Top 5 Dutch Ovens for Open Fire Cooking in 2022

One of the must-have items for open fire cooking is a Dutch oven, an incredibly versatile piece of culinary gear. If you’ve seen our wood-burning Sea Island Forge Fire Kettles, you already know that we take our fire pit meals seriously. If you’re looking to cook a variety of mouthwatering dishes over an open flame, a carefully chosen cast iron Dutch oven allows you to simmer beef stew, a low country boil, or a mighty pot of chili. It can be used to bake shepherd’s pie, berry cobbler, breads, desserts, and much more! Here are some tips we recommend for cooking over an open fire with Dutch ovens and our suggestions for the best ones for backyard fire pits or grills.

Dutch Ovens for Open Fire Cooking: Differences and Similarities

There are two types of cast iron Dutch Ovens, Enameled and Unfinished. The Enameled Dutch oven is stove-top and oven safe yet not recommended for open-fire cooking due to its enameled finish and the possibility of it cracking, chipping, or flaking. The Unfinished Dutch oven is what you’re looking for to add to your outdoor cookware collection. It requires seasoning and maintaining like your favorite cast iron skillet yet is almost indestructible and can last for generations.  

Each one is made up of the same construction; thick walls, a heavy bottom, and a tight fitting lid for browning, braising, frying, baking and stewing. The Unfinished Dutch oven is perfect for retaining heat and cooking evenly in the imperfect environment of an open fire; it’s a total workhorse and a worthwhile investment. 

Grilling & Dutch oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Lawson Builder, Salt and Stone Digital, Smithey)

Our Dutch Oven Recommendations

If you're in the market for one of these sturdy and durable items of outdoor cookware, here is a list of our hand-selected top Dutch ovens best for open-fire cooking.

  1. The 5.5 qt Dutch oven from Smithey Ironware, with its beautiful vintage look and quality USA-crafted cast iron, is our go-to oven and is therefore at the top of this list.  For $295, this 14-pound pot will last you a lifetime. It is designed to keep a uniform and constant temperature with its domed lid, it is ideal for open fire, roasting, baking, and everything in between. Smithey is known for the interior polish on their cookware that is easy to clean and withstands heat well. The concave, rounded lid shape is ideal for consistent cooking, as it circulates heat and traps interior steam. Its 14-pound weight, 4.5-inch depth, and 5.5-quart capacity make it the perfect versatile pot for large and small dishes. You can even get your Dutch oven personally engraved on their website! Smithey Ironware founder Isaac Morton recommends smoking trout in a Dutch oven over Alder hardwood in the Fire Kettle

  2. The 8-qt Lodge Camp Dutch Oven is ideal for cooking for a crowd as an outdoor or camping Dutch oven, which is why it is used by many Boy Scout troops. It stands out for its excellent heat retention, high side walls, and evenly distributed internal cooking temperatures. The legs, flat-top lid, and bail handle make this $95.95 USA-made Dutch oven perfect for fire pit cooking. It can sit slightly above a hot bed of charcoal or a wood fire with its short support legs. The lid that is entirely flat with a shallow, raised rim all the way around keeps hot coals from rolling or sliding off the top. This creates a moisture-packed, even cooking experience inside the pot, great for braising or baking. You can easily set it within coals or wood embers and take it back out again with the bail handle. Keep in mind that this pot is designed for large groups and is completely cast iron, and thus it is a hefty, 19+ pound option. In fact, if you want to cook for an even larger group of people, you could go for the Lodge 10-qt oven for $119.95.

  3. A mini version of the second option, the 2-qt Lodge Dutch Oven, still has support legs, flat lid, bail handle, and high quality that is versatile for fire pit or campfire cooking. Generally, you can think of the rule of thumb that each quart of a Dutch oven is equal to one serving. Because the cooking capacity of this 2-quart, 8-pound pot is much smaller with its 8-inch width, this $59.95 pot is ideal for smaller gatherings if you’re using it for a main dish. We like to use it for whipping up smaller or side dishes that complement a meal, such as vegetables, sides, or desserts. If you are looking for something in between the 8-qt and 2-qt options, you could always go for one of the many other sizes on the Lodge website, including 4-qt, 5-qt, and 6-qt.

  4. This light but still large option for $295, the Field No.8 Dutch Oven, is 6.5-pounds and still holds 4.5 quarts. We love that the Field Company is dedicated to quality. The founding brothers, Stephen and Chris Muscarella, started Field Cast Iron in order to spread their love of engineering, heritage, and cuisine. Their goal is for their clients to be able to pass along their cast iron products as family heirlooms, with the vision that their cast iron cookware gets better with time. We love the large handles for ease of lifting and the light weight for transporting. This pot has a grapeseed oil finish, is made in the US, and has a 4-pound self-basting lid that we especially like.

  5. Another light option is Emile Henry’s ceramic multi-use Dutch Oven. This Dutch oven comes in 4, 6, and 7.5-qt options priced at $200-$300 and comes from their Sublime line, an extremely light and innovative ceramic technology created to perform a variety of culinary uses more effectively than other materials. In fact, their 4-quart pot is only 6 pounds! The Emile Henry Sublime pot is made primarily from water and clay, both sustainable raw materials, and is extremely chip-resistant. It can even be placed in the dishwasher. The pot is highly effective for use on charcoal or gas grills, in the oven, on direct flame, or on stove tops that are gas, electric, or glass.

Ways to Cook Over an Open Fire with a Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens are ingenious; they are truly the all-in-one cooking tool. You can do anything from simmering and boiling soups, searing steaks, steaming lobster, sautéing and frying fish, braising short ribs, and baking cinnamon rolls.

To ensure the best cooking and gathering experience using a Dutch oven in your backyard fire pit, you’ll need to decide which medium to cook with: high flames, hot coals, or a bed of wood embers.

The majority of open-fire Dutch oven recipes call for a temperature of 350°F, particularly for “baking.” We recommend using a meat thermometer for any meat you are cooking (especially chicken). When baking or braising, place a third of the briquettes used beneath or encircling the base of the dutch oven and the rest on the lid, according to Taste of Home. Of course, the cooking temperature is ultimately influenced by the quantity of food you're preparing, the outside air temperature, and the type of heat source (briquettes vs. wood embers).

  1. Directly in a Fire or Bed of Coals

You can place your pot directly into hot coals or wood embers in your fire pit (or campfire) when braising or baking. Chef Jay Ducote uses hardwoods, favoring pecan and mesquite, in his Sea Iron Forge Fire Kettle for the best smokey flavor. 

  • Braise in a bed of coals or wood embers. Using a Dutch oven for low-and-slow braising is a good idea on quiet days at home. Here, you would put the Dutch oven directly in your Kettle or fire pit, as dual-direction heating is required when braising in a Dutch oven. Coals must be put on top and below the pot to ensure juicy, even cooking of braised short ribs, chicken thighs, or pot roast. 

  • Bake in a bed of coals or wood embers. Again, in this case, you would place the Dutch oven right into your Kettle or fire pit to bake. You then add coals underneath and on top of the Dutch oven to simulate an oven. Surprisingly to anyone who is new at outdoor Dutch oven cooking, you can bake almost anything you can imagine with this method, from artisanal bread to coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, apple pie, biscuits, and more with that constant rolling heat above and below the oven.

  1. Above Open Flames

If your Dutch oven does not have legs, or if your fire is piping hot and you are trying to slow cook something like a beef stew, you could also choose to set it on a grill or our Side Kick which is a foot-long, artisan crafted steel plate with small holes and a 10” handle that is easy to attach and remove from the lip of the Fire Kettle. It is perfect for prepping a Dutch oven side dish while still juggling grilling or griddling at the same time. For vegetables, soups, and other sides, you could just load them into the pot and pop them on the Side Kick.

  • Simmer over coals, embers, or a fire. Use a Dutch oven on the Side Kick as a heavy-bottomed pot to simmer and boil a batch of your preferred soup, stew, or chili recipe. Even better, bake a fresh loaf of sourdough to dip in your hearty stew while sitting on your Adirondacks around a crackling fire.

  • Sear over coals, embers, or a fire. A Dutch oven may be used like a pan to sear steaks, chops, and poultry since it is made of cast iron, which is excellent for high-heat cooking because it conducts heat evenly. We also recommend searing on our Griddle, a 3-foot flat-top cooking surface that creates different temperature zones for cooking multiple foods at the same time.

    Sea Island Forge tip: If you want to expand your cooking horizons, we offer you the challenge of cooking paella with a perfectly caramelized socarrat crust. You can make it with the perfect smokey flavor using our integrated Grill and Paella Rig, which uses our patented ratchet mechanism to allow for precise heat control. “I was enthralled with the mechanism for raising and lowering the Grill. It gives you full control over the distance from the coals,” says Chef Katie Button of Curate. “It’s the thing I have cooked most on over the past year.”

Mouthwatering Dutch Oven Open Fire Recipes

Here are some of our favorite Dutch oven recipes including our favorite biscuits by chef Jay Ducote, our very own signature stew, dutch oven bread we love, and more for enjoying an evening of outdoor cooking in your backyard. The ability to utilize a single pot for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert is our favorite feature of outdoor cooking Dutch ovens. 

Main Dishes:
Sides:
Desserts:

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About SIF

Sea Island Forge was founded to create legacy pieces that bring people closer together. Fire is the original social media, and we want our pieces to become the foundation for lifelong memories.