonus items.
- Feels light and portable.
- Comes with a bonus lifter and tote.
- Very sturdy design.
- “Griddle” lid has extra-long legs.
- The finish feels a little hard to clean.
- Meal sizes are limited with a 6-quart pot.
7. Keleday Dutch Oven 8 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven With Lid
This 8-quart cast iron Dutch oven is pre-seasoned using sunflower seed oil. At just 17 pounds, this Dutch oven is right on target for providing a decent amount of cooking space that’s lightweight and portable.
The lid and body of the pot connect through an adjustable vent that contributes to the even cooking and good heat retention delivered by the design. This Dutch oven gets extra points for the strong seal created when the lid and pot touch.
This Dutch oven’s lid doubles as a griddle. The lid’s large, strong legs make the pan a viable option for roasting meats. The design also shows off a 5-millimeter iron-galvanized handle that allows the pot to hang securely over an open flame.
- Ultra-durable handle.
- Lightweight for the capacity and sturdiness provided.
- Seasoned with natural sunflower seed oil.
- Great seal on the lid.
- Walls are slightly thin.
- Lid feels slightly bulky in relation to the rest of the design.
Final Thoughts: Unveiling My Pick for the Best Dutch Oven for Camping
I’m confident that all of the Dutch ovens reviewed above would be terrific assets when whipping up stews, roasts, breads, and more at a campsite. However, only one earned my respect as a must-have Dutch oven for every camping trip. My pick is the Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven.
It’s hard to outdo a brand that’s been making cast-iron products in Tennessee since 1896. This brand really understands how to make beautiful Dutch ovens that combine the performance and portability today’s campers need.
The flinged lid is exceptional for holding coals without letting them slip over the sides. I was also won over by the “griddle” lid with integrated legs, all-natural pre-seasoning method, and tidy 18-pound weight. Overall, the Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven makes the top of my list due to its unmatched quality and durability. It’s a Dutch oven for camping you’ll be passing on to the grandchildren.
My final suggestion is to really consider what the weight of a Dutch oven means for your camping configuration. You have to map out the number of people you think you’ll be cooking for during most of your camping trips before you can decide how much extra weight you’re willing to pack along.
I encourage anyone who is looking for a Dutch oven that’s smaller, larger, or configured for a specific type of cooking style to investigate the rest of the picks on this roundup of the best camping Dutch ovens to find their perfect fit. It’s never a bad idea to get two different sizes to ensure that you’re free to “pack light” during trips when you’ll only be cooking for one to two people instead of whipping up a feast for a crowd.
Fueled by his own lifelong passion for the outdoors, Ryan is dedicated to sharing his knowledge to help others experience the life-changing beauty and majesty of nature. He enjoys planning expeditions throughout the United States. He also has a passion for finding gear and methods that enhance the experience of enjoying nature.