DO Cooking


Jan 31, 2023
When my youngest DS was in 5th grade his school was lucky enough to get to go on a special, new outing called "Kids Outdoors." I was blessed to be asked to be a chaperone. Ours was the only school in our district to be chosen & there was one school from a neighboring district (so this was a VERY special occurance for us). And....IT GOT US STARTED CAMPING!!! [CP]

What happened during the program was the kids were shown different ways to enjoy nature, from identifying trees, plants, bugs & animals to being shown basic survival/first aide skills. In one area there was a camp kitchen set up. The students were given recipes, had to help prepare some items, and most importantly: got to eat!

The recipe that we have taken with us each time we camp is our dutch oven desert. It is simple & delicious.

1 box cake mix (yellow)
1 stick butter
1 can fruit filling

Pour the cake mix into the DO. Chunk the butter into table spoons and drop it in. Pour the fruit filling in, put the lid on & you're done! [:)O] [oops, I think it was 8 coals each on top & bottom)

Our guide also gave us this website. Enjoy!
That sounds delicious!


everything is better around a campfire.
Mar 11, 2010
Western NC
Cooking in the yard today
I'll have a fire pit ready for ya to make dinner when your here... LOL..
Hey Peter... My going to the Sewer as my 1st rally got me back into the DO's and involved with that Dan character.


Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
Sep 9, 2013
Kansas City
Looks good. Reminds me of a Polish dish my grandmother made, Kielbasa and cabbage. Although She added more onion and less potatoes she used a little butter i don’t remember anything else added.
You got me thinking I may need to whip up some Kielbasa and sauerkraut in the cast iron...Mmmmmm Good!
Sep 25, 2021
Would anyone care to write out a 'how to' for people who know absolutely nothing about using a cast iron dutch oven on a campfire? I cooked a whole chicken once on the fire but it was a total experiment that luckily didn't kill us :) I really know nothing about how to use a fire to cook and need to learn. I know I can google and I have but want as much input as I can get!


Aug 30, 2022
I wrote an article on this a few years back... here it is:

Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Over an Open Fire​

Camp dutch oven cooking involves applying heat from two directions: the bottom and the top. This dual heating, when done properly, simulates the even heat of a real oven.

I do all of my camp dutch oven cooking over a campfire (as opposed to using charcoal briquettes).

If you search around for camp dutch oven recipes, you'll find that the vast majority of them use charcoal briquettes. But these days, a lot of home barbequers (myself included) are using hardwood lump charcoal instead of briquettes. These real-wood glowing coals are exactly what you'll harvest from your campfire for dutch oven cooking.

Getting Started​

Begin by preparing two fire rings. The first ring is for your "coals" fire, from which you'll keep pulling fresh hot coals to heat your dutch oven. The second fire ring is your "cooking" fire, where your dutch oven will sit and cook your food. Often I will have a third area for grilling stuff. I pull fresh coals from the main fire (upper left in the image below), and add as needed to one or more dutch ovens (or under the grill, at right in the below image) to maintain the heat level I want.


Depending on where you're camped (and the flammability of the ground surrounding your fire pit) your "cooking" fire ring may simply be a patch of ground next to the main fire ring.

If you're in a developed campground with one of those metal fire-ring-grill-combo thingys... you can usually plunk your dutch oven on a corner of the concrete pad on which the fire ring sits.

The Perfect Campfire for Dutch Oven Cooking​

Once you've prepared your fire rings, make a large fire in your "coals" fire ring. Use smaller pieces of very dry wood to start this fire. The idea is to quickly develop a big pile of hot coals to put above and below your camp dutch oven. A large fire made of sticks (as opposed to logs) is the quickest way to develop a large pile of hot coals.

Hardwood is better than softwood since the coals last longer. Out here in the west, the closest things we have to hardwood are locust, aspen, and cottonwood. Pine or other softwoods are also fine (you'll just have to replenish the coals more often). I often end up cooking with ponderosa pine and things work out great.

Once your "coals" fire is established and you've placed your initial pile of hot coals above and below your dutch oven (more on that in a sec) you can add logs to the "coals" fire to keep it burning more steadily.

Applying Heat to Your Camp Dutch Oven​

Dutch oven cooking involves applying heat from two directions (the bottom and the top). It's important to also rotate the base and lid periodically to even out any hot spots. The goal is to simulate the even heat of a real oven.

Most dutch oven recipes call for approximating a 350 degree F oven. Depending on what you are cooking, you may apply more top or bottom heat.

For boiling or deep frying, you'll apply all of your heat from the bottom. For making chili, stew, or other high-liquid dishes, put most of your heat underneath, and a little bit on top. If you're making pot roast, you'll split the coals pretty evenly between top and bottom. If you're baking crisps, cakes, or enchiladas, you'll put the majority of your coals on top, and just a few underneath.

For baking, you'll be preparing your meals in the cold dutch oven and applying heat once things are ready. For pot roast, soups, stews, and chili, you'll likely be browning meat, caramelizing onions, or doing other tasks in the hot dutch oven base prior to adding the rest of the ingredients.

Whatever you do, before adding food, make sure your camp dutch oven starts shiny (coated with oil).

To begin heating the dutch oven, grab a single layer of coals from your main "coals" fire, and sprinkle them into the second "cooking" fire ring in a disc that roughly matches the diameter of your dutch oven. What you are doing is creating a "burner" for your dutch oven. The thickness of this burner depends on how much bottom heat you want. For boiling, it should be packed full and 2 inches deep. For simmering, maybe 1 inch deep and somewhat loosely packed (there should be spaces between the coals). For roasting and baking, start with just a few sporadic coals, and add more once you confirm that your food is not burning (more on that later).

Place the camp dutch oven on the disc of coals. If you're making a pot roast or chili, you'll probably keep the lid off and do some browning and searing first. Once things have settled down and you're ready to place the lid on the dutch oven, go ahead and pile some glowing coals on top of the lid.

For boiling, you'll probably skip the top coals altogether. For stewing and simmering, place a few coals on top to help move things along. For roasting, you should have a 1-inch pile of coals that mostly cover the lid. For baking, you'll pile the coals up to 2-inches high and cover the lid thickly with them.

It's also fair game to pile a few medium-sized flaming sticks on top instead of coals. You have to be careful of hot spots (more on that below), but sometimes this approach is easier than messing with a bunch of smaller coals.

Campfire Cooking​

The #1 mistake of camp dutch oven cooks is applying too much heat and burning the food.

To avoid burning your dinner, check on your food frequently (at least every 5 minutes). This is especially true in the beginning when the first data points about how hot your fire really is are trickling in.

To check your food, lift the lid off (coals and all) with a pair of long-handled tongs. Place the lid on a clean surface so you don't end up with dirt or ashes in your food after replacing the lid. I usually use two smaller logs laid next to each other as a lid rest.

With the lid removed, visually inspect the food for any signs of burning, and try to get your nose down there to smell for any burning-food-type odors. Vigorous bubbling means your food is already burning or is about to burn.

I usually reach into the dutch oven with a wooden spoon and dig to the bottom to make sure nothing's burning or sticking (sticking is a precursor to burning). If you're cooking something like chili or pot roast where stirring is no big deal, performing these burn-checks is easy. If you're making a crisp or a cake, you'll have to rely mostly on scent (that said, a little inter-mixing of layers is far superior to a burnt cake).

When you're satisfied that nothing is burning (yet), rotate the base of the dutch oven by 90 degrees, and then place the lid back on top. When you place the lid back on top, rotate it by 90 degrees in relation to the base. Here's a tip: If you pick up the lid and put it back in the exact same orientation, when you rotate the base underneath it you'll have effectively rotated the lid in relation to the food. Don't worry too much about proper rotation as long as everything looks and smells fine inside.

Always err on the side of too little heat as opposed to too much. If, upon checking your dutch oven, nothing is bubbling and everything seems to be getting colder, go ahead and add coals. Never be afraid to remove your dutch oven from all heat (pick it up by the wire bail and set it on cool ground).

With a little experience, you'll get the hang of how much heat is needed and you won't have to check on your food as much.

Essential Gear for Campfire Dutch Oven Cooking​

The dutch oven:
I use an 8-quart Lodge camp dutch oven. It's big enough to handle meals for 6 or 8 people, but not so huge as to take up half the car when packing for a trip. The lid doubles as a frying surface in a pinch.

A good pair of insulated gloves:
When doing any campfire cooking, I use a pair of leather welding gloves with a good-sized gauntlet to protect the wrist. They're not cheap (up to $40 a pair), but they beat the pants off kitchen oven mitts when working around a campfire.

It is a real bummer to burn your hands when you're out in the wild. It's an even bigger bummer to drop your dinner into the dirt due to burnt hands.

In campfire cooking... as in life... a good pair of gloves is a purchase you'll seldom regret.

A pair of long-handled tongs (maybe two):
I use two pairs of long-handled tongs when I cook with the dutch oven. One pair is for moving hot coals, logs, and lifting the lid of the dutch oven. The other pair is for touching food.

The tongs I use are 16 inches long. I've found that tongs made for grilling & barbecue are sub-par compared to restaurant utility tongs. Restaurant tongs are stronger, and have a better spring mechanism to keep them open without extra effort. I got my tongs at a local restaurant supply house.

A small whisk broom:
The whisk broom is really handy for removing coals and ash from the top of your dutch oven prior to serving. This helps keep unwanted junk out of your food.

Be sure to get a non-plastic whisk broom, since plastic will melt when it comes into contact with a hot dutch oven. In a pinch, you could easily make a simple whisk broom from some dried grass stems and string.

A bag for the dutch oven:
Initially, I felt a little silly purchasing a dutch oven carrying case. But a trip last spring to the slickrock desert outside of Moab, Utah cured me of my gear-fear.

A camp dutch oven should always be put away well-oiled, and sand will stick to it in a hurry!

Hope that helps! Enjoy!


Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2012
Pittsburgh, Pa
Are you totally new at using Dutch ovens , or just new using them over an open fire? Charcoal is a better heat source to learn from scratch. Teach the basics with. As it’s more of a controlled temperature to gauge. Scientific . More factors in play with open fire as different woods burn differently, more hot spots to deal with, wind, and even atmospheric Conditions can play a role . Controlling your heat gain and heat loss is the key . Start with a simple dump cake or something with a liquid base.


Active Member
Silver Supporting Member
Nov 25, 2015
We are fairly recent to DO cooking. Most DO-specific recipes tell the # of briquets to put on the lid. That seems to be important info. Also get a lid-lifter hook.
We also practice at home :D


Super Active Member
Nov 28, 2014
Central Oregon
We are fairly recent to DO cooking. Most DO-specific recipes tell the # of briquets to put on the lid. That seems to be important info. Also get a lid-lifter hook.
We also practice at home :D

Yeah, that practice at home part helps. I’ve even cheated a couple times and just oiled it, loaded it and stuck it in my outdoor grill and just kinda baked in it.

Good luck to everyone with your experimentation.


2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
Northern Virginia
who know absolutely nothing about using a cast iron dutch oven on a campfire?
Check out Kent Rollins on you tube. also There is an app you can get For your phone Dutch Oven Coal calculator which I use a lot to tell me how many charcoal to use on the top/ bottom of the oven. I first started with charcoal and eventually when I learned about the heat better went to regular coals from the fire although still prefer my charcoal as it is far easier. Not to mention I don’t always want a roaring fire going.


Super Active Member
Nov 28, 2014
Central Oregon
If you, or anyone on here is looking for reference or how to stuff, in addition to Kent Rollins good stuff, look for CW, (C Dub) Welch stuff. He used to have a segment on Idaho Public Broadcasting, and I have a couple of his cook/how to books that I think are good.

I suggest everyone plan to cook their next Sunday roast Dutch Oven style just to keep in practice!


everything is better around a campfire.
Mar 11, 2010
Western NC
I suggest everyone plan to cook their next Sunday roast Dutch Oven style just to keep in practice!
Well We could. Got a whole chicken yesterday for today. Have done several over the years, Stuffed with Apple, slow roasted with Taters, Corn on the Cob and Carrots. This one will go on the Smoker, But will take the leftovers and do a DO Chicken Pot Pie later this week.