Living Well: 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking

August 22, 2013

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

Are you ready for another installment of our Outdoor Cooking series (here’s part one)? I am too!

Cooking in a Dutch oven is one of life’s pleasures, I think. It’s hard to duplicate the feeling of cooking outdoors in a big, cast-iron pot over hot coals. It’s hard to duplicate that flavor too — a cross between cooking over a fire and using a slow cooker. I love it (if that wasn’t already obvious). :)

Dutch ovens have been around for years and years and years. Now that most of us do our daily cooking indoors on and in modern stoves and ovens, it seems like Dutch oven cooking is more for hobbyists and campers. If you haven’t enjoyed Dutch oven cooking as the cook or the eater, you’ve been missing out! It’s a lot of fun.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Cooking with a Dutch oven might seem a little intimidating or complicated. I totally get that! But what you put into the Dutch oven is pretty simple and uncomplicated; the cooking part is where it can get a little tricky. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get the timing and temperature just right, but once those two things are covered, you’ll be set.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

You can cook or bake practically anything in a Dutch oven — they are incredibly versatile. Over the years we’ve modified old family favorites for use in a Dutch oven as well as finding new ones.

So, it’s time to pull out your favorite recipes and a pen and paper to take some notes!

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

You will want to purchase or borrow a few things to get ready for your Dutch oven cooking adventures. You don’t need a ton of equipment, but there are a few essentials that you don’t want to be without. I’m listing them here and will cover each in a bit more detail as we go along.

-One or two Dutch ovens (or more if you’ve got a crowd!)
-Charcoal chimney starter
-Charcoal briquettes
-Something to put the lid on (a muffin tin works well)
-lid lifter
-high heat resistant gloves
-straw broom
-lighter fluid (optional, not pictured)

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom


As with anything, cooking with Dutch ovens does require a some planning and preparation. Secret #1: You should buy a Dutch oven a little before you plan on using it to make sure you have time to properly season it. A well-seasoned Dutch oven makes for happier cooking and cleaning up. Seasoning means that it’s been rubbed with oil or vegetable shortening and baked in an oven for a few hours to develop a nice, black coating on the surface of the entire Dutch oven. It will become further seasoned as you use it, eventually becoming nonstick.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Treat Dutch ovens as you do cast iron skillets and pans. If you’ve used those, it’s the same process for seasoning and care. There are aluminum Dutch ovens available, but the most common ones sold and used are cast iron. That’s what we’ll be talking about in this post.

Dutch ovens come with heavy lids that provide a good seal during cooking. Because the Dutch ovens are made of heavy cast iron, they retain heat very well. In fact, they can stay warm for hours and hours after cooking. Dutch ovens are best used for recipes requiring a long, slow cooking time, like stews, roasts, chili, etc. But they can also be used for things that cook in 30 minutes or less, like quick breads, rolls, cakes and cobblers. Dutch ovens lend great flavor to food from the oven itself and the charcoal briquettes. (You can’t get that from your indoor oven or a slow cooker!) Though I’m not covering the techniques in this post, dutch ovens are great for cooking bread and deep frying, as well.

Generally the cooking temperature will be about 350-400 degrees F. The cooking heat is generated from using coals placed underneath the pan and on top of the lid. You’ll see Dutch ovens with flat bottoms or with three little legs. The flat ones are better for indoor cooking. The ones with legs are the kind for outdoor use. I’m sure they were designed that way for other reasons too, but the little legs are nice because the Dutch oven keeps upright much better over the coals.

Let’s talk about the charcoal for a minute because it is such an important part of Dutch oven cooking!

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom


For getting the coals hot, we prefer using a charcoal chimney starter.

The advantage of a charcoal starter is that you can get the coals started quickly and (usually) evenly. The tall chimney shape keeps the coals protected from wind and keeps them together as they heat up. I honestly would recommend investing in one if you do a lot of cooking with charcoal. Secret #2: The charcoal needs to be started about 20-30 minutes before you plan on starting to cook. If you use a charcoal starter, it might only take 15 minutes. I use that time to mix my ingredients together. By the time I’ve put everything into the Dutch oven, the coals are hot and ready to be used.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Directions for lighting charcoal:

Put charcoal in charcoal burner, drizzle with a little lighter fluid (optional, but helps to get it going quickly), the carefully add a lighted match.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

The general rule of thumb is two charcoal briquettes per inch in diameter, and typically more coals are placed on top than on bottom.  For example, a 12-inch Dutch oven would have 14 coals on top and 8 underneath for a temperature of about 300 degrees F. Secret #3: To raise the cooking temperature 25 degrees F, add an extra (preheated) briquette on both top and bottom.

Secret #4: The arrangement of the coals also matters. They need to be arranged evenly both top and bottom. Usually this is a circle around the perimeter with a few in the center. I’ve arranged them a little differently here because I was using the hard wood briquettes and they weren’t uniform in size.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Ovens can go almost anywhere to cook just about anything you want. This could be your backyard, a park, campsite, etc. Just make sure the surface is heat proof. Concrete works great as does dirt. You can use Dutch ovens in a fire pit or on a grill like the one in the picture. I chose to do it this way for this post because I liked that it was high off the ground — while my kids were running around and playing. It also made it easier for me to check on it. But we also like placing it in on the ground in a fire pit because we can cook other things over the coals at the same time. Either way works great!

Dutch ovens come in various sizes. The most common sizes are 10″, 12″ and 14″. They also vary in depth. The bigger (and deeper) the Dutch oven, the more people you can feed, and the heavier they are. Keep that in mind too. We usually use 12″ ovens to cover our basic cooking needs.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom


Let’s talk a bit about the Do’s of Dutch oven cooking.

Secret #5: Do season it well and then rub the inside with a little oil every time you use it.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Even though the Dutch oven has been seasoned, it’s a good idea to rub the inside with a little oil before using it. I just pour a little in the bottom and use a paper towel to wipe the entire inside. The outside doesn’t need to be rubbed with oil again before cooking. Also, Dutch ovens don’t require preheating, so unless a specific recipe lists preheating as part of the instructions, you won’t have to worry about doing that.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Secret #6: Do line the inside with foil if you need to. Need to = if you’re cooking something especially sticky like fruit cobbler. Or, if you’re using acidic ingredients like tomatoes, lemon juice, wine, or vinegar, because they can remove some of the seasoned interior. To be honest, I usually don’t use foil with the acidic ingredients, but I am careful not to let the food sit in the dutch oven for too long after it’s done cooking.  Note: It will take a little longer to cook if you line it with foil.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Some other quick Do not’s for Dutch oven cooking include Secret #7: Don’t ever pour cold water into a hot oven to cool it off, it will ruin it. Secret #8: Don’t drop it! They look indestructible, but they can break, or break your toe. : ) Secret #9: Make sure the lid is on properly and fits tightly so heat doesn’t escape. And don’t set the lid directly on the ground — use a pan, brick, or rock (I like using an upside down muffin tin) — it keeps dirt or other things from being transferred from the ground to your food. Secret #10: Don’t use plastic or silicone cooking utensils. Wood or metal only. Secret #11: When you’re finished cooking, do use the broom to clear the lids of ash so that it doesn’t get into the food.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Secret #12: If you have more than one Dutch oven, you can stack them. The coals on top of the bottom oven become the bottom coals for the top oven. Know that this will require more time and you might have to add fresh coals to keep it cooking hot enough for both ovens.

Secret #13: Timing depends on recipes, ingredients, and the size of the dutch oven. For example, with my Chicken Provencal stew (pictured in this post), I wanted to add some zucchini. Like with slow cookers, zucchini would disintegrate during a long cooking period. Add things that cook quickly near the end of cooking time. I added the zucchini about 30 minutes before the stew was ready. Start the ovens that takes the longest to cook first — desserts and ovens with just vegetables don’t take as long to cook. Also, you’ll need to add more time for deeper ovens.

Secret #14: As far as clean up goes, if the Dutch oven is well-seasoned, it will be a snap! It should just wipe out. (Toss any aluminum foil you might have used.) If the food was too messy to simply wipe out with a paper towel, use a little water or oil mixed with some salt. It will help scour the inside without damaging the seasoning. Let it dry thoroughly, then rub inside and out with oil.

Before we get to recipes, here’s one last rule of thumb I’ve found helpful, Secret #15:

If you can hear it, it’s hot enough.
If you can smell it, it’s probably getting close to being done.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom


I chose one of my favorite recipes to turn into a Dutch oven recipe — this Chicken Provencal is amazing! We usually do it in the oven or slow cooker. Happily it’s even more delicious in the Dutch oven! Stews do really well in Dutch ovens. We also made a Summer Fruit Cobbler.

Dutch Oven Chicken Provencal Stew
adapted from Big Girls, Small Kitchen
For one 12-inch Dutch oven, to feed 6-8

3 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (can use boneless)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock or white wine
1 small can tomato paste
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1/4-1/2 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
5 large pitted dates, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1-2 teaspoons dried)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 zucchini cut into 1/2″ rounds
6 whole roma tomatoes
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except zucchini and roma tomatoes in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag or large bowl covered with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to cook. (Can be done one day in advance.)

Rub the inside of the Dutch oven with oil. Place the entire contents of the bag or bowl into the oven. Arrange the chicken with a spoon or spatula so it is in an even layer. Place the Roma tomatoes evenly around. Place the lid on top.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Place 8 coals under the oven and 14 coals on top. Cook for about two hours or until the sauce has thickened quite a bit and the chicken is falling away from the bone. Add the zucchini during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread, potatoes, rice or couscous.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom 15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Dutch Oven Summer Fruit Cobbler
For shallow 12-inch Dutch oven, if using a deeper one, double the fruit and filling ingredients but keep the topping the same

2-2 1/2 lbs. fresh or frozen peaches
4 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used strawberries and blueberries)
1 cup sugar (use a little less if your fruit is really sweet)
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup stone ground corn meal (coarse or fine)
1/4 cup dry milk powder (omit if you use fresh milk instead of water)
2-4 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 cups cold water or milk (omit dry milk powder if using fresh milk)

For filling-
Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt together. Set aside until ready to assemble cobbler.

For topping-
Whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Add the cold butter and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your hands. The mixture will look like cornmeal with larger, pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. If making in advance, transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or cover bowl with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to make the batter.

To assemble:
For filling-
In a large bowl mix all of the fruit with the cornstarch and sugar. Let stand for a few minutes to allow sugar to dissolve. Transfer to the Dutch oven. (Can line with foil because it will be sticky!)

For topping-
Add the cold water or milk to the bag or bowl and mix just until combined. Pour over the fruit. Put lid on top and use 8 coals on bottom and 14 coals on top. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes about 8-10 servings.

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking  |  Design Mom

Now, I’m dying to know. Have you ever cooked with a dutch oven? Or eaten a dutch oven meal? What’s your take? Worth the extra effort? And if you’re a dutch oven expert, please add your secrets.

Here’s to outdoor cooking!

P.S. — Love secrets? Find all the posts in the Living Well series here.

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeanette August 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm

You read my mind! I was just thinking that I’d love to learn more about dutch oven cooking. This is just in time for Labor Day weekend. Thank you!


2 R J August 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm

i took a class with this lady – she is AMAZING – anyway she has oodles of dutch oven info —


3 Lisette Wolter-McKinley August 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Delicious looking! Makes me want to give dutch oven cooking a try.


4 Anna August 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I’m really enjoying your series! We’ve recently bought an Airstream and I’m looking for great “camping” meals. My only concern with the dutch oven is that we aren’t usually back at our campsite early enough to give it time to cook!

Also? Have you heard of the method of cooking with cast pie irons? I know people who swear by them!


5 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Hi Anna! I have seen those and I know a lot of people who use them. I haven’t bought any myself, but they look like a lot of fun! Maybe next summer we’ll get a few to try out. :)


6 Sharon @ Discovering Blog August 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – your photos are so lovely! I’ll most likely never cook like this, but I just read every word you wrote, and felt like I could do this if I wanted to!


7 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Thanks so much, Sharon!


8 Val August 22, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Oh! Your pics are so lovely, and that provencal stew looks simply delish! I personally love dutch oven cooking and I can’t wait to try this stew over Labor Day weekend. I’m not an expert by any means, but one of our family’s favorite dutch oven meals is a deep dish pizza pie. It’s super simple once all the ingredients are prepped and only takes 30-45 minutes to cook in a 12-inch oven.


9 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Dutch oven pizza is the BEST!


10 Beth August 23, 2013 at 6:26 am

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of cooking before. Those photos are lovely! I bet the food was great too. Part of me wants to try this but a big part of me also takes comfort in the conventional ways especially since they are convenient for a single mom like myself. Looking forward to learn more about Dutch oven cooking coz I might just give that a shot in the future. : )


11 Justin DeVico August 6, 2015 at 5:51 am

The best way to enjoy life is stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you wouldn’t normally do. Makes life more interesting (not implying you life isn’t interesting).


12 Christie August 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I love this! I wonder if this provencal recipe would work in a slow cooker too? (I realise that defeats the purpose of the whole dutch oven thing, but it looks so delicious)


13 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Yes, Christie! That’s actually how I usually make it. Put everything in there, except the zucchini (it will cook to mush) and cook on low for about 6-8 hours or high for about 3-4. Add the zucchini during the last 30-60 minutes. It’s delicious with rice or couscous.


14 Kristen Lindner August 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I’m curious why you use lighter fluid instead of putting crumpled news paper in the bottom of the charcoal chimney and lighting that? That is how they were designed to work…did you find this didn’t work for you?


15 omar alvarez August 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

When I first got a Chimney I tried the newspaper , but it created so much ash in the air ,I changed over to Fluid , not I just set it on my Gas burner to start the coals …………


16 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Thanks for adding that in Omar! That’s why we switched to lighter fluid also. If we use just a little, it gets them going and burns off so there isn’t a lingering taste or smell. Love the idea of putting it on the gas burner!


17 Ralph Hensley August 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

All of your tips were helpful. I”ve been in dutch oven cooking for three years and still learning from people like you. Thanks, and I’ll be looking more at your website.


18 Stoich91 August 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Yum, wow and thanks!


19 Gary Whitaker August 28, 2013 at 7:06 am

I have a 12 inch dutch oven love it. My favorite thing to cook is a mountain man breakfast. I also like peach cobbler cooked in it.


20 joe chiarelli August 28, 2013 at 9:05 am

I use the Lodge dutch oven liners, they are great for deserts and make cleanup a breeze. Pineapple upside down cake rules.


21 Mike August 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

Don’t be intimidated if you burn your food a few times! Dutch oven cooking is an art and with practice, comes perfection. I burnt allot of meals over the years but now I’ve learned how manage the coal distribution. As with any culinary trial and error, each mistake leads to a future more positive result.


22 Linda Burklin August 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

I have been cooking with Dutch ovens for many years. My dad brags that my camp cooking is better that most people’s home cooking! I can make anything in a dutch oven that I can make in my slow cooker or oven at home, as long as it can fit. In addition baking things directly in the oven, I also have several round trivets and wedding cake pans that I use to bake things in my dutch ovens so they will have airflow all around. I have made fabulous cornbread, birthday cake, and apple pie this way. I do pizzas in my 16 inch oven and those I prepare in foil pizza pans which I put flat on the bottom of the oven so the crust can brown, and as soon as one is done I can put another one in (we are a family of 9). Walmart also sells parchment dutch oven liners in the camping section which are really nice for cooking sticky foods like cobbler or barbeque chicken. I like to use the “larger” size briquettes that you can get at Walmart as they stay hot for longer. I can’t wait for the temperatures to cool a little so we can have a big dutch oven dinner!


23 Terry August 28, 2013 at 10:27 am

I loved the article. I have been DO cooking for some time now…my first try looked more like the charcoal than food. I use parchment paper rather than foil. I was told long ago that some of the foil gets into the DO pores and over time will ruin it. I used to use the DO parchment that was mentioned by Linda, but now I buy a roll and cut it myself. There is a way to fold it and cut the tip so it is round. For heat regulation I use a slightly different method. Line the charcoal briquettes around the rim of the oven lid for the top and remove every other one for the bottom. This will give a 350 degree oven for baking. The key is not to get too hot. You can always cook your food longer, but can’t unburn it. cooking up some DO Sweet potatoes tonight just for fun.


24 Alvada Owen August 28, 2013 at 10:34 am

What a wonderful post!! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!Could you make it to be printed???That would be great.Have a great day!


25 Cheryl Pieper August 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Can you tell me why when i cook beans in my dutch oven on a stove top the lid wants to rust and it gets in my food? Please e mail me if you know. thanks


26 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hi Cheryl! My guess it the moisture and that the lid needs to be seasoned again. Try that and see if it takes care of the problem.


27 Ann Marie August 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Yes I do cook with a dutch oven and a chimney starter too. But those starters are made to use paper in the bottom to light your charcoal, not to use lighter fluid with them.


28 william beckham August 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I use the 3 gal dutch, cause take it camping. usely put a 3 lb blade roast in botom, with green lima beans. carrots,orka, tomatoes, onions, potatoes what ever happens to be at hand, salt,blk,peper, pod red peper. fill to 1/2 inch to top with water. cover with lid. set it on rocks up 2 or 3 inches off ground,, build fire out of dry wood from creek banks around sides and under top, about 4 pm, go set hooks & fish till about 8 p.m , come back to camp for great food. after supper , if any is left add qt, of water and pull coals up around and on top cover with ash from the fire, be warm for midnight snack or breakfast,


29 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm

That sounds amazing! I’m going to jot that down. Thanks for the recipe!


30 D Walker August 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

When cooking biscuits, breads and cobblers, always turn the Dutch oven a quarter turn and then the lid quarter turn opposite direction about every 15 minutes to avoid burnt spots.
Great recipes


31 Lynda Hensley August 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Never thought of “stacking” them before. Thanks for the great idea!


32 Liz August 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

What’s the best way to clean the Dutch oven after you are done cooking? I assume no soap?


33 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I’ll tell you what I do. If it’s really stuck on, then I use water and a soap-free scrubber or steel wool. Usually a little salt mixed with water will help scour it clean. If it’s really cooked on, you scrape what you can out with a metal spatula and let the rest burn off. Another thing I’ve done is fill it with water and let it boil over coals or fire. Just beware of letting the pan sit in water too long because it can start rusting. If you absolutely have to, you can use a little soap, but you’ll need to season it again most likely. Dry it thoroughly and rub the inside with a little vegetable oil. Then it will be ready for the next time.


34 dale August 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm

i seen many of these discarded in yards as well as skillets. up on asking who’s it is ” use to be my momma’s or grand ma’s. tell them how to season and usefulness of them. still see there time after time.honestly i think being a thief then is justifiable for such a waste and discredit to previous owner that knew value of them. i do not take them or steal but have asked to have and told no. go figure lol.


35 celtarch August 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Been cooking in Dutch ovens many years. Buy the cheap cake pans and punch holes in opposite sides and make a bail to pull your goodies out of the oven. Place bottle caps or small stones in the bottom to rest the pans on. I use a horseshoe. I don’t use parchment. Nor do I use aluminum foil….bad idea. DO NOT cook highly acidic foods in the bare iron! They will eat out the seasoning toute suite and combine with the food. If you must do this be sure you empty out the oven quickly after cooking and re-season. Do not use soap in the ovens to clean. I use warm water and scrub with paper toweling vigorously. Scrape as necessary. Buy a lid lifter. If you do a heavy pair of gloves is not necessary. By turning over the lid and laying on the coals you have a decent fry pan. Use stone or horse shoes to level. When you store the oven in the off season, place a folded piece of toweling between the lid and oven to allow air transfer and prevent condensation. Plastic milk crates work well to transport ovens. Cut a small piece of plywood to cover the bottoms of the crates. Find, make or buy a tripod or set of irons so you can suspend the ovens as needed. You may not always wish to lay them on the coals.


36 Paula August 29, 2013 at 2:07 am

This is very much like the South African potjie (pronounced poykey). Its the version with legs. I’ve never tried putting charcoal on top. When making a potjie the stew is layered and built up through the cooking time, onions in the bottom, then meats are browned, flour added, and then vegetables layered. Potatoes and carrots first, finishing with quick to cook ones like courgette / zucchini.
After browning the meat, the potjie shouldn’t be stirred at all. The best thing is that very little water needs to be added as all the juices from the veggies makes up the stock.


37 Mark August 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm

You did a fine job introducing folks to the fun world of cooking with dutch ovens. There’s a rather new product that you can use to substitute for the foil lining portion (sometimes it leaks). Both Coleman and Lodge each produce oven liners that are made of parchment paper. Just started using them, makes clean up even easier.


38 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I’ll be on the lookout for those, Mark. Thanks for the comment!


39 Gary Bailey August 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I spent two weeks in Australia. And went on an outback adventure trip. Leaving from Cairns and traveled to the most northern pt. In Australia. We camped out every night and cooked on an open fire pit. We c
Prepared most meals in a dutch oven. The meals were wonderful. I learned a lot that summer about dutch oven cooking.


40 Jan Ritter August 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

Really enjoyed your guide. How do you deal with coals on top of the lid if you are preparing a recipe that calls for adding ingredients toward the end of cooking?


41 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Hi Jan! Good question. I try to blow off as much of the ash as I can, and then I’m really careful as I’m lifting it so I don’t tip it at all. If I do get some ash in there, I just try to scoop it out.


42 Chuck August 30, 2013 at 5:16 pm

We used DOs all the time in the Boy Scouts. The boys loved everything they cooked in them, even the burned stuff. Stews, cake, cobbler, roast, stew, especially when it was cold out. We were lucky, we had a chuck wagon cooking competitor as one of the leaders.


43 Maryann August 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Cooking too often with cast iron can be a health risk. New research cites that excessive iron causes Alzheimer’s disease.


44 Bobby Cox August 31, 2013 at 5:40 pm

you don’t know how to light a chimney ? !


45 Lindsey Johnson August 31, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I sure do! My husband is a certified pyro technician and this is how we always start it. Using newspaper puts a lot of ash up and we don’t like that. Of course if other people use newspaper, that’s up to them. Totally personal preference. :)


46 TexasScout September 1, 2013 at 6:13 am

I have been cooking in Dutch ovens for years. In fact the best Thanksgiving we ever had as a family was when we went camping and cooked every thing in Dutch ovens. We used Cornish hens for the turkey, then we made Dressing, green bean casserole, Pecan pie, Pumpkin pie etc. It was the best.


47 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That sounds marvelous! I’d love to try that sometime. Thanks for the comment!


48 Elidommom September 1, 2013 at 8:40 am

Wonderful article! I’m learning with the Dutch oven, and your work here has answered many questions. Thank you so much!


49 Annette September 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm

how can I re-season my mom’s dutch oven that smells like old grease? I scrubbed it too much & put crisco oil in it & put in the oven @ 170 for about an hour. It still smells like old grease. Help!


50 Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Annette, try giving it a good scrub with steel wool, if necessary and season again using solid shortening. Sometimes the oil can go rancid and smell bad. It also can leave a sticky residue. But after it’s been seasoned and after each use, rub the inside with vegetable oil.


51 Margie September 2, 2013 at 9:32 am

I enjoy cooking in DO’s .
Learn something each time.
Checked this site out as I always find something new from new persons.
Thank You


52 rusty September 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm

love the article. as for the chimney starter, someone mentioned that using newspaper yielded too much ash. they’re correct – it’s simply too light (i swear that pun wasn’t intended…). i find the best paper to use is heavy brown paper like that from paper grocery bags and some brands of lump charcoal. i specifically seek out those brands of all natural lump charcoal bagged in brown paper and store the bags folded and ready to be ripped into strips in a large plastic tub right next to my big green egg. never need fluid starter.


53 Ivy September 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm

When baking, rotate the lid clockwise and the bottom counterclock every 5 minutes during baking. Cakes, danish, biscuits, and yeast breads turn out even golden brown with no uneven cooking. Place a piepan upside down or trivit in the bottom of the dutch oven. Place biscuits or cake in cake pan on top of upside pan. This allows for air flow and bakes faster with clean up limited to the cake pan and not the dutch oven. Don’t need to mess with foil this way so less trash for the environment. Using the pans also allows for assembly line cooking. Take finished pan of food out and slip in the next pan. I do this quite a bit when teaching dutch oven cooking for young scouts during daycamp. It is a little bit of trial and error to get the pans to fit the different dutch oven sizes but it’s not hard, just measure. Love outdoor cooking!


54 Ivy September 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Use a few self lighting charcoals throughout regular briquets and you won’t need lighter fluid. Seal leftover self lighter charcoal in plastic gallon ziplock bags for preservation or it will evaporate. Rancid castware cleaning, depends upon how long it was stored and what was used oil, shortening, or lard. Sometimes, you just have to give up on the seasoning in order to get rid the rancid taste wand smell, then you’ll need stainless steel scrubber—never steel wool as it dusts. Be prepared to reseason after washing with the scrubber–do it right after cleaning or it will rust. Be sure to dry the pan and lid well and


55 Leslie September 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I have cooked in DOs for many years. Just remember that each standard charcoal briquette equals roughly 10 degrees. If you want a 350 degree DO, you need to keep 35 hot briquettes divided between the top and bottom. I always start a chimney going as soon as I get my DO started to make sure I won’t run out of hot coals. Rancid, sticky DOs can be thrown in a bonfire to burn off the sticky junk. You have to reseason after. NEVER use spray oil, such as PAM.


56 Melanie September 23, 2013 at 8:40 am

If I were to make the chicken Provencal stew at home versus over a campfire, what is the recommended cooking temp and time ? I just got a dutch oven for my wedding shower and can’t wait to use it, and don’t want to wait for a camping trip :) Thanks!


57 shay walker October 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm

IF you putt cabig on the bottom rosts wont stick and the tast wil be no diferent.


58 Kate January 2, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Hey! You’re missing the whole amazing thing about a chimney starter! I’ve used charcoal chimneys for years because there never is a need for lighter fluid if you use them correctly. Stuff the bottom small chamber loosely with newspaper. Flip it over and fill the large chamber with charcoal. Light the paper underneath with a match and the paper will ignite the coals brilliantly. Hope this helps!
Thanks for the tutorial on the Dutch oven. I have one just like that and haven’t ever used it. I’m going to now!


59 Pattiemelt January 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm

To make cleanup easier, I always coat the outside of the oven with dishwashing detergent, like Dawn. You can also take a bar of soap & rub all over the outside before you fill the oven with food – it’s easier to do while the pot is empty.


60 Nihal February 15, 2014 at 7:14 am

Do you think on can season it on the grill instead of oven? we don’t have an oven and I am considering to get a dutch oven instead for bread baking and cooking.


61 Steve June 6, 2014 at 6:56 am

Yes you can, coat the entire pot in crisco or shortening (inside and out, the handle, everything). Then put your grill on low, and put in the dutch over and lid (upside down) for about an hour then shut it off, and let them cool completely before removing.


62 Steve June 6, 2014 at 6:53 am

People are criticizing you for using lighting fluid, but I dont think it makes a difference at all when cooking in a dutch oven . The reason for using the paper in the charcoal chimneys is to prevent fluid taste from getting into the coals and ultimately your food, but if your cooking on a cast iron pot with the lid on, its makes no difference how you start the coals, or even if your using regular campfire wood not meant for cooking or smoking because the smoke does not really infuse the food in a dutch oven like it would cooking on a grill or smoker.

I dont use paper myself either anymore, I use paper towels with a little bacon grease or vegetable oil. Works like a charm and not much paper flies up in the air with paper towels and the little bit of grease or oil helps accelerate it. I learned to do this after I had to light my chimney twice a few times when the paper did not start it on the first try.


63 David June 6, 2014 at 10:39 am

I have had good and bad cooking experiences with dutch ovens. The roast beef with carrots, potatoes and onions up on Mt. Baker was perfect and equally yummy for breakfast the next day. The dutch oven heated to glowing by accident was not so good. The roast was charcoal a third of the way in and the carrots burst into flames when the lid was finally lifted. I never did get all the charcoal out of the bottom and it was lost in a hasty move a few years back. I have since replaced the dutch oven, but I have not been camping since.


64 Merri July 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

We started using a dutch oven a few years ago, and have had many delicious, successful meals from it. However, our last couple of trips, we,vet had trouble. We’ve been following the directions that came with our DO for the number of briquettes needed for our required temp. What should be done in 30 minutes isn’t ready after an hour. Or the top cooks, but not the bottom. Any ideas?


65 Jared July 21, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I’ve been cooking with dutch ovens for over 6 years now and one thing I’ve learned is that every dutch oven chef has his own techniques and they all work really well. I cook in my dutch ovens as often as I can, many times in my back yard. I even take them to college with me. By no means do I consider myself an expert but I feel dutch oven cooking is a lot of trial and error, and comes with lots of practice. This weekend I will be cooking a main dish for 300+ people. The only reason I feel confident in doing this is because I have done two trial runs of the dish I will be preparing and was able to work out the bugs before the event.


66 Ronald Ron August 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I thought you shouldn’t use any type of tomato base in any type of cast iron. I guess the acid from the tomato can release something from the Cast Iron and cause stomach problems.


67 Pat Resende December 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

I’ve cooked in Dutch ovens for many years when we camp every summer and when we have power outages. In fact, I used them more and more as the years went by, until now I rarely cook a meal when we’re camping without using one for something. I’ve made the usual soups, stews, casseroles, and cobblers, but I’ve taken it a step further with biscuits, muffins, and cherry chocolate cake. If you can cook something in your oven at home, then it can be adapted to a Dutch oven outdoors.


68 Jess April 6, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Tried your Chicken Provencal over the weekend (annual Easter Weekend camping trip in the Eastern Utah Desert.) So delicious! Perhaps my favorite DO recipe to date! Subbed red wine for the vinegar and served with a big salad and side of barley; What amazing flavor! Thanks for sharing!


69 Chuck April 17, 2015 at 6:00 pm

I have a Lodge 7 quart Dutch oven with a dome lid. Any tips
on using it with charcoal? Do you flip the lid over when using charcoal?


70 kent53 May 14, 2015 at 7:26 am

Of my 3 DOs , one has a flat bottom & dome lid…when i need to put coal on top I use foil to create a ridge along the top kinda like pie shields when baking a pie. works great & still can use the loop on top the top when cooking is done….


71 Susan Lawrence May 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I’ve been cooking in Dutch Ovens/Cast iron for a couple of years now. Great article!


72 Sara May 24, 2015 at 4:12 pm

I learned years ago in Girl Scouts that each brigette is 22 degrees so if baking a cake or bread use however many coals you need to get the temp you want. Arrange them evenly using more on the bottom than top. I usually preheat when I am baking as well.


73 Roger June 18, 2015 at 8:50 pm

I light my D.O. with flint and steel or bow drill. I never use lighter fluid, instead use small pieces of wood. It will get the charcoal hot in minutes.


74 Dennis Lockhart September 15, 2015 at 8:51 pm

i do a lot of DO cooking both at home and in camp. Just a couple of points: I season with a high temperature oil such as peanut oil or,more recently, avocado oil. Rub a coat in the pan and lid, place in your oven at 350 for an hour, shut the oven off and let everything coo to room temperature. Secondly, I do a 10-12 pound turkey in a 16″ DO for Thanksgiving along with a deep fried turkey and a smoked turkey. I cut the turkey down the backbone and put it on top of several sliced onions in the DO, lay some celery and carrots around it, salt and pepper, a couple of sprigs of rosemary and thyme, a can of chicken stock and a can of white wine. Cook at 400 degrees until you get a nice brown, about 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 and cook until tender.


75 Becca s October 19, 2015 at 8:06 pm

This is making the Pinterest rounds and I love the tips. Would have never thought to have used a broom for the lid, but it is a great idea!


76 Rick January 30, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Nice except you do not know anything about charcoal. You talk about briquettes which is the correct type to use but, all the photos show you(?) using lump charcoal. You even try to call them “hardwood briquettes” no such thing.


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