Dutch Ovens – What You Need to Know About a Dutch Oven

You have probably heard of using a Dutch Oven for cooking but you may not be aware of what exactly a dutch oven is, or how they can be used in the kitchen. Some people think that this kind of pot is too old-fashioned for modern use, but many cooks still use them today. This guide will tell you things you need to know about these useful and durable ovens

campfire oven, dutch oven, cast iron dutch oven, lodge dutch oven
“What is a Dutch Oven”?

A Dutch Oven is a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that is usually made of cast iron, either plain or enameled, though some modern ones are made of aluminum, ceramic, or steel.

It is basically a large cooking pot that is heated by being placed under, over or next to hot coals. Dutch Ovens are generally used on campfires but you can also use one when you want to have ‘oven cooking’ conditions on your stovetop, and you can also use it in your oven.

They first gained popularity as a campfire oven, because they could be used for so many different types of cooking, including searing, frying, boiling, steaming, baking, and roasting, when you were out camping. The Dutch oven could replace several different types of pots and pans, which was important when all of your worldly belongings had to be stowed atop a packhorse.

The heavy metal construction also meant that they were difficult to damage, even when crossing heavy terrain, and these useful cooking tools were often were passed down through generations.

The Benefits of Dutch Ovens

For outdoor entertaining, Dutch ovens are a unique and delicious way to give your guests something to remember. Roasts, quiches, bread, and scrumptious casseroles are easy to create with these timeless cooking tools. Why have another boring barbeque when you can cook an entire meal in your Dutch oven?

Larger cookware takes up a lot of room in a kitchen. That’s why it’s useful to have a single piece that can perform a variety of different tasks: roasting, frying, baking, simmering, steaming, and poaching can be easily achieved in a single pot.

Dutch ovens come in sizes suitable to cook for a few people but also in much larger sizes to cater for cooking for a large family or group of friends. It also cooks meat so that it is incredibly moist and tender, and even cuts of meat that are typically on the tough side will literally fall off the bone when you use this time-tested cookware.

Now, just how many items of cookware do you know of that can boast their own International Society? Well, the Dutch oven can!

That’s how much people love their Dutch ovens.

There are two types of Dutch Oven

Traditional – for outdoors use

Modern – for indoor use

Features of a Traditional Dutch Oven?

  • Traditional Dutch ovens are made of cast iron and are preferred by cooks who enjoy meals with a slight smoky flavor.
  • They are also excellent heat conductors and retain their warmth throughout, and for quite a while after the cooking process.
  • Most traditional cast-iron Dutch ovens feature a lid, a handle,  a flat bottom, and three legs to hold the oven out of the campfire coals.
  • While the lid and handle are necessary, legs are an added benefit and offer stability and balance to the oven.

lodge dutch oven with legsThe Legs

  • The legs should be long enough to lift the oven clear from the coals and allow air underneath, to keep the fire going.
  • It’s not always necessary to have the legs as many people use a tripod or other arrangement to keep their oven out of the coals for slow cooking.

The Handle

  • The handle should be heavy-duty,  preferably steel
  • It should be securely attached to the molded ‘ears’ on the sides of the oven.
  • Avoid ovens with riveted-on ears as these can become weak over time and could be dangerous.
  • Many oven handles lie down flat on either side of the lid, but if you can, find one that lets the handle stand at a 45º angle. This makes it easier and safer to pick up a dutch oven that’s full of food.

The Lid

  • The lid should be flanged and flat for holding hot coals, so that food is cooked from above and below.
  • Make sure the lid has a lip or depression around its outer edge. This helps to keep the hot coals on the lid. It also prevents ash from falling into the food when you lift the lid.

dutch oven on campfire

What Type of Dutch Oven is Suitable for an Indoor Kitchen?

  • Stovetop or ‘for use in the oven’ Dutch Ovens can be bare cast iron or enameled cast iron
  • Unlike the traditional style, they have no legs
  • The indoor dutch oven has a flat bottom and a rounded lid

I’ve have had a Le Creuset Dutch Oven for many years, and I just love it. It was expensive but well worth the money in my view. You can read my review here

le creuset dutch oven

Quick facts – A Little Bit of Dutch Oven History:

  • No-one is quite sure where the Dutch Oven originated, but there are various theories The name may have originated from the Dutch casting process.
  • n 1704, an Englishman called Abraham Darby, traveled to Holland to see a Dutch casting process.
  • On his return home, Darby refined the method and began casting pots. He shipped them to the new colonies in America and all over the world.
  • Another idea is that Early Dutch traders and salesmen peddled cast iron pots and kettles to the Dutch settlers in the region of Pennsylvania, hence the name (maybe).
  • Dutch ovens were among the most important cooking tools for pioneers. Their innovative design allowed coals to be piled on top of the oven, as well as underneath, providing the same temperatures and ability to cook evenly as a standard oven, even for people moving across the Wild West in covered wagons.
  • In 1804, Lewis and Clark began on the first ever overland exploration of the United States. They traveled to the pacific coast and back again. On their return in 1806, they named the Dutch oven as one of the most important pieces of equipment that they had taken with them.
  • The Dutch oven is the official cookware of the states of Texas, Utah and Arkansas.
  • The camp Dutch oven is included as official equipment of the Boy Scouts of America.

When to Use Dutch Ovens

Dutch ovens are excellent for long, slow cooking. They are often used for chili, stews, and beans. In the kitchen, these versatile pots can be used in the oven or on the stove. Some other uses for Dutch ovens include:

  • Roasting – set in the oven for fantastic roast beef, pork, or chicken.
  • Baking – create bread, biscuits, and cakes in your Dutch oven.
  • Steaming – cook fresh, fantastic, healthy vegetables, fish, and seafood.
  • Boiling – use for rice, potatoes, and other side dishes as well as for coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Pan Frying – the lid of a Dutch oven can be used as a griddle. Make pancakes, fried eggs, or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Dutch ovens have so many uses. You can cook almost anything in a Dutch Oven including cakes and pies. This is one of the most versatile pieces of cooking equipment you will ever own.

You can cook pretty much anything in one!

That is one of the reasons that they are so popular.

  • A few ideas are pizza, bread, sauces, soups, stews, ribs, cakes, cobblers, poultry, meat, pies, and cookies.

There are two methods of cooking in a Dutch Oven

  • One is when food is placed directly into the pot.
  • Cakes can be cooked in this way but the second method makes it easier to get them out!
  • This is when a trivet is placed in the bottom of the oven and the food to be cooked is placed into a dish or pan which is then placed on the trivet – cakes, biscuits, bread, pizza, etc.

You’re probably thinking ‘How can I cook a cake in a stew pot?’

Well, with a Dutch oven, you can!

cooking-apple-pie-in- dutch-oven

Do I Need to be Camping to Use a Dutch Oven?

Dutch oven cooking is popular with campers and other outdoorsmen today because it is a simple way to cook a vast array of foods when electric ovens and gas ranges are unavailable. Everything from full roasts to piping hot biscuits can be quickly and easily whipped up over the hot coals of a campfire with one of these ovens.

However, Dutch oven cooking is not only for intrepid explorers anymore. A good-sized Dutch oven for indoor cooking is a flexible and practical cooking tool for any kitchen. The large size of these ovens makes it easy to cook a roast, whip up a batch of stew, or to use them as a deep fryer.

Does Your Dutch Oven Need to be Seasoned?

The first thing you need to do is to check if your Dutch Oven needs seasoning (check the manufacturers manual).  Many brands such as Le Creuset are enameled so they don’t require seasoning.  A bare cast iron oven will definitely need to be seasoned.  S

How to Season or Re-Season a  Cast Iron Dutch Oven

You need to care for it like any other piece of cast iron cookware. This means that it will need to be seasoned to protect it from rust and provide a non-stick coating for cooking.


This won’t apply if you have a cast-iron Dutch oven that is coated in enamel or you have purchased your Dutch oven pre-seasoned
  • Wash your Dutch oven thoroughly with soap and warm water using a scourer. If your Dutch oven is new it will probably have a protective coating to prevent rust so this step is a must.
  •  Dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Coat it with a thin layer of oil using either bacon fat, Crisco or lard. Ensure that both the inside and the outside of the pot and the lid are evenly coated.
  • Place aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven to protect it from oil splatters.
  • Place the pot and the lid upside down in the oven at 300F for up to an hour.
  • For optimal results repeat the process.

dutch oven cooking over a campfire

Cleaning Your Dutch Oven

What you need to do to clean your Dutch Oven depends on whether it is made from bare cast iron or enamel.

Cleaning After Regular Use

There are two schools of thought on this – the no-soapers and the soapers.

No- Soapers:

No-soapers believe that soap will destroy the seasoning on the pan that has been built up over time.  So if you are a no-soaper:

  • Wash with clean water and use a pan scrubber to remove any stuck-on food
  • For stubborn stuck-on bits add some plain, clean water to the dutch oven and bring the water to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 3-5 mins
  • If there are any bits of charred food left,  rub these bits with salt, put the oven over high heat and rub the burnt-on bits with paper towels. The salt acts as an abrasive and it’s safe to the seasoning. The high heat helps to carbonize any remaining bits so that they are easier to remove. Make sure you are wearing silicone or protective gloves when doing this.
  • Wash with clean warm water
  • Don’t use any soap as this may strip off the seasoning.
  • Dry the pot thoroughly with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.
  • You can even place it over a high flame to ensure that any water droplets dry off completely.


  • Wash the oven with warm soapy water using a kitchen sponge.
  • Use a synthetic scrubber
  • Again you can use salt as stated above to remove any burnt-on bits.
  • Wash with warm soapy water
  • Rinse thoroughly in plain water
  • Dry thoroughly with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t ever allow the pot to sit in water or let water stand it – it will rust!
  • Don’t ever put an empty cast iron pot over a fire. It will crack or warp.
  • Don’t ever put cold liquid into a cast-iron Dutch oven that is very hot – it will crack immediately!

How to Store Your Dutch Oven

It’s important to store your cast iron Dutch oven with the lid slightly open to allow air to circulate into the pot.

  • Use a length of kitchen paper towel that is long enough to go across the rim of the pot.
  • Fold it like a fan, lay it across the rim and put the lid on.
  • This will also act as a wick and will draw any moisture out of the oven.

This is necessary because, without a good air supply, the oil that you used to season it with may turn rancid. If your pot goes rancid, you mustn’t cook in it and you will have to clean it and re-season it.

Aluminum or Cast Iron?

Aluminum ovens can be used the same way in which cast iron ovens are used; that is, they can withstand being set atop open fires or inside barbeques. However, they do not spread heat as evenly as cast iron and can make food taste bland and chalky in contrast to the slightly smoky flavor that a cast iron Dutch oven will produce. The main benefit of aluminum ovens is that they weigh less and are therefore easier to handle.

Cast Aluminum dutch ovens are easy to clean, rust-free and weigh a lot less than cast iron. I  personally prefer cast iron.

aluminum dutch oven

The Dutch Oven Has One Drawback It’s Heavy

I’m not going to lie to you, a cast iron dutch oven is very heavy, and even more so when it’s full of food. However, you can serve up the food directly from the oven without moving it if you wish, or enlist the help of a few able-bodied people to help you move it to the table.


Dutch ovens are probably one of the most neglected pieces of cookware available. They also produce some of the tastiest dishes of American cuisine. Warm, satisfying comfort food is what you can expect to enjoy when cooking with a Dutch oven. While these treasures of heavy-duty, hearty cooking remain somewhat forgotten by the everyday household, their capabilities should not go underappreciated.

  • Dutch ovens are often be found in garage sales which is an inexpensive way to pick one up.
  • Many people have an unused dutch oven in their loft that they have either inherited or bought.
  • One of the reasons that some people don’t like using a dutch oven, is that the meat looks uncooked and there is nothing more unattractive than a white lump of chicken or meat even if it is cooked. The best way to overcome this is to brown the meat first – just as you would when cooking meat in a Slow Cooker.
  • Another reason people tend not to use their Dutch oven is  ( as we have mentioned earlier) that it may need to be seasoned, especially if it is cast iron. This must be done prior to use. Seasoning provides a non-stick surface and prevents foods from reacting with the cast iron.
  • If you have purchased an enameled cast iron Dutch oven then this will not be necessary.
  • Season your dutch oven in the same way you season your other cast-iron cookware and the more you use it the better the non-stick finish and rust preventative properties will be.

A dutch oven is a remarkable piece of kitchen cookware – don’t let yours waste away in the cupboard. There are so many delightful recipes you can cook in it.
It’s a fun and versatile tool to have on hand, whether you intend to cook at home or on the trail. If you don’t already own one, you should certainly consider adding it to your kitchen; you never know, it could become one of your favorite pieces of cookware.

My Favorite Dutch Ovens

Le Creuset

We have extolled the virtues of the Le Creuset Dutch Oven in the past.

The artisans at Le Creuset have been making richly enameled cast iron cookware in the French village of Fresnoy-le-Grand since 1925. Each piece from their line is individually created, coated, fired and inspected in order to bring you the finest quality cookware-to-tableware available.

  • Their enameled cast iron construction gives superior heat distribution and heat retention
  • The interior is made from a sand-colored enamel that is resistant to wear
  • Rhe handles provide a large gripping area that ensures you have a good hold on the pot, even when you are wearing oven mitts
  • The knob on the lid withstands temperatures up to a staggering 500ºF
  • The exterior is made from long-lasting enamel that resists chipping and cracking.
  • The Le Creuset dutch oven can be used on a ceramic, electric, gas, halogen, induction, outdoor grill, or in the oven.
  • It’s dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.

As I mentioned previously, I have had mine for many years and it still gives the same result and looks as good as it did when it was new. I really, really like it.

Lodge Dutch Oven

There are two types of Dutch Oven that I particularly like from the Lodge Range. The first is the 2-in-1 Cast Iron multi-cooker.

  • This is a pre-seasoned 5qt cast iron dutch oven and 10″ skillet set.
  • You have the versatility of the Dutch oven, and you can flip the lid so that it becomes a skillet.
  • Even though the set is pre-seasoned it is recommended that you still season it before using it.
  • This Lodge cookware set can be used on gas, electric and induction stovetops, also on grills in the oven and on the campfire.
  • As with all dutch ovens, you can sear, braise, broil, saute, fry and bake in this duo.
  • Cleans up with warm water and a stiff brush. Lodge advises not to use soap.
  • The surface is non-stick so it’s fine for cooking eggs without breaking them up.

Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven

If you’re looking for the ideal camping dutch oven then the Lodge Deep Camp Dutch oven is sure to please.

This oven has all the requirements for outdoor cooking:

  • The lid – which can be inverted to use as a griddle.
  • The legs
  • The handle

It comes in a range of sizes – 2qt, 4qt, 5qt,  6qt, 8qt, and a whopping 10qt. So there is definitely a size to suit what you need. Whether it’s just mum and dad heading off for a getaway or if you are hooking up with the entire family or a group of likeminded friends. There is a dutch oven to suit the occasion.

I don’t have this particular Lodge camp oven, but I do have a number of other Lodge pieces of cookware and apart from it being heavy, I love the look and the performance. I recently purchased the Lodge cook-it-all for use on my Traeger Pro Series 22 grill. and honestly, I don’t think you can’t beat Lodge cookware for outdoor cooking.

And a bonus is that it’s made in the US.

lodge pre seasoned dutch oven