Cooking while camping may seem like an overwhelming task, especially for first-timers.
Understandably, it’s not the easiest thing to do, mainly because you lack the luxuries of a fully-equipped kitchen. But it is entirely possible, not to mention fun, if you’ve the right tools.
Among other equipment, you’ll definitely need a Dutch oven for camping.
At first glance, it’s easy to think of a Dutch oven as frivolous, super-outdated cookware bulking up your camping accessories. But they’re pretty useful.
Dutch ovens, also known as bake kettles or fire pans, go back centuries, yet are still beloved.
They’re heavy-duty options, sort of do-it-all cookware. Whether you need to bake, sauté, fry, or even roast, there’s something special using a Dutch oven.
Unlike regular pots, Dutch ovens sport a thick bottom, meaning they retain heat throughout the dish. Additionally, the heavy-duty lid prevents flavors from escaping and locks in moisture. The result is a potent and delicious mix perfect for stews, soups, chilies, and curries, to name but a few.
Now, if you’re thinking of buying an oven that you can use at the campsite, we’re here to help you out. Keep on reading, and we will share some valuable insights, including the best Dutch oven you might want to include in your list of choices.
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The Best Dutch Oven for Camping For The Money
#1 Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Topping our list of the best Dutch ovens is Lodge Deep Camp Oven.
It’s a product from one of the most reputable brands in the market. For me, purchasing a Lodge oven feels like it’s more than buying a Dutch oven, it’s also buying into a part of amazing history.
The Lodge Deep Oven is reliable camping cookware; one that will reliably provide all the cooking needs of even the most hardcore of campers.
For starters, the Lodge Deep comes in three different sizes to cater for a large variety of campers and their needs. It also has an eight-quart capacity which, to me, is large enough to prepare a meal for a large crowd.
However, the large size is both a convenience and a flaw. Of course, size means it’s easy to prepare more food at one go, but, it limits the overall portability. Coming with a 20-pound capacity, the Lodge Deep isn’t easy to move around.
For long-lasting and rugged performance though, the Lodge Deep features a quality cast iron structure. The cast iron is sturdy and can easily withstand the test of time. For a cautious guy like me, I could easily see this oven lasting my lifespan, and handing it down once camping is no longer possible.
True to its name, the Lodge Deep offers a deep, five inches of cooking space with a snug-fitting lid to keep the heat inside. The lid also doubles up as a great heat induction system. The walls of the Lodge are also functional and dense so there are no external ‘ouch’ moments, the heat is retained inside.
The 5″ deep sides help with fast and convenient food preparation, but they also increase the overall versatility of the oven. Lodge Deep is multi-purpose cookware, allowing you to perform a broad range of cooking types including simmering, braising, frying, baking, basting, searing, and sautéing. The sheer amount of cooking versatility should easily support you through any camping experience.
Speaking of camping, this option has a host of desirable features for outdoor use. From the legs to the lid design – all suits the art of camping in different ways and perspectives. The three legs underneath the pot, for instance, not only add to overall stability but also allows usage over coals or burning campfires. Additionally, the flanged lid lets you hold hot coals inside, thus by inverting the lid, this fantastically versatile piece of equipment also acts as a griddle.
Because the Lodge Deep has larger dimensions than the traditional six quarts, we recommend adding a few extra coals on the side to cater for the extra height. Don’t worry if you are not sure where to start, because the Lodge comes with a handy user guide and a beginner’s recipe ideas and instructions.
Finally, typical of any Lodge Oven, the cast-iron surface is pre-seasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil, so there is no need for any preparation when heading out into the woods. However, ongoing seasoning is required as with any other cast iron product.
#2 Camp Chef 12 Qt Oven - For a Large Crowd
Camp Chef is a classic, cast iron Dutch oven, tailored to meet the needs of a large crowd.
A true seasoned finish, along with a built-in thermometer, are a couple of the fantastic features this oven has to offer.
Like the Lodge Deep, this option is also a multi-purpose tool, easily doubling up as a skillet thanks to the legs attached to the oven.
Sure, the price is a bit steep, but the features involved are great for the price range.
Camp Chef’s unique selling feature is the built-in thermometer, which can be found in no other product in our entire list of the best Dutch Ovens for camping.
The thermometer helps to monitor the oven’s temperature even without removing the lid, and can be really helpful, especially when baking. And the good news is the thermometer readings are pretty accurate, even when dealing with measurements of less than one degree Celsius, which is crucial for foods such as dumplings.
As we mentioned earlier, this option delivers multi-purpose cookware, thanks to the lid with legs, which makes it useful as a skillet or a griddle. Versatility is of the essence in the outdoors, mainly because you don’t have the luxury of carrying a lot of dishes with you, and this one is a good contender for the runner-up spot.
The multi-purpose option also gives you versatility on the food selection. For instance, this option worked well with eggs as we fried them, without the temperature getting too high to burn them.
This Dutch oven has a generous cooking space, offering up to 11.2 liters. It’s a relatively large piece of cookware and one that can easily handle the needs of a large crowd. Unfortunately, size comes with weight, and with this option, the 25 pounds might be a bit cumbersome for some.
The lid is quite deep, increasing the airflow and also serves as a trivet. Some foods need this air, but the amount that can get in is not enough to damage the food.
The lid lifter over the top of the lid helps to carry the oven when on the stove. There’s also a convenient loop on the handle, which allows the oven to be carried safely.
Again, like the Lodge Deep, this option comes seasoned and ready to cook, which is a good thing since you don’t have to waste time on seasoning. It’s also easy to maintain the seasoning, but just be sure you don’t use any detergent as it will strip it away.
#3 Lodge 5 Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven - Slow Cooking Option
Lodges 5 Quart is undoubtedly a great oven with multi-functional features.
This one among the classic Dutch ovens, offering you all the functions of a regular Dutch oven, yet with many other uses on top.
The oven is also presented as the perfect option for slow cooking; it’s great at trapping moisture inside, which works well for food needing moisture to cook perfectly. The dome shaped lid helps to bounce the moisture back into the pot. Along with slow-cooking meats, it is also ideal for preparing a simple English breakfast.
Sure, the oven might be a bit limited regarding the variety of food it can be used to prepare, but it is crucial for some foods.
Coming in an oval shape, this oven utilizes rugged cast iron material for strength and, more importantly, slow cooking. It keeps the temperatures even througout the pot, and that’s one more reason it’s perfect for big meals, thanks to the long cooking time.
Its 5-quart size isn’t anywhere close to that of Camp Chef or Lodge Deep, but, still, it’s generous enough to make meals for an average-sized family of 5 to 6.
You won’t have any issues preparing stews, bread, rice, chicken, or even fruit cobbler with this oven. We love that it comes with a flat bottom, enhancing the overall safety and sturdiness.
Typical of the Lodge Dutch ovens, this option’s special walls are pre-coated with vegetable oil, ready for cooking. The pre-seasoning ensures that nothing sticks to the pot when cooking. It also means you can use the oven straight away when delivered. Other models require seasoning and can take several hours and still don’t produce the same results.
The loop handle, just above the lid, promotes a safe carrying experience, preventing the possibility of slipping or spillage. There’s also an extra pair of handles positioned on the edge of the pan, and they offer greater versatility with how the oven can be carried.
Coming at a weight of 13 pounds, carrying this oven shouldn’t pose any difficulty whatsoever. Storage is also a cinch, and you won’t have any issues stashing it into your backpack.
Along with all its wonderful features, this Dutch oven comes at a reasonable price, giving you real value for money.
#4 Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven - Most Lightweight and Aesthetic
While camping, it’s not always about rugged durability; sometimes, we need things to be light and good-looking, and this is what the Lodge Enameled Oven option offers.
A stylish and vibrant product, Lodge Enameled can double up as a fancy serving tool. Many camping enthusiasts often cook and serve in the same unit, and thanks to its brilliant finish this makes camp cooking attractive as well as functional. It saves you from needing to have an extra serving vessel or from washing extra dishes.
The heating performance is no different from that of the non-coated cast iron options. The enameled iron can withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees F, so there’s little that you can’t cook with this oven.
At the same time, the construction allows you to perform a variety of cooking tasks; whether it’s marinating, freezing, simmering, or sautéing, the Lodge Enameled Oven delivers plenty of freedom.
The cast iron also retains and distributes heat evenly, so it’s a great option for browning meat. The heat is evenly passed to the lid, making the food tender, and unlike other materials, the porcelain enamel doesn’t react with food, even when the temperatures are high.
Now, while the porcelain enamel is safe on gas, electric, and induction cooktop, you should avoid cooking on grills or in microwaves. So, this option might not be the best solution if you decide to go off-grid on your camping trip.
Size is yet another limiting element on this Dutch Oven from Lodge. But remember, the oven isn’t built for a crowd, so the 3-quart capacity is sufficient for 2-3 people. It’s the right choice for a small family or individual use.
However, the rounded shape, measuring 7.5 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep, optimizes the cooking space, allowing chefs to fit even a medium-size chicken inside it.
The small size might also be an advantage when it comes to storage and portability. The size, along with a minimal 10-pound weight, will even let you backpack the oven without bulking up your luggage.
It’s also an easy to use oven, with the wide handles allowing you to hold it safely without the risk of slippage. The wide handles allow you to pack and remove the Lodge with ease.
#5 AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven - Best for Baking Bread
Last on our list the AmazonBasics Dutch Oven is the perfect cookware for baking. However, it’s also a multi-purpose option, ideal for cooking a variety of other meals.
It’s a three cast-iron Dutch oven, which can hold up to 5 quarts. In capacity terms it is equal to the Lodge 5 and will easily handle the needs of an average family of 5 to 6.
Like most of the ovens on our list, this option employs a cast iron construction, which delivers unmatched strength and ruggedness. Even better, the material doesn’t form heat spots, delivering even heat throughout the pot. This way, your food is less likely to smell of cooking fuel or to char or burn, regardless of how much you cook.
The cast iron comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil, ensuring the food doesn’t stick. At the same time, the pre-seasoning adds a delicious aroma and taste to your food.
More importantly, the vegetable oil leaves a black patina, ensuring that iron doesn’t chip off into your meal.
As we mentioned earlier, this Dutch oven is multi-purpose cookware, which can be used for various tasks, including boiling, baking, marinating, and sautéing. And when it comes to simmering curries or roasting, beginners will appreciate the handy cooking manual.
The best part about this Dutch oven is the ability to use it on campfires. It’s designed with outdoor use in mind, and it’s easy to see by the pot’s design and structure. For instance, the base is fairly flat, resting easily on your grill, while the double-handle system allows ease of use.
It’s also easy to refrigerate cooked meals in the AmazonBasics.
Best Dutch Ovens for Camping Buying Guide
Choosing the best Dutch oven for your camping needs can feel a bit intimidating with all these options.
But not when you know what to look for.
In the section below, I shall provide you with some of the essential factors to consider when selecting the best Dutch oven for camping.
But before I share the tips with you, let’s first look at the different Dutch oven types.
Types of Dutch ovens
Dutch ovens are primarily distinguished by choice of material.
The common types of materials used to manufacture Dutch ovens include:
In my opinion, cast iron Dutch ovens are the best options for camping.
First, they’re rugged, and when properly taken care of, the cast-iron ovens last for a long time.
More importantly, iron is a good conductor, and once they gain a level of heat, they can remain warm for a long period.
The only drawback with the iron ovens is that they’re heavy.
Enamel is mostly used in the indoors and best for home ovens. They’re aesthetically pleasing and perfect for those who love the nonstick surfaces and smooth look.
They’re not terribly suitable for the outdoors as they’re likely to chip and don’t withstand as high temperatures as the cast iron.
Stainless steel ovens are yet another popular option, with durability and efficiency being their selling point.
In some models, a copper core is added to the steel to improve heat conduction.
Heat conductivity is one of the strongest points of copper ovens. Copper ovens are also fantastic at regulating the temperature effectively.
Unfortunately, the material can react to acidic foods.
Factors to consider when choosing a Dutch oven
Now that you’re aware of some of the common types of Dutch ovens, let’s look at the critical features to consider in your next Dutch oven selection.
The reality is that Dutch ovens are not light.
If every ounce matters when backpacking, then a Dutch oven is probably not be the best cookware for you.
That said, some ovens are lighter than others.
So, when picking a model, consider those that are relatively lightweight.
But, as we mentioned above, always keep in mind you won’t find a featherlight option. And if you do, there’s a good chance it will not deliver the quality and makeup of the heavier options.
Most Dutch ovens are either round or oval. Both shapes can accommodate massive cuts of meat.
But, a round pot has an extra-deep side and can evenly distribute the heat.
If you’re looking particularly for a pot to use for campfires as well, then you should consider a round shape.
Dutch ovens for camping come in many different sizes.
However, the two main shapes are:
- Shallow: Shallow ovens, also known as “bread” ovens, are best used for baking because the lid is close to the food inside. They’re a versatile option, too, allowing you to cook any recipe.
- Deep: The deep ovens are ideal for large quantities of soups, stews, and braising meat. Since the lid is further away from the food inside, it doesn’t brown the top of the baked food well. However, the sizeable volume is great for feeding a large crowd.
Now, before purchasing a Dutch oven, consider the diameter of the cookware. Generally, the most common diameters we’ve come across are 10″ and 12″. However, you might also see a small 8″ inches or a big 14″.
Your choice of oven diameter is determined by the servings or number of people you’re going to serve.
As a general rule of thumb, each quart feeds one person, so if you buy a 6-quart pot, it will serve 5-6 people.
The lid on a Dutch oven determines the overall quality and taste of your food. It traps heat, ensuring even distribution in the walls of the pot.
Ideally, a lid should be sturdy and fit well to prevent the escape of air.
Also, it should have a decent lip to stop charcoal from slipping off the lid.
Camping Dutch ovens are differentiated from the regular kitchen oven through legs.
A camping oven has legs, ideally, three, which offer much-needed stability when cooking over a fire.
Alternatively, they may lack the legs but come with a cooking tripod, which you can hang in the Dutch oven when preparing your meals.
Verdict: Our Choice
All of the listed products are fantastic and will fulfill your cooking needs in the outdoors.
However, we feel the Lodge Deep Camp Oven is by far the superior model of the five options.
For starters, it’s a product from one of the most reputable brands in the market, and if we go with other models from the same brand, quality is guaranteed on this option.
It’s also a relatively large option; not the largest, but it strikes a balance between size and portability.
More importantly, it comes with plenty of desirable features supporting outdoor use; the three legs offer better stability, while the flanged-style lids allow you to place hot coals inside, thus doubling as a griddle if you invert the lid.
That said, your choice for a Dutch Oven will ultimately depend on your needs. Lodge Deep Camp Oven is a superb option, but if you need a lighter and more personalized style, the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven could make a better option.