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How to cook outside with a Dutch oven

Outdoor Dutch Oven with hot coals on the lid

A recent camping trip allowed me to explore a new way of outdoor cooking: Dutch oven cooking. Different than a home Dutch oven, which has a flat bottom and is sealed in enamel, a camping Dutch oven is a pot with three legs on the bottom and a concave lid so that you can spread coals underneath and on top of the oven. It’s made entirely of cast iron, which retains an even heat and is durable enough to withstand the high temperatures of a campfire or charcoal. These ovens are extremely heavy, so you won’t want to bring it if you are backpacking into your campsite!

Wash cast iron by hand with a very small amount of soap and hot water and dry immediately with a paper towel. Season it by rubbing it with oil using a paper towel. Cast iron cooking provides an extra nutrition bonus: more iron in the diet. Cast iron cookware leaches iron into the food, a potential benefit for those who need additional iron, including pregnant women and those with iron deficiency anemia.

Aside from the oven, you’ll want to pack a few essentials, including a lid lifter (to safely take off the lid and move the oven), charcoal, charcoal chimney, lighter, and long tongs to move the coals around. Dutch oven liners or parchment paper also make for easy cleanup. Use a Dutch oven to make virtually anything including breads, casseroles, stews, pizza, and baked goods! Outdoor cooking is made easier with Dutch ovens.  


Source: North Dakota State University. Prairie Fare: Dutch Ovens Cook Delicious Meals in All Seasons.

About the Author


Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.