Written By
Updated Jun 14, 2022 3:11 PM

If you’ve grown tired of cold sandwiches, hot dogs, or freeze-dried meals while camping, perhaps you should take a closer look at the versatility offered by cast-iron dutch ovens. Invented during the 18th century in the Netherlands, these durable cooking pots have proven themselves capable of delivering a wide range of flavorful dishes for over 300 years. Stews, soups, and chili are some of the more common dishes made in a dutch oven. However, because of their ability to distribute and retain temperature evenly, these miniature ovens are capable of baking cakes, pies, or breads. Believe it or not, you can even make ice cream using two dutch ovens. So, whether you plan to sear, sauté, brown, roast, braise, boil, or deep fry your next outdoor meal, the best dutch ovens for camping can do it all.

How I Tested the Dutch Ovens

For this review, I looked at some of the most popular brands of dutch ovens offered and tested how well each one cooked some of the best camping meals. I also tested and compared qualities like heat retention, versatility, and the condition of the seasoning from the manufacturer.

Heat Retention

To test heat retention, I filled each dutch oven to half capacity with water (2-quarts of water in a 4-quart, 2.5-quarts in a 5-quart, etc.) and placed each into a 350-degree oven for one hour. After that, I removed them from the heat for 30 minutes and measured the temperature of the water to see which remained warmest at the end of the 30 minutes.

Manufacturer Seasoning

Rarely will you find cast iron that doesn’t require seasoning to some degree. Some might require much less than others, but you should expect to season your cast iron for cooking and maintenance reasons. For this review, I wanted to see how each product’s pre-seasoned finish fared right out of the box. To test this, I fried eggs on the lids of all models that offered that option to see which ones had issues sticking. For the pots, I seared a deer roast and sautéed onions to see which ones performed well straight out-of-the-box and which ones had food stuck to the cooking surface after this process.

Versatility

Finally, I wanted to know how well each dutch oven performed with different cooking techniques. In this test, I determined which features made a particular brand better suited for tasks like sautéing, roasting, and baking. I observed and noted how each performed with searing and sautéing while testing the manufacturer seasoning. Using those roasts and vegetables, I also tested their ability at braising to see which ones produced light, crispy finishes before slow cooking them. For the baking test, I baked biscuits in all of the ovens to see which ones evenly distributed and maintained heat. While they all performed similarly with each of the recipes, there were a few models that excelled at certain tasks.

Best Overall: GSI Guidecast Lightweight Cast Iron Dutch Oven

GSI Outdoors

Check Price

Key Features

  • Depth: 5 inches
  • Width: 10 inches
  • Capacity: 5-quart
  • Weight: 9.70 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

Once seasoned, the GSI Guidecast had a superior finish compared to the others in my test. It also weighs 30 percent less than cast-iron ovens of comparable capacity, and its versatility was unmatched.

Pros

  • Notched pot handle
  • Stand (trivet) included
  • Polished cooking surfaces
  • Lightweight
  • Lid makes excellent skillet/griddle

Cons

  • Not pre-seasoned
  • A little pricey

Product Description

The Guidecast Lightweight Cast Iron Dutch Oven is, by far, the best overall cast-iron dutch oven for camping. It outperformed all other models in nearly every test I put them through. After I seasoned it, the nitrided surface treatment and polished finish created an extremely smooth and non-stick cooking surface that made searing meats and sautéing vegetables a pleasure. This also made cleaning up after cooking effortless. Another factor that set the GSI Guidecast apart from the rest was its relatively low weight. Weighing just under ten pounds (which is a few pounds less than other dutch ovens of smaller capacity) it also makes a great option for the kind of camping trips that require you to float or pack-in base camp.

All dutch ovens possess some range of versatility, but the GSI Guidecast excelled above the rest in this category, as well. The same quality finish that makes the primary cooking surface such a pleasure to cook on is also on the bottom side of the lid, which doubles as an excellent skillet or griddle. Adding to its versatility even more is the polished surface on the bottom of the pot which allows you to use the GSI Guidecast Lightweight Cast Iron Dutch Oven on stove tops, as well.

If you’re wondering how well this flat bottom dutch oven does over coals, no worries, GSI includes a trivet with this package. Yet another feature that stands out is the notch in the pot handle that made it incredibly stable and secure when I hung it from a tripod. As someone that’s used cast-iron cookware and dutch ovens for years, I was very impressed with the GSI Guidecast Lightweight.

Best for Baking: Camp Chef Classic Dutch Oven

Camp Chef

Check Price

Key Features

  • Depth: 3.5 inches
  • Width: 10 inches
  • Capacity: 4-quart
  • Weight: 12.04 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Camp Chef model excelled in the baking test and was the only brand that offered the built-in thermometer notch in the lid.

Pros

  • Solid pre-seasoned finish
  • Built-in thermometer notch
  • Lid doubles as a skillet
  • Flat and wide cooking surface is great for baking

Cons

  • Handle on pot can be finicky
  • A little shallow for a 10-inch

Product Description

Maintaining a constant temperature in a dutch oven is important if you’re counting on perfectly browned biscuits when you remove the lid, and that’s exactly what the Camp Chef Classic Dutch Oven produced during the baking test. The thermometer notch on the Camp Chef makes checking the internal temperature of this dutch oven possible without having to remove the lid, so you don’t have to release any heat or steam during the cooking process. I placed a meat thermometer into the notch to monitor the temperature. By adjusting the number of charcoal briquettes under the dutch oven, as well as the ones on the lid, I was able to consistently bake biscuits that were fluffy in the middle and golden brown on top when I maintained a temperature of 225 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Camp Chef Dutch Oven with Biscuits and Fried Eggs
The Camp Chef Classic made it easy to whip up this delicious fireside breakfast. Joseph Hosey

The Camp Chef also came in second place in the pre-seasoned finish test, which left the bottom of the pot clean when I removed the biscuits, and it also comes with a reasonable price. This dutch oven does run a little shallow for a 10-inch, but if baking is your main priority, this one should impress you.

Best Manufacturer Seasoning: Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven

Key Features

  • Depth: 5 inches
  • Width: 10 inches
  • Capacity: 5-quart
  • Weight: 13.49 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven has an exceptional pre-seasoned finish on all surfaces, and its durable construction lends a hand to its incredible heat retention.

Pros

  • High-quality factory seasoning
  • Great heat retention
  • Durable construction
  • American made

Cons

  • A little hefty
  • High price point

Product Description

Lodge cast-iron cookware has been made in America since 1896, and it’s no wonder they have been in business so long. They produce some of the best cast-iron on the market and the Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven is no exception. The sheen from the factory seasoning immediately stood out, especially compared to the others in my test. I was also pleased to see that all surfaces, inside and out, were equally treated and seasoned. 

The seasoning on the Lodge passed the searing test beautifully on a roast without it sticking to the bottom. And it produced a nice, crisp brown on all sides of the roast. Although its durable construction does make it a bit heavy, the thick walls proved vital in heat retention, which easily placed the Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven in first place for this test. To ensure that you can find the right size to meet your needs, Lodge offers sizes that range from as small as 2-quarts to as large as 10-quarts for their Deep Camp collection. So, if you have an impromptu camping trip and don’t have time to season your Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven, you can feel confident that it’ll get you by until you have a chance to properly season it. 

Best Budget: Ozark Trail Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Ozark Trail

Check Price

Key Features

  • Depth: 3.5 inches
  • Inside width: 12 inches
  • Capacity: 5-quart
  • Weight: 14.7 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Ozark Trail Cast Iron Dutch Oven is an excellent entry level dutch oven that offers above average quality at a below average price.

Pros

  • Widely available
  • Budget friendly
  • Large cooking surface
  • Good pre-seasoned finish

Cons

  • Spring handle makes hanging from tripod difficult
  • Screw-on lid handle prevents using the lid as a skillet/griddle

Product Description

The Ozark Trail Cast Iron Dutch Oven is the most affordable brand I tested by far. While the spring handle made it difficult, but not impossible, to hang from a tripod, it was more cumbersome to remove it from the hanger than it was to put it on. However, the spring handle proved helpful when I moved the dutch oven safely by hand. The handle’s stainless construction also ensures that it won’t rust or corrode.

This model did well in the heat retention test, coming in third place. For anyone wanting to use a cast-iron dutch oven for camping but is reluctant to pay over $30, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option. And, since it can be found in the camping section of Wal-Mart, you will likely be able to pick one up close to home.

Best Runner Up: Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned Flat Bottom Dutch Oven

Bruntmor

Check Price

Key Features

  • Depth: 5 inches
  • Width: 12 inches
  • Capacity: 6-quart
  • Weight: 18.54 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned Flat Bottom Dutch Oven comes with an exceptional manufacturer seasoning and performed the second best during the heat retention test.

Pros

  • Exceptional factory seasoning
  • Lid doubles for skillet
  • Durable construction
  • Significant heat retention

Cons

  • Coarse casting on the interior
  • Heavy

Product Description

The Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned Flat Bottom Dutch Oven fell just short of outperforming other models in most of the tests, which is why I gave it the runner-up award. Its durable construction made it the heaviest of models that I tested, but like the Lodge, that quality ranked it high in the heat retention test.

While it didn’t come in first during any of the tests, it still performed well and did have a great out-of-the-box factory seasoning. Though, the coarse interior casting makes it a bit more difficult to clean after cooking or baking in it. Still, this dutch oven performed well enough that I see it as a viable option that I had to include.  

FAQs

Q: Can you use an enamel-coated Dutch oven over a campfire?

It is not recommended to use enamel-coated dutch ovens over an open flame, because the extreme temperatures can cause the coating to crack and chip off.

Q: How do you clean a Dutch oven when camping?

To clean a dutch oven while camping, it’s best if you start the process by removing any remaining food before it dries to any surfaces. It’s best to use hot water and a sponge, but you can use a mild soap diluted in water to hand wash your cast-iron dutch oven. But concentrated soaps and those containing citrus can damage the seasoning and should be avoided. When using soap, make sure to rinse thoroughly, so that there’s no residue left on any surfaces. Next, completely dry the pot and lid by using paper or cloth towels to remove any water. Before storing, make sure to wipe all surfaces with a thin layer of oil.

Q: Can I use a Dutch oven without legs over an open flame?

You can use a dutch oven without legs over a fire using a few different techniques, especially since you won’t be using your camping stove for this one. Suspending the pot from a tripod stand is one option if you’re able. Another way you can do this is by using a  trivet, a short stand that sits over the coals so that a flat bottomed Dutch oven can be suspended over the coals.

Q: How much does a dutch oven for camping cost?

The price of a dutch oven varies depending on the brand, size, and style. But the majority of average-sized dutch ovens usually cost between $30 and $100.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Dutch Oven

When it comes to deciding which dutch oven best suits your outdoor cooking needs, here are a few things to consider.

Size

When you’re trying to determine what size dutch oven you need for camping, it’s generally accepted that you will get one serving per quart. Meaning, that a 5-quart dutch oven can serve five guests while an 8-quart would accommodate eight. But, knowing how many servings you can expect isn’t the only reason to consider the size. For example, if you’re wanting to slow-cook wild turkey legs from this spring, you may want to consider a larger option that provides enough room to fit larger cuts of meat. So, you’ll want to also consider what types of food you plan to cook as well. 

Lid Design

Most dutch ovens have similar lid designs, but if you want to get the most out of your purchase, buying one with a lid that doubles as a skillet should be something to consider. Not to mention, this also eliminates the need to pack an extra skillet and saves room in your camping box. If you’re planning on cooking a large roast, a lid with a more concave surface on the inside will accommodate this better than a flatter one.

Weight

While your dutch oven’s weight doesn’t play as important of a role when the camp location lies just a few steps away from where you parked, if you’re backpacking or canoeing in, weight becomes an important factor. There were some inconsistencies between the weights listed on their websites and the weight I found when I weighed each product. For that reason, I recorded the weights I actually weighed in the Key Features section for each product, rather than the manufacturers’ weights. 

Final Thoughts

With the versatility offered by the best dutch ovens for camping, meals enjoyed with friends and family around a campfire can transform your fire-side meal. Just decide which one best fits your needs and get to cooking.

MORE TO READ