A cast iron camp oven (Dutch Oven) is a must-have camping item if you are going to be spending any significant amount of time off grid. They give you the ability to cook many different meals in many different styles, at any time of day.
This article will cover some of the main things you can do with a cast iron camp oven, and the different accessories you might need. I’m no chef, but I can give you an overview of camp oven basics to help you on your way!
Cast Iron Camp Ovens come in a range of sizes and shapes so you can find one suitable for the number of mouths you need to feed and what you plan to cook with it.
Most are a circle shape, but there is also a more stretched oblong shape available in some sizes.
Camp oven sizes are described as ‘quarts’, which is an old imperial measurement describing a quarter of a gallon.
Translated to Australian, a quart is the equivalent of 1.13 liters in volume.
How To Cook With A Cast Iron Camp Oven
Cast Iron Camp Ovens are designed to mimic the same environment as a traditional oven. The iron heats up (usually from exposure to coals) and creates a 360 degree heated environment to heat and cook whatever you have inside.
You can use them with the lid off if you would like to continually stir a stew or soup, but for the most part, people use them with the lid on to create a more effective cooking environment.
The way you use your camp oven will depend on the type of food you are trying to cook. You expose your camp oven to heat in two main ways, from the bottom and the top.
The bottom usually sits on or hanging above a bed of coals or flame, and most lids have a flanged edge so you can sit coals on top to provide heating from the top down.
Stove Top Cooking
If you want to mimic a stovetop cooking with your cast iron oven then you just want a large amount of heat, coming up from the bottom. This is suitable for boiling water, stews, soup, and even deep-frying.
To recreate a baking environment you want some heat from the top and the bottom, at a medium level, but the heat needs to be differentiated. You will need to do your own experiments, but you will want about double the amount of heat on the top, as you have on the bottom.
This will provide the right type of heat to cook cakes, meatloaf, and other pasta or potatoes dishes.
Achieving optimal roasting conditions is very similar to that ratio used for baking but hotter. You want to carry on with that same ratio (double the amount of heat on the top, as on the bottom), but you want a larger volume of heat at both locations.
This is perfect for roasting large chunks of meat or vegetables. To get a great crackling effect, then you can also experiment with putting even more heat on the top.
Cooking Break on a Cast Iron Camp Oven
Cast Iron Camp Ovens are great for cooking bread, to achieve this, you just want heat on the top and none on the bottom. This heat on top sufficiently warms the whole oven and creates the right air temperature to cook the bread, without burning the bottom of the load too much.
Cast Iron Camp Oven Products
We picked up a few different cast iron camp ovens and have been pretty happy with them for the most part.
We have bought the standard products from the big retailers, which I am guessing are made overseas, but there is a very passionate community of cast iron enthusiasts that don’t rate these products and prefer higher quality and expensive, hand-made versions.
Tentworld stock a large range of cast iron camp oven products, so I recommend viewing their options as a starting point.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven Sizes
The main sizes currently available are 2 Quart, 4.5 Quart, 9 Quart, and 12 Quart.
We started off with a 4.5 Quart, but for our family of five it was often too small, so we have recently added a 9 Quart to the collection, and between these two ovens, we can do everything we need.
There is a range of accessories you can use with your camp oven, depending on the style of cooking you want to do.
Safe Camp Oven Use
Some of the accessories are just for safe usage, like gloves and lifter handle, and others help with different cooking styles.
Some cast iron camp ovens are designed with a lid can that be flipped over and used as a skillet.
We love this design as it really gives us more options when we are taking it away. It can save getting out or another hotplate, and minimize what we are taking with us.
A trivet allows you to place your food a layer off of the bottom of the camp oven to prevent burning or sticking. Especially good for roasting meat, or cooking bread. If you are health conscious, it also allows fat to drip through to the bottom.
If you are just getting starting I would recommend getting one of the kits with a carrying bag, lifter and gloves included.