I want to go beyond normal camp food for my next trip. I'm talking cobbler, cornbread, even pizza. What should I do?
The humble Dutch oven isn’t something you would pack for a speed hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, but these heavy, thick-walled pots have long represented the easiest and most pleasurable means of making gourmet food in the outdoors. Dutch ovens distribute heat evenly so you are less likely to burn chili or spaghetti sauce, and they churn out perfect cornbread, cobblers, crisps, stews, and meat every time.
While the original Dutch ovens date back three centuries to the Netherlands, the pots have seen significant upgrades in the past few years. Most cast-iron varieties now arrive from the factory pre-seasoned, making maintenance less of a hassle. Aluminum versions use a manufacturing method to hard-anodize the walls, making seasoning unnecessary. All Dutch ovens are relatively heavy, though, and more appropriate to sites within a mile from the trailhead (and even then, we recommend slipping them into the pack of the least-popular member of your group).
Here are two of our favorite ovens, along with a few accessories to go with them. We chose the five-quart size, which serves six-eight hungry people.
The Best Dutch Ovens: Lodge Logic Five-Quart Dutch Oven
Lodge has been making Dutch ovens in its Tennessee foundries for the last 100 years. The newest version is the five-quart, which strikes a nice balance between weight and capacity: It weighs as much as two gallons of water, but feeds up to eight people. Nice features include a lid that can be flipped over and used as a griddle. Ours has stayed seasoned and gained a nice patina without any extra work.
WEIGHT: 16 pounds
The Best Dutch Ovens: GSI 12-Inch Hard Anodized Dutch Oven
There are benefits to GSI’s non-reactive aluminum Dutch ovens. They never rust, don’t need seasoning, and are relatively lightweight (this version weighs less than a gallon of water). The 12-inch, equivalent to a ive-quart, bears a hard-anodized coating that makes it non-stick out of the box and lets it withstand the hottest campfires. One drawback: Unlike the Lodge, the underside of the lid isn’t suitable for double duty as a skillet. If you’re looking to create a multi-course feast at the campsite, like a main course and a dessert, the 12-inch neatly holds the 10-inch version inside.
WEIGHT: 6.1 pounds
The Best Dutch Oven Accessories
GSI Dutch Oven Econo Lid Lifter
An essential tool for a hot dutch oven, the lid lifter works well with the GSI model described earlier. If you have a different oven, keep in mind that lifters typically vary according to size and manufacturer. $15
Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Bag
Dutch ovens can get dirty after use. A sturdy polypropylene bag protects your clothes and backpack from soot on the outside—and, if you are lazy like us, leftover au jus from the inside. $25
Camp Recipes! App
The only truly great culinary app for the outdoors, Camp Recipes! for the iPhone has more than 700 ideas, including a whole category for Dutch ovens. The database works offline, too. $1.99
Camp Chef 50-Inch Dutch Oven Tripod
For comfort camping with a Civil War-era edge, a Dutch oven tripod attaches to the wire bail handle and offers flexibility for making different types of dishes above a fire; it also makes fire maintenance easier. $44