Lost Art of Cooking – Dutch Oven

The Lost Art of Dutch Oven Cooking

LOVE the outdoors?  Everything is better, even the food and cooking in a dutch oven is the AMAZING!  I have an easy guide to walk you all the way from start to finish.

Did you know that anything you can fry or bake in your kitchen you can do in a dutch oven?  It just takes a bit of practice and a bit of know-how.

 Over the years, Stan and I have used our Dutch ovens while cooking for our family, scouts, friends and large groups.  We enjoy the smokey, yummy, outdoorsy taste that only a Dutch oven cooking provides. Dutch oven cooking is not difficult at all.   Besides, there are several reasons why it is a great idea to have a Dutch oven and no how to cook with it.  One, is if the power goes out, this is always an alternative, so let’s get cooking!

To make it easy for you, if you click on any of the titles of suggested products/sizes of items, you will go directly to that source so you can check it out and see if it is one you would like to purchase –  I’ve done the shopping for you!

 Lost Art of Cooking – How To Cook In A Dutch Oven

Here’s our list of what we recommend to purchase: (remember you can click on the titles/words for easy shopping)

Useful tools and equipment

 Lodge 13.5″ Leather Camp Dutch Oven Gloves to protect your hands

Lodge A5-3 Camp Dutch Oven Lid Stand is really nice to have a place to set the lid of the dutch oven so you don’t have to set it on the ground when you take if off of the dutch oven to check on the food, to hold a clean plate or serving bowl as you serve up your scrumptious delight!       

Lodge A5 Camp Dutch Oven Lid Lifter is a MUST in handling those dutch oven lids – seriously, it’s the only way to mange it without burning yourself, or accidentally dropping ash into your food.

Lodge A5-1 Charcoal Chimney Starter makes getting those charcoal briquettes going a breeze

Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquets

16″ Luxury Oak Barbecue / Grill Tongs – Mr Grill to put the charcoal in to the chimney and to place the hot briquettes where needed

Galvanized Charcoal and Ash Can with Lid to put your hot coals in if you are BBQ on your patio, or where small children or pets can get to them, this is really helpful

Lodge A5-7 Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Table is really nice and just down-right handy so you don’t have to cook on the ground and it gives your coals shelter from any wind; which means you have much more control as you cook outdoors for fantastic food. Of course you can also use a fire pit OR heavy flat piece of metal; anything that is heat proof way, to elevate it off the ground such as the cement tree round forms we used here in our pictures.              

Dutch ovens we suggest various sizes so you can easily stack them. You may want to check these out to start with:

10″ Lodge Camp Dutch Oven, 4 Qt

12″ Lodge L12DCO3 Deep Camp Dutch Oven, 8-Quart


The many reasons to have Dutch ovens and know how to use them:

  • The food tastes fabulous.
  • If the power is out, a Dutch oven is another source of cooking.  Just make sure that you cook with them outside.  NEVER light charcoal in an enclosed area, such as a garage or inside your house as carbon monoxide gas quickly rises to dangerous levels that can be fatal.
  • By stacking your Dutch ovens you can cook multiple foods at the same time.
  • With practice, anything that can be prepared in a regular oven can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
  • Dutch ovens are terrific for camping, picnics and outdoor entertaining.

In this post we will learn the basics of dutch oven cooking.

What to look for when buying a Dutch Oven:

A new cast iron Dutch oven can be very costly, However, garage sales,  junk shops, and thrift stores are often a great source for used ones.  Even a rusty old oven can be easily restored.  One can save a lot of money and get a good quality Dutch oven pretty easily.

A few things to look for When buying a used Dutch oven:

  • Cracks, chips, casting imperfections and rust spots
  • Examine the pot and lid both inside and out
  • Make sure the lid fits properly
  • Make sure there is no rocking motion when the lid is on the pot
  • Make sure the lid does not fit too tightly on the pot
  • Check the wire bail for strength and that it moves easily
  • If looking for a camping pot, then only buy a Dutch oven with legs and determine that these are in good condition
  • Check the thickness of the metal – inconsistencies will mean inconsistencies when cooking
  • Make sure there is a loop handle which makes it easier to pick up with a hook
  • Avoid Dutch Ovens with riveted tabs

If you have purchased a ready to use Dutch oven follow these steps:

  • Before using for the first time rinse with hot water but no soap, and towel dry
  • Before each time cooking, prepare the cooking surface by wiping it down with vegetable oil
  • After each time cooking, clean with a stiff brush under hot water with no soap and towel dry
  • After it is dry and while still warm, wipe all surfaces down with oil
  • Allow the oven to cool and then store in a cool dry place, do not store with the lid on top                                                                                                                                                                                  

(Source:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Information/DutchOven/DutchOvenCooking.htm)

A Dutch oven is formed as one piece, then the lid sliced off the top. The lid is unique to the oven.  Make sure the lid fits properly and snug, otherwise your food won’t cook properly and it will get full of ash.

Size’s of Dutch Ovens
5 inch up to 22 or bigger
Most commonly used are
5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16

What to look for when buying a Dutch Oven

When looking for a Dutch oven you want to take it out of the box and look for even casting and as smooth of a surface you can find. Check to make sure that the lid fits tight, such as you do not want it to wobble. A good fitting lid will help give the pressure cooker effect on main dishes and will not let the steam out. Also check the bail or the handle making sure that it is centered well so when you pick up the pot it is not lop sided.

Seasoning a Dutch Oven

Most Dutch ovens come pre-seasoned and only need to be washed with a little bit of soap (just this one time) and hot water. After washing set it on a heat source (like your stove top or camp stove) and let it dry completely. You can wipe it with a little shortening or Cast Iron Conditioner at this time and then let it cool and put away. You do not have to grease it every time you use and wash it, just when it looks like it needs it.

If you have a pot that is not pre-seasoned, it has a wax coating that needs to come off. Wash the pot and lid with hot soapy water, rinse well and dry off with paper towels. Coat the entire pot and lid with a thin layer of shortening and place them in a 450-500 degree bar-B –Q grill upside down (so the shortening will not pool) on the rack, shut lid and leave in there for one hour. Turn off heat and leave in grill till cool. This should create a nice black patina on the cast iron. If you are not satisfied with the results, just do the process over.
You can do this procedure in your home oven but it smells and smokes up the house. Just open a few windows!

Temperature Chart
We like to use “The rule of Three” to gauge our temperature. Take the size of your pot, for instance you have a 12 inch pot you would add three to the number 12 and put 15 coals on top and subtract three from 12 and place 9 coals underneath the pot. This will give you about a 325 degree oven. If you want a 350 degree oven, you would add one coal to the top and one coal to the bottom. This will increase the temperature 25 degrees. If you want to decrease the temperature just remove 2 coals.

Coals are ready when the shoulders or edges are gray. If you wait for the whole coal to be gray they will not last as long, this is when we say that they are “spent”. Coals usually last for at least an hour to an hour and a half

Cleaning a Dutch Oven
After you are done with your meal and ready to clean up, put some hot water in your pot and use a scraper to loosen all the food. Dump out water and put more hot water in the pot. Now use a plastic scrubber to clean well. Dump out the dirty water again and then rinse well with hot water. Place pot on a heat source and let it dry out completely. Now you can give it a thin coat of shortening or Cast Iron Conditioner applied with a paper towel. Let cool. If you do not have a cover for your Dutch oven, place a folded paper towel half in and half out in the pot and place the lid on top and cock it. You will want air to circulate while stored. If you have a cover for you Dutch oven, place the lid right side up in the bottom of cover and then sit the pot on top of the lid. Always store your Dutch ovens in a dry area.

Converting The Temperature

With a little practice, any food can be properly cooked in a Dutch oven, It’s important to understand how to bring the oven to the right temprature. 

Here is a handy chart to help with the temperature so food will cook evenly and properly.  cakes, roasts, chicken dishes, virtually anything can be deliciously conjured by adjusting the number of briquettes to match the required heat called for in your recipe.

Here’s how it works:

Chart 3

What Size Dutch Oven Do I Use?

Multiple Dutch ovens aren’t generally necessary, However a set of varying sized pots can be helpful.  Get what best suits your needs.  Here is a great chart to help you when figuring servings and what size pots to buy.

Chart 4How to Start

Cooking with charcoal is VERY HOT, so use extreme care and keep children and animals away and at a very safe distance.  Use caution yourself with proper tools since you will be working with very high temperatures when the charcoal is lit. Dutch Oven Cooking1- Place the charcoal starter/basket onto a Dutch oven table OR heavy piece of metal that is elevated. 

These cement tree rings that are set to be opposite each other work perfectly.  There needs to be air circulating underneath, which is why they must be up off the ground. 

2- Fill the Charcoal Starter with charcoal.

3- Stuff wadded up newspaper underneath the charcoal basket.  This will be the source of flame to light the charcoal.  Lighter fluid can be used, but the newspaper method is better and cheaper.Dutch Oven CookingCharcoal Ligting

4- Light the newspaper through the holes at the bottom of the charcoal basket.Dutch oven cookingDutch Oven Cooking

As the newspaper lights, the smoke will rise. Dutch oven cooking

5- Continue carefully stuffing wads of newspaper through the holes as the paper burns down.

dutch oven cooking6- When the edges are white, the charcoal is ready to use. dutch oven cooking

Note: Charcoal at the bottom of the bucket will be burning much hotter than those at the top; watch so as not to burn those down too much.Dutch Oven CookingTo Begin

Once your food is in the pot, place the Dutch oven on the metal plate OR a Dutch oven table OR in a fire pit – make sure to cook in a prepared and SAFE area and that children are not able to access it. 

The coals and ovens are HOT (photo shows the coals already under the oven and on top, which I will now explain)

Carefully, with long tongs, take lit charcoal  from the charcoal chimney and place the number you desire on the metal plate, Dutch oven table or pit; using recipe or chart above. Dutch Oven CookingNotice how they are touching and the white lite corners are sure to touch unlit ones. This allows for more cooking time as the lite coals burn down the unlit ones lite and burn through. Charcoal 2Now place the Dutch oven on top of the lit coals.

Next, place the coals on top of the lid of the Dutch oven needed for the recipe.

Dutch ovens can be stacked allowing for different size ovens cooking at different temperatures.Dutch OvenStacking saves space and is economical too. 

Be sure and discard coals into a coal bucket or a safe place such as a charcoal barbecue grill when finished. 

It’s a good idea to have a large bucket of water near by for discarding the hot coals when finished cooking.Dutch Oven CookingCopyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2015

My thanks to Nancy Rappleye for sharing  with me information from her presentation she did a few years ago on the subject; and allowing me to include it in this post.

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 For More Posts On This Topic:

Dutch Oven Dorito Enchi­lada Casserole

Dorito Enchilada Casserole 1





 Dutch Oven Hearty Corn Bread

Corn Bread 1










  1. This is such a great resource and admit I don’t own a Dutch oven at all and have been wondering and curious about them. So I can’t thank you enough for educating us here today on this now ;)

  2. I’ve never used a dutch oven for cooking before but it looks really similar to grilling….just without the grill lol. Does the food have a “smoked” taste to it cook this way? Do you use this method of cooking often?

    • Hello Tasha, cooking in a dutch oven is terrific! It gives food a smokey – campfire taste. You can bake, fry, saute and even boil in a dutch oven. Just like an indoor stoveoven set up.

  3. Girl,

    You amaze me. I have a dutch oven I use all the time but I had no clue how to use it outside. I guess it really is a lost art. I would not know how to start without reading your instructions. I had no idea the temperature depends on the number of coals you have.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m so glad this was helpful Diane. Dutch oven cooking outside gives food a completely different taste and serves as a portable oven, stove, and many forms of cooking. Let me know if you give it a try!

  4. Thanks for sharing at Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop!
    Great post!
    I love our dutch oven, we use it every time we go camping, makes the best tasting food.

  5. Just found your site thru Clearwater Farm. I love cooking with cast iron. Food always taste better in it. Great information on the Dutch oven.

  6. This is a great resource. Thanks. We use our dutch oven for camping a lot. I even made bread in it last time. The tip about adding and subtracting 3 coals from the size of the oven is awesome. We always find ourselves out camping with no way to look up how many coals to put on, so we just guess. But that rule, I can remember. Thanks!

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