Today I bring you the best Dutch ovens for camping. Now some of you folks out there will underestimate the importance of a good Dutch oven believing any old thing will do. Well, today I tell you you’re wrong.
A good camping trip is nothing without good camp food…trust me, I’m a veteran of hundreds of trips and it’s pretty much up there as a make or break camp experience. It can literally make or break a trip. Done well, the memories can last a lifetime.
I’m one of those people that believe that things taste better when made over a fire…and there are lots like me.
Best Dutch ovens for camping
Before I give you some details on why you should invest in a cast iron Dutch oven, on what aspects to consider and everything else that is relevant…I will tell you what I think the best Dutch ovens for camping are.
I have selected a variety of sizes and features so there will be something here to suit most peoples needs. I have not included the prices as they change all the time but click the link and they will send you to Amazon which gives you the best price online.
My recommendations for the best Dutch ovens for camping in 2020
- Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Deep Camp Dutch Oven – 12 Inch/8 Quart
- GSI Outdoors Hard Anodized Dutch Oven
- Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven L10CO3, 4-Quart
- Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven 17L12CO3, 6-Quart
- Lodge Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven L8DD3, 5-Quart
- AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven – 6-Quart
- Camp Chef Deluxe 9 1/3-Quart Dutch Oven
- Texsport Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Legs
- Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven L8CO3, 2-Quart
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Deep Camp Dutch Oven – 12 Inch/8 Quart
GSI Outdoors Hard Anodized Dutch Oven
Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven L10CO3, 4-Quart
Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven 17L12CO3, 6 Quart
Lodge Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven L8DD3, 5-Quart
AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven – 6-Quart
Camp Chef Deluxe 9 1/3-Quart Dutch Oven
Texsport Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Legs
Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven L8CO3, 2-Quart
What to look for when you’re buying new cast iron Dutch oven
Summary – Check the following;
- Where was it made
- Look at the surface for pitting, cracks, humps and lumps
- Check for flat base
- Check is the lid and how well it sits on the body
- Even thickness of the walls
The first thing I consider when looking at cast iron Dutch ovens…or skillets for that matter…where is it made. The reason I say this is the difference in the quality of the actual cast iron. The US has better quality of cast iron it uses and it is specifically made for them.
Some foreign made goods are form cast iron that has been melted down from automotive blocks…see where I am going with this. It comes down to quality.
Good cast iron reduces the chance it will crack or warp and it will heat evenly.
When you are looking at your cast iron Dutch oven, make sure it is not pitted. Take a real close look at it to make sure there are no cracks or blemishes.
An important place to look for this is where the base meets the sides…both inside and out. This is a real vulnerable spot so pay attention.
With pre-seasoned cast iron, this can be a little difficult to see, but shine a cell phone torch on it and you should be able to have a good look.
Check that the Dutch oven sits flat on a surface. The flatness of the base is crucial to it heating efficiently and evenly. If it is warped, it can create hot spots which may ruin some of your food.
Another thing to look at is the thickness of the walls. You want your food to cook evenly so you need the heat to be delivered evenly. Is the thickness of the walls uniform? In most cases they are because of modern manufacturing but mistakes can be made.
One of the first things I check is the lid and how well it sits on the body of the Dutch oven. Make sure it is not too tight but not too lose neither. One way to do this is to spin the lid whilst on the vessel. It should spin round freely.
Make sure the Dutch oven you select has a lip on the lid…most do except some of the smaller ones. They are a design necessity to stop charcoal slipping off the lid. It is safer this way too.
The handles are the next place to check, making sure there are no obvious issues around the construction. Remember a fault here could potentially be very dangerous.
What Size Dutch Oven Should I Buy?
This is an important question that only you can really answer but I can give you some guidance. The biggest question is the number of people you will be cooking for?
The worst scenario is when you are cooking outside and the Dutch oven is too small. This means that people get less portion sizes or you have to repeat the dish again. This is problematic as some of these dishes are slow cooked for hours. You definitely don’t want hungry campers too…not great for the atmosphere!
Over the years, I have been asked this question numerous times. My answer is always the same. I always have two Dutch ovens that are 12 inches, one regular and one deep. These are relatively large compared to the array of sizes available but I work on the basis that I want leftovers…why have to cook when you don’t need to. Cook more than you need and it gives you options.
Even though I am cooking for a couple of people, I still use a larger Dutch oven…it just makes sense to me.
I do however base this on the fact that I drive to my camp sites. I am not really carrying them very far. If you do need to carry them, it changes everything…they are heavy, sometimes very heavy. Consider very carefully the size if you need to carry them far, it could be a mistake to buy a larger one.
There are some general sizing recommendations which may guide your decision…but as always, consider your own needs depending on what you cook and portion sizes.
|Oven Size||Oven Capacity||Persons served|
|5 inches||1 Quart||1 to 2|
|8 inches||2 Quart||2 to 4|
|10 inches||4 Quart||4 to 8|
|12 inches||6 Quart||8 to 12|
|14 inches||8 Quart||14 to 18|
|16 inches||12 Quart||20 to 24|
Where can I buy a Dutch oven?
There are plenty of places that you can buy a Dutch oven but I strongly suggest that you do not just chance it by picking one up at a local sporting store or camping shop…however convenient. The market has recently been saturated with cheap Chinese imports that are of a low quality with very questionable safety.
A good cast iron Dutch oven can last you your lifetime so if you are going to buy one, buy a quality one that will last…and also have a resale value if you decide to change up.
I always recommend that you buy from a renowned brand such as Lodge or Camp Chef. They have the heritage and trust of the market with plenty of loyal customers. They are loyal for good reason.
I would therefore recommend that you buy a known brand that you can research beforehand. You can of course buy them locally and the advantage is that you can take a good look at them first.
If you don’t have the local stockists, buy them online directly from the manufacturer or a market place like Amazon. You have the advantage of getting your item delivered…they can be quite heavy…and you can also return them for free if you aren’t happy.
The biggest advantage of buying online is of course the price. It will be cheaper on places like Amazon for the same item you see in store.
Do I need any other tools and accessories for my Dutch oven?
- Lid lifter
- Fire safety gloves
- Lid stand
- Dutch oven stand
Quite frankly you could get away with buying just a Dutch oven and then being a little creative. For an experienced old man like me, it is second nature.
It is not for everybody though. I have many years of experience under my belt and I was taught by my old pops.
If you are relative new to campfire Dutch oven cooking, I would strongly recommend that you err on the side of caution and do things in the safest manner possible. Remember that these ovens get incredibly hot and one slight mishap can cause serious injury.
Remember that it is not only you that needs protection, other people around also need to be protected. You may also have children around so be careful and play it safe.
To do things safely, make sure you take the right tools and accessories with you. Over time, you may decide you don’t need some of them but initially I strongly recommend that you at least consider them.
Quite frankly, they don’t cost very much and doing things safely is priority number one.
Here are some of the Cast iron Dutch oven tools and accessories you might want to consider.
This is an essential piece of equipment to remove the lid from a Dutch oven. Remember that the lid is potentially going to be very hot, especially if you have hot coals on them.
The Lid lifter also helps you move the Dutch oven from the fire to the table. Especially useful for safely moving, lifting or rotating a hot lid.
Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Lid Lifter
Fire safety gloves
Imperative if you are not getting a lid lifter. I would recommend that you get a pair anyway as you can use them for other things but it is essential you protect yourself when you are handling hot cast iron.
They are cheap too so no reason not to get a pair.
US Forge 400 Welding Gloves Lined Leather
They look really smart and do serve a purpose if not an essential piece of equipment. They are a safe way to hang a Dutch oven safely. Again, they are pretty cheap so why not. I would recommend the following Lodge tripod;
Lodge ATP2 Tall Boy Tripod
A lid stand can be incredibly useful and something people do not consider when they buy a Dutch oven. Ask yourself what you do with a hot lid? Most people just place it onto the ground…which inevitably picks up the dirt…which inevitably ends up in your food. Seriously…buy a lid stand!
Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Lid Stand
Dutch oven Stand
Again, not essential but it sure does make your job a lot easier. You can’t just put a hot Dutch oven anywhere…it’s hot! Get a stand and you can put it anywhere…some things just work.
Camp Chef Dutch Oven Stand
How to season a new outdoor Dutch oven
There used to be a time when you bought a new Dutch oven, the first thing you had to do was season it. Now this is a task that must be done meticulously. Do it right and your Dutch oven will last for generations…getting better and better. Do it wrong and it WILL rust and sooner rather than later, become useless.
Now, most manufacturers have saved you the trouble initially by supplying their Dutch ovens and skillets preseasoned. This was started by Lodge Cast Iron and has been copied by most manufacturers as they realized that people like it. They can use their products straight away.
Eventually you will need to season it to continue its protection and also to ensure there is a good non-stick quality to it. I put together an article on the step by step process on how to season cast iron properly. Read it and follow it.
Cleaning Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Cleaning your Dutch oven is an important task to keep it usable. The non-stick surface and patina makes it easy to do that anyway but there is a process you need to follow.
You can just wash it out with some hot water and a quick scrub using a nylon brush. In most cases that is all that is required.
Sometimes, the food ends up getting ‘stuck on’. In this case you may need to boil some water in it and give it a little scrub. The food should loosen and you can rinse it clean.
The important part here is to dry it properly. Remember, no matter how well seasoned your Dutch oven is, water and cast iron are not a good combination.
I sometimes put it back over the heat to release any moisture from the pores. You can however, towel dry it. Once it is dry, add a layer of cooking oil onto it. This adds to the patina and it is now ready to use again.
Remember, do this properly and your Dutch oven will last many years…longer than you more than likely.
History of outdoor Dutch cooking
There is a strong tradition of outdoor cooking in my family that stretches back generations. It’s the way we do things around here…and will continue to do. There is a passion and excitement that comes from outdoor cooking that makes people smile. It is wonderful and I recommend you try it if you never have.
Of course, Dutch oven cooking goes back hundreds of years and the story goes, was introduced by the Pennsylvania Dutch people. They introduced one pot cooking as they needed a method of cooking that could feed many mouths without having to haul around large amounts of cookware. Hundreds of years later, the tradition lives strong.
I was taught by my father and his father taught him. I have passed on my knowledge to my son and he too will pass on that knowledge. It’s just the way it is. This tradition is here to stay.
Since you are here…can I ask you a favor?
It would be really nice if you could share this image on social media…it’s just a couple of clicks for you but it means the world to me.
Thank you so much
What should I read next?
How to Buy Cast Iron Skillets and Dutch Ovens
Lodge Cast Iron: over 120 years of Cast iron goodness
How to use a Dutch oven while camping