Campers and Hunters: Why Dutch Ovens Are Your Best Friend

For our regular readers and those who do a lot of family camping, you know that a Dutch oven is your most utilitarian camp fire cookware. Whether you are backpacking, hunting, or just camping with the family, a good Dutch oven can be used for all kinds of campfire cooking.

In fact, you can prepare most kinds of camp meals in a Dutch oven: from a side of beans to a hearty hunter’s stew, or even the king of comfort foods,  chicken with dumplings. Cast iron cookware is ideal for camping because it’s rugged, easy to care for, and cooking with iron gives you a more even cooking heat. And one-pot meals are a great way to cook while camping since you can prepare tasty meals, often with ingredients at hand, and you don’t have to worry about spreading your cookware over a single fire or not having enough burners on the Coleman stove. And cleanup is a snap!

So what do you look for when hunting for the perfect cast iron cookware for camping? There are some basics to remember:

1. Gotta Have Legs

Got to Have Legs Stand Dutch OvenIf you are going to do cast iron cooking over an open fire, you need to be able to distribute the heat evenly around the pot. Some Dutch ovens designed for stove-top cooking have flat bottoms; for campfire cooking you want a Dutch oven with sturdy legs. That way you can nestle the cast iron pot into the fire’s coals to get even heat across the bottom.

Flat Iron Lid Dutch-oven

2. Flat Iron Lid

Some Dutch ovens come with a glass lid, which is fine for cooking at home but useless on the trail. Others come with a domed iron lid, which won’t break but is less useful for camp cooking. For campfire cooking, a Dutch oven with a flat, lipped lid with an iron rim is perfect. The lid needs to have a good fit, and once you place the Dutch oven in the fire you can shovel hot coals onto the lid so you get even heat from the top and bottom. It’s great for baking cobbler or fresh game.

3.  Get a Handle On It

Dutch Oven HandleAlmost all Dutch ovens come with a bail handle, like the handle on a bucket that runs from loops on the side. The bail handle is extremely useful for removing a hot pot from the fire, or if you prefer, suspending a cooking pot over the fire on a cooking tripod. You also can get an oven with a wound wire bail handle to make it easier to manage when the pot is hot.

4. Size Matters

Size Matters Multiple Dutch OvenDutch ovens are generally round, but they come in different sizes from four the 12 quarts. Consider how you plan to cook. If you are cooking for a family then a larger Dutch oven of 8 to 12 quarts can cook a meal for everyone. If you’re hunting and plan to cook your kill, consider how big a pot you will need for stew or cooking your game. If you are camping solo, backpacking, or have to pack in and out to your campsite, consider a smaller Dutch oven to save on weight.

A good Dutch oven can be your best camping cookware investment. Use your camping experience and think about how you are going to cook with it, and you’ll be able to find the perfect Dutch oven that will last a lifetime.

Do you use a dutch oven when you’re out in the wilderness or on the trail?  Do you have any tips for choosing a pot that works best?  Or a favorite recipe to prepare while you’re camping out?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

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