Gabe, now a fifth grader, was pumped that he had graduated prerequisite camp programs required to experience Adventure Camp for the first time. Gabe conquered the zip line, sailed on the lake, and last summer, he and his fellow Adventure campers slept in tents in the wilderness for a whole week! A favorite delight that week surprised him — being sous chef to his counselors while Dutch oven cooking, especially when searing fajitas. Here are some pointers for your outdoor campers.

Note: Dutch oven sizes vary, but our camp used only the 12-inch size to build a standard ten-camper-per-group meal plan, so the information that follows reflects this.

Tools Needed

  • Dutch Oven(s) — 12-inch is most common, has a 15-quart capacity, and serves 10–12, according to (2019)
  • 8 in. x 8 in. pan for baking bread
  • Lid lift or claw hammer
  • Elbow-length insulated grilling gloves or welding gloves
  • Long metal grilling tongs
  • Large bag of charcoal briquettes
  • Metal tray or baking sheet for stacking/ lighting coals
  • Wand lighters
  • Lighter fluid
  • Cooking oil or pan spray
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Cooking thermometers
  • Set of three metal mixing bowls
  • Can opener
  • Knives
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Spatula for clean out
  • Large spoon for stirring and serving
  • Dutch oven lid holder or trivet and 14 in. x 14 in. board for holding lid
  • Paper towels
  • Water bucket to extinguish coals
  • Wash pan
  • Recipes and ingredients

Cooking Process

Lighting Your Coals 

According to Dutch Oven Pro (2019), the most traditional way to light charcoal is to “stack up your coal in a mound or pyramid, inside a tray, and spray/splatter lighter fuel evenly on the stack.” Make sure coals are not red hot when applying fluid. This method takes about 15 minutes. If you don’t wish to use lighter fluid, newspaper may be lit with the coals to light the fire.

Coal Placement Suggestions for Cooking Temperatures

  1. Kids Cooking Activities advises us that most Dutch oven recipes recommend 350-degree heat, so double the amount of briquettes for the size of the oven. For example, “if you have a 12” Dutch oven you should use 24 charcoal briquettes. After the fuel burns off the total number of briquettes, individually move half the briquettes to the lid, in a circle around the edge.
  2. To reach 350 degrees, the authors of Dutch Oven 101 (2005) suggest taking the oven size, a 12inch, and adding three briquettes to the top, which equals 15, then subtracting three from 12, and using this number below the pot, which equals nine coals.
  3. A temperature chart detailing number of coals preferable on top and on bottom of your Dutch oven can be accessed at chart (Camping for Foodies, 2019).
  4. Number of coals needed will also vary depending on the altitude, humidity, moisture, and ground/wind temperature. The type of cooking you are doing, such as baking, frying, stewing, or roasting, will change the number of coals needed also (Dutch Oven Dude, 2019).

Preparing Your Cooking Surface

Apply oil or pan spray to the inside of your pan and underside of the lid. You may opt to line the bottom of your pot with aluminum foil. Now it’s time to add food and ingredients.

Safety Measures

Set up your Dutch oven on a flat ground surface, such as dirt or gravel, away from play areas. To avoid burns, be sure to never touch it with your bare hands, even in the very beginning stage of cooking. Always use gloves and use a lid lifter or claw hammer to raise the lid.

Cleaning, Seasoning, and Storing Your Dutch Oven


It is important to build cleanup time into your program to allow your campers to learn how to properly and safely clean and season Dutch ovens, as well as teach them responsibility. Dutch ovens should always return to the camp kitchen cleaned and seasoned. First, clean out any residual food using a soft brush, nonmetallic scouring pad, or rubber spatula, so it does not dry onto the pan surface. Do not use soap! Using warm water, wipe clean using a dish cloth or sponge. Rinse with warm water and dry with a towel.


Next, season your Dutch oven by rubbing or spraying a light layer of cooking oil inside it, as well as outside and on legs, lid, and handles. Scouting magazine says, “Store your oven with the lid slightly ajar to provide fresh air and continuous ventilation to the oven’s interior. A folded paper towel placed in the bottom of the oven during storage will soak up excess oil and moisture and will delay or prevent gumming of the oil used to recoat the oven prior to storage” (Conners & Conners, 2017).


Kitchen staff should ensure Dutch ovens are ready to store in a dry place specifically reserved and labeled for this equipment. For ease in carrying your Dutch ovens to outdoor cooking sites, store each Dutch oven individually in a Dutch oven tote, placed in a two-wheeled suitcase for pulling along. Another idea is to use a wooden case with handles for each Dutch oven. Some Scout troops build these cases, which could be a camp woodcraft project idea for your camp.

Dutch Oven Cuisine

My two campers tell me a highlight of adventure camping is the aroma and flavor of Dutch oven cooking after a long day of hiking to the apex of a mountain. Whether feasting on Texas brisket, hearty pot roast, or a South Carolina Lowcountry favorite, Beaufort stew, my boys believe it tastes better cooked outdoors in a Dutch oven. Try these recipes inspired by Cast Iron Casseroles (2018). They should feed 12–16 campers.

Chicken Broccoli Campfire Casserole

  • 3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 6 cups medium pasta shells
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper


  1. Boil pasta in separate Dutch oven. Remove, place in metal bowl, and cover.
  2. Add oil to Dutch oven. Sauté chicken cubes alone in separate pan. Place in metal bowl with pasta and cover.
  3. In a separate Dutch oven, cook bacon until slightly crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Leave 1 teaspoon bacon drippings in Dutch oven.
  4. Add broccoli and cook for 3 minutes, then remove and add to pasta and chicken.
  5. Melt butter in Dutch oven.
  6. Stir in garlic and flour, using a whisk.
  7. Add milk. Whisk until thickened. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella.
  8. Stir in pasta, chicken, bacon, and broccoli.
  9. Stir in salt and pepper.
  10. Add remainder of cheese across top and broil for 1–2 minutes by placing an extra ring of coals on lid.

Chocolate Cobbler

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
  • 4 tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups hot coffee
  • Whipped cream for serving, or vanilla ice cream


  1. After Dutch oven is preheated to 350, spray with cooking spray.
  2. Add melted butter.
  3. In metal bowl, mix only 1 cup sugar, flour, chocolate morsels, ½ cup of cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Stir in milk and vanilla extract. Pour batter over melted butter.
  5. Separately, stir remainder of sugar and remainder of cocoa. Sprinkle this sugar mixture over batter.
  6. Pour hot coffee over top without stirring.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, until center is mostly set.
  8. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with whip cream or vanilla ice cream.


  • Camping for Foodies. (2019). Dutch oven temperature chart. Retrieved from
  • Conners, T., & Conners, C. (2017, April). A Dutchover cooking primer. Scouting magazine. Retrieved from
  • Dutch Oven Dude. (2019). Dutch oven cooking. Retrieved from
  • Dutch Oven Pro. (2019). How to light charcoal. Retrieved from
  • Hoffman Media, LLC. (2018). Cast Iron Casseroles. Southern Cast Iron. Retrieved from
  • Kids Cooking Activities. (2019). Dutch oven cooking for kids. Retrieved from
  • (2019). Size & capacity charts. Retrieved from

Kimberly Whiteside Truitt is former food service manager at Camp Gilmont and Camp Zephyr, and has served on Camping Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee. Kimberly was a presenter at the 2018 North American.