Dutch ovens, for reasons unknown, have been somewhat forgotten by many modern campers. Though they might lack a certain new or cool factor, these sturdy-lidded steel (or cast iron) pots are still one of the best tools for making camp cooking easy.
The reason for this, of course, is their versatility. Anything that can be baked, roasted, or simmered can be cooked using a Dutch oven. This includes breads and biscuits, soups, stews, or chilis, and even roasts or casseroles. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that whatever you brought on your camping trip for food, it can probably be cooked using a Dutch oven.
The easiest way to cook using a Dutch oven is to bring along charcoal briquettes made for cooking. You simply start a regular old campfire, stack briquettes in the middle of it, and then place your Dutch oven (food contents included) in the middle of the coals. Take care to make sure that the surrounding coals stack up along the sides of the oven. As the food heats up, rotate the oven periodically to make sure that the cooking is being done evenly. This technique is well suited for things that would normally be baked – including small cuts of meat, bread items, stews, and casseroles.
Non-Electric Crock Pot
The second method, though a little more complicated, is very useful. It makes the oven act as a non-electric crock pot of sorts, allowing you to roast large cuts of meat at lower temperatures for extended periods of time. The technique begins with digging a hole roughly two feet in diameter and depth. After lining the hole with flat stones, fill it with hot coals (get them warmed up in the campfire), and place the Dutch oven deep into them. Add a layer of coals on top, and enclose your outdoor crock pot with a thin layer of dirt. Because the coals will be in the process of burning out for several hours, the temperature at which your food cooks will be relatively low. For this reason, many campers like to get this method going in the morning, leave the Dutch oven contents cooking all day, and eat the food itself at dinner.
Though they’re certainly not the coolest or most attractive outdoor cooking items around, there is no question that Dutch ovens get the job done. In terms of versatility and effectiveness for campsite cooking, they really can’t be beat. And, at very reasonable prices, there’s little reason for you not to give the Dutch oven a try on your next camping trip.