Ring the dinner bell! Dutch oven dinners are ready for hungry campers. Dutch oven cooking for dinner is the ultimate in cooking over a campfire. For the barbecue expert to the burgeoning cook who needs a new challenge, Dutch oven cooking for your main dinner meal opens up an entirely new world of mastering a campfire to cook for family and friends. Dutch oven cooking is a creative way to adapt both old and new recipes for dinner on your next camping trip.
Why should you use a Dutch oven for cooking dinner when on a campout? Learning to cook over an open fire with techniques that reach far beyond average camping is spectacular. Coupled with the history of Dutch oven cooking is the fact that Dutch oven cooking is tasty, easy, and one of the best ways to cook meats, stews, and soups on a camping trip. Clean up is not difficult if you clean up right after cooking and emptying the Dutch oven.
Cooking your main dinner meal over a campfire is more than just barbequing hotdogs on a stick, or wrapping hamburger and veggies up in tin foil, it is using a Dutch oven to create a tasty, nutritious and “gut-filling” dish that will make memories for you and your guests. Dutch ovens have been used for cooking for centuries, and it isn’t challenging to use a Dutch oven to feed an entire campground of hungry campers. First, learn about how Dutch ovens came to be popular, then pick out the best Dutch oven for your camping trip, season and clean your Dutch oven properly, and cook yummy campground dinners in your Dutch oven.
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Dutch Oven Information You Need To Know For Cooking
American frontiersmen carried Dutch ovens or cast iron pots west to prepare and transport their food, but the Dutch ovens they used at that time had been popular for over 150 years. The Dutch were not the ones who invented deep cast iron cooking pots, but they did have a technique for using dry sand to make a mold that gave their finished pots smoother surfaces.
An Englishman by the name of Abraham Darby traveled to the Netherlands and learned the system of making cast iron pots by using sand molds. He learned the system well, and in 1708 he patented the technique for making cast iron pots. Why these pots were called Dutch ovens is unknown, but the name has stuck ever since Darby brought the pots back to England from the Netherlands.
The colonists who arrived in the New World centuries ago brought Dutch ovens with them. The original pots did not have legs, but over time legs were added to the bottom to hold the pot above the fire coals. A handle was added to suspend the pot from a hook over a fire and to carry it while it was hot.
A small lip was added to the lid to better hold coals for baking a few years later. (Paul Revere is said to have “invented” the lip around the Dutch oven lid.)
What to Cook
The list of what you can cook in a Dutch oven is endless. Dutch ovens can make stews or soups, cook small game or domestic fowl, make bread or biscuits, prepare breakfast dishes or desserts. Anything you can bake in a modern day oven can be baked in a Dutch oven.
Experienced Dutch oven cooks prepared dinners of venison and beef stew, Cornish hens, and vegetables, homemade biscuits and cornbread, and even Thanksgiving turkey. Using Dutch ovens have been the preferred way to bake dump cakes, cobblers, pies, and cakes. You can use a Dutch oven with coals, an open flame or if you are a modern camper, in the oven of your trailer.
Many families have passed Dutch ovens down for generations, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an old Dutch oven and want to purchase a new one. Quality Dutch ovens are still made in the same manner they have been crafted for centuries. Technology has improved Dutch ovens a tiny bit for storage, but there is no improving the Dutch oven for cooking use.
Picking the Right Dutch Oven
Check out your nearest camping store for a Dutch Oven. Major camping stores like Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse or whatever camping store is in your area will carry different brands of Dutch ovens. The brand is not important but look for Dutch ovens that are full cast iron. They will be heavy when you pick up the box.
- Aluminum Dutch ovens are popular; they are lighter and easier to carry, can be washed with soap and dry quicker. But Aluminum Dutch ovens are not authentic, and they heat faster and have hot spots. When cooking foods like bread or pizza dough or even stews, aluminum Dutch ovens can’t distribute the heat evenly. As a note, the food doesn’t taste as good either.
- Cast iron is the only way to go in an authentic campground cooks’ opinion. Cast iron does require initial seasoning, you can’t use soap and water, they are heavy, but the cooking properties are tremendous.
Choose the proper lid to cook with a Dutch oven. When cooking over coals, it is necessary to be able to apply heat from not only the bottom but the lid. Cooking on the bottom and the top helps the Dutch oven function like an oven. Feet on the Dutch oven are necessary so you can place your Dutch oven over the coals of a fire. The lid must have a lip, so coals stay put on top.
There are many sizes of Dutch ovens, from small 5” for a single person to 16” for an entire Scout troop. The smallest that is advisable to use on a camping trip is a 14” Dutch oven. Fourteen inches is a universal size to cook just about anything from breakfast to bread to dinner.
The brand of Dutch oven you buy is not important, but many chefs prefer Lodge since they are made very well and are affordable. The Lodge company has been in the business since 1896, and they are experts in the ways of Dutch ovens. You might want to stay away from less expensive options that are too thin and won’t cook properly.
Seasoning Your New Dutch Oven
Wash your Dutch oven with warm water and soap. You are washing your oven to take off the sealant that is put on the Dutch oven from the factory. Look for any imperfections, overly rough spots or rust. Remove rust with a steel wool pad. Once you have washed your Dutch oven, and this is the only time you will use soap on your Dutch oven, dry it completely and put it over a fire, or in a 400-degree oven.
When the oven is hot (don’t get your Dutch oven so hot it glows red), remove it from the heat source and wipe on a thin coat of cooking oil. Return the Dutch oven to the heat source, upside down, and leave it there until the oil stops smoking.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and wipe on another thin coat of oil. Let it cool completely. Once your oven is seasoned, you shouldn’t need to season it again.
Cleaning Your Dutch Oven
Cleaning a Dutch oven is one of the most important things you can do to keep your Dutch oven cooking for generations. Don’t use soap and water if you can help it. Scrape out all the food and clean with oil and vinegar. Use a strong steel wool pad and scrub the Dutch oven inside. Make sure you clean the lid, too. Add another light coating of oil, and your Dutch oven is ready for the next meal.
(Note: if you do use water, don’t use soap! Make sure your Dutch oven is completely dry before you put it away or it will rust.)
Dutch Oven Campfire Recipes for Dinner
Here are some great dinner recipes that you can prepare on a campfire with your dutch oven.
Jambalaya Dutch Oven Campfire Recipe
Jambalaya is a popular dish from Spanish, West African and French influence. The dish is mainly meat and vegetables mixed with rice. The dish is popular in Louisiana, and even the best Louisiana chefs use a cast iron Dutch oven for cooking.
1 lb chicken breasts
1 lb smoked sausage
1 can diced tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup cooking oil
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup flour
2 cups of rice
Cajun seasonings (as a friend in Louisiana to get you some authentic Cajun seasonings or purchase them from the grocery store)
Boil chicken in 41/2 cups of well-seasoned water until the chicken is done. Remove chicken and cook the rice in the water. Put a lid over the water and put on 8-10 coals to keep the water boiling.
Cube the chicken, slice the sausage.
In a smaller Dutch oven combine oil and flour, cooking until brown and stirring frequently.
Add onions, sauté until soft.
Add peppers, garlic, and tomatoes.
Cook a few minutes and let the flavors mingle.
When the rice is done, add the vegetable/flour mix to it.
Add chicken, sausage and Worcestershire sauce
Cover and cook over coals for about an hour
Stir occasionally, but don’t cook your jumbayala to a rolling boil.
Add more water or seasoning if needed.
You want your Jambalaya moist, but not runny.
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Prime Rib Dutch Oven Campfire Recipe
The meat of a prime rib is tender and juicy. Find a cut that has generous marbling and a bit of fat, and you will have a rich piece of meat that’s full of flavor. Once you tasted a prime rib cooked in a Dutch oven, you will never be able to eat regular roast beef again.
5 lbs prime rib
2 diced celery stalks
2 sliced carrots
2 bay leaves
½ tsp salt
1 diced green pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp pepper
2 cups of water
Dash of vegetable oil
1 chopped onion, ½ tsp sage
6 cut up small potatoes
1 minced garlic clove
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1 tsp paprika
Place the prime rib in Dutch oven and add 2 cups of water. Add all other ingredients and cover.
If using a 14-inch Dutch oven, place 12-14 coals on the bottom of the oven, and place 14-16 coals on the lid. Cook until the meat is done to taste, about 2 hours. Make sure you keep the coals heaped on the lid and glowing on the bottom. You will need to add more coals to keep the meat cooking for the entire time.
Baste the meat as it cooks if needed. Eat and enjoy.
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BBQ Ribs Dutch Oven Campfire Recipe
A quick and easy dish to prepare. The meat will turn out very tender and almost melts in your mouth. The soda tenderizes the meat to perfection, and the ketchup adds a bite. Use season salt, garlic powder, lemon pepper, or any other seasonings you like. You can also add a ½ cup of brown sugar if you like a sweeter sauce.
3 lbs boneless pork ribs
1 large bottle of ketchup (preferably Heinz)
1 6 oz can of Pepsi (Root Beer works, too)
1 chopped onion
¼ cup oil
Heat Dutch oven by using hot coals on the bottom of the Dutch oven
Pour in the oil
Add the pork ribs and cook until just browned
Add onion and cook until translucent
Drain off all the juices and fats.
Place the Dutch oven and ribs back on the coals.
Pour in the entire bottle of ketchup
Add the can of Pepsi (or Root Beer)
Add seasonings to taste.
For a 14-inch Dutch oven, add 10-12 coals on the bottom. Put the lid on tightly and add 14-16 hot coals on the lid. You are cooking this dish from the bottom down.
Cook for at least 2 hours or until meat is tender.
Stir occasionally, so the sauce does not burn and stick to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Pour over rice or potatoes if you desire.
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Savory Beef Stew Dutch Oven Campfire Recipe
Beef Stew is always a favorite of campers. Serve this dish with Dutch oven biscuits, and you have the perfect “after-a-day-of-hiking” meal.
2 lbs stew meat
1 small bay lea
3 cups of water
2 tsp salt
6 carrots, quartered
½ cup flour
1 beef bouillon cube
1 clove garlic, minced
2 finely chopped onions
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp pepper
3 cut up medium potatoes
1 cup of water
Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven except 1 cup of water and the four. Cover and cook over coals of several hours until the meat is cooked through and tender. Remove the lid and add the remaining flour and water mix. Stir into the stew and mix until it thickens to taste.
If using a 14-inch Dutch oven, use 10-12 coals on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Place 12-14 coals on the lid of the Dutch oven. Stir occasionally to make sure the stew is cooking properly.
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Chicken Breasts in Sauce Dutch Oven Campfire Recipe
Pour this chicken in sauce over rice. You will never taste anything so wonderful in your life. A dish that campers and Dutch oven chefs make over and over again.
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups stuffing mix
8 thick slices of Swiss cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
A ¼ cup of water
12/cup melted butter
Arrange chicken in the bottom of a Dutch Oven. Put a slice of cheese on top of each chicken breast. Mix water and soup until mixed well and pour over the chicken. Drizzle with butter and sprinkle the stuffing mix on top.
Heat the Dutch oven over hot coals. Use 10-12 coals on the bottom of a 14-inch Dutch oven and 12-14 coals on the top. Bake the chicken at 350-degrees (you can use a food thermometer if you need) for about 1 hour or until the chicken is tender.
Deer BBQ Dutch Oven Campfire Recipe
Wild game is a dish not for the faint-hearted. It comes out perfect from a Dutch oven, and you won’t even notice you are eating venison.
3 lbs deer roast
A ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce
5 Tbsp vinegar
6 Tbs brown sugar
4 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs butter
1 tsp mustard
1 ½ cups catsup
¼ tsp liquid smoke
1 chopped onion
Salt and pepper
Boil meat in a Dutch oven (cover with water) with seasonings to taste. When done, shred the meat and set aside. Brown the onion in butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and the shredded meat.
Cook all the ingredients over coals for about ½ hour. Serve on buns or over rice or potatoes. Use a 14-inch Dutch oven and make sure you have 10-12 coals on the bottom and at least 12-14 coals on the lid. Watch the food as it cooks and add more coals as needed. Stir several times during the cooking process.
Dinner in a Dutch oven is the best. You can keep the leftovers (if there are any) and reheat them the next day for lunch. Do note that recipes can be varied to match your family’s taste buds and you can use small or larger Dutch ovens depending on the size of your party. Watch the coals as your dinner cooks to make sure nothing burns.
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