Camp Cooking the Way of the Lodge

Nothing compares…Dutch oven biscuits. Oh soooo good!

I love Lodge — akin to actor Steve Carell’s quote “I love lamp” in the 2004 comedy Anchor Man. Seriously though, not just saying it, I really do mean it and when fall arrives Dutch oven cooking is almost synonymous with the season. Now, I do realize that most of our customers are kayak or canoe paddlers and may be wondering what Lodge Cast Iron skillets and ovens have to do with just that. Well, at ACK we believe that paddling and camping activities tend to merge well together resulting in weekends full of fun and adventure. How so?

Close your eyes for a minute and picture a majestic horizon where a mirrored-like lake reflects a range of hills topped with a setting sun that is firing up the twilight sky with a mix of colors ranging from oranges, purples, reds and pinks. You stand proud of your well organized basecamp highlighted with a couple of kayaks along the shoreline waiting in anticipation for tomorrow morning’s paddle. Right by your feet you feel the comfort of a hot bed of coals stacked with a set of Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Ovens slowly cooking up a large pot of beef and vegetable stew, buttermilk biscuits and peach cobbler. Take a deep breath and smell the aroma. That’s what it’s all about!

Last year, I decided to get my hands on a new set of Dutch ovens and to my delight came across some easy recipes directly from Lodge that I figured would be a hit with my family and friends — they were. So much was the case that I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a few with our readers (see below).

A couple of quick tips: in most cases, especially when cooking stews, it’s easy to modify it to make it your own but I found that when baking, it’s best to follow recipes as close as possible! Additionally, it’s always best to prepare and organize your ingredients prior to arrival.

Don’t have a Dutch oven? Click here to see our entire selection of Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Ovens and our beginners guide to Dutch oven cooking Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101. Also, check out this blog I published back in January offering some tips on getting started. Happy cooking!

Roland @ACK

As seen in the Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101 book which comes with all Lodge Camp Dutch Ovens.

Good Old-Fashioned Family Stew (12-Inch Camp Dutch Oven)

  • 1 pound of stew meat, or chuck cut to l” cubes
  • 2 large, yellow onions, diced
  • 4 potatoes, peeled, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • 1/2 cup of celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup each of your choice of parsnips, mushroom, other veggies, diced
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 2 cans of mushroom soup or some cornstarch thickener
  • Browning sauce
  • Seasonings, salt and pepper

Use full pattern of briquettes on bottom to heat 12-inch Lodge Camp Dutch Oven and 1/4 inch of cooking oil. Cook other veggies you may wish to add (This didn’t make sense to me so I added all the veggies at the same time below). Brown onions and meat together. Drain off excess oil. Add potatoes, carrots, and all bouillon cubes, mushroom soup (if used), salt, pepper and seasonings, which may include a seasoning salt, curry, oregano, cloves, bay leaf, etc. Add enough hot water to cover veggies. When recipe reaches a simmer, pull enough briquettes to maintain the simmer, stir occasionally and cook until the meat and carrots are fork tender. Add cornstarch thickener (if used), and browning sauce as desired.

Lazy Cobbler (12-Inch Camp Dutch Oven)

  • 2 cans sliced peaches, in syrup (29-30 Oz. cans)
  • 1 package White or yellow cake mix
  • Ground cinnamon to taste
  • 1/3 stick butter or margarine

Place Camp Dutch Oven over 15 hot charcoal briquettes. Pour contents of peach cans into oven. Spread dry cake mix evenly over peaches. Sprinkle cinnamon over all to taste. Cut butter or margarine into equal slices and arrange on top. Put lid on top of oven and place 10 hot Charcoal briquettes in a checkerboard pattern on top. Bake for about 45 minutes or until done. Spoon into bowls and add cream, ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Best Buttermilk Biscuits (12-Inch Camp Dutch Oven)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup club soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups Bisquick™ biscuit mix
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (for tops of biscuits)

Grease and heat a 12-inch Lodge Camp Dutch Oven with 8 coals on the bottom and 17 coals on the top. Combine all ingredients. Knead the dough by hand until smooth. Flour your hands. Pat the dough flat to ¾ inch thickness on waxed paper and punch out biscuits with biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on the bottom of the hot Camp Cutch Oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the Camp Dutch Oven and lid often to prevent burn spots. Remember, these will bake form the top down. Brush golden biscuits with ¼ cup melted butter.

Dutch Oven Cooking – Getting Started

Biscuits, just a few simple ingredients is all it takes, but how you bake them will make a world of a difference. If you have yet to experience the warm, buttery taste of biscuits cooked in a Dutch oven after a long day of paddling or hiking, you seriously need to add it to your top ten lists of things to do this year. To my personal delight, I was thrilled to find out that we were going to start selling Lodge Cast Iron Cookware and was first to pick up a copy of “Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101”. That said, I thought I would share some of my research and readings based on the same questions I used to have.

Typical Dutch Oven Design

So what’s a Dutch oven anyway?
People often get confused because they look more like pots but a few design elements give way to their name. They are made of iron and consist of a tight fitting flanged lid and bottom legs, which allow a fire source to be under and over the pot contributing to more of a “baking” effect. The oven is placed directly over a hot bead of coals and concurrently coals are placed on the lid.

What gives it such a unique flavor?
Several things actually. Camp cooking always seems to result in some amazing food partially due to being extremely hungry after a long day of hiking and paddling but much credit needs to be given to a Dutch oven’s seasoning. That is the preparation and long-term use of your oven with essential oils. One self proclaimed camp cook expert once told me that the older your oven, the better your food will taste due to years of flavors and natural oils being absorbed into the inside of your Dutch oven. Of course, while you can cook fast and hot, much of it is also a result of slow cooking similar to that of what you may experience when using a crock-pot.

Speaking of seasoning, what’s that all about?
Unlike most pots and pans, Dutch ovens need to be seasoned prior to their first use and as maintenance. Seasoning simply means coating your oven with a layer of oil or grease to keep your food from sticking, your oven from rusting and ultimately contributes to a unique flavor. Most ovens, including Lodge Cast Iron come pre-seasoned but if you don’t care for your oven or rarely use it, you may have to periodically re-season it. To properly season your oven, follow the manufactures recommended procedures or search online, you’ll find a ton of how-to’s.

Camp Chili (Image source: Lodge Logic)

How do I cook?
You’ll need to either dig a shallow hole or use a protected fire ring or pit to cook in. The idea is to keep the oven protected from cold and winds. Charcoals briquettes are the easiest to use due to their consistent size. You’ll simply heat up coals (always have extra coals ready to use) and place an even layer under the oven and top of the lid. Most Dutch oven cooking is done at 350 degrees but this will vary depending on what you are cooking. Lodge Cast Iron recommends that you calculate the number of coals by doubling the the of oven diameter. For instance, for a 12” oven you will use 24 coals. However, always use two-thirds on the top of the lid, since heat rises you will need more to keep heat coming from the top. Additionally, too much heat on the bottom of the oven can cause your food to burn.

What can I cook?
You name it, you can do it. I personally prefer hearty meals such as stews, roasts and chili for dinner and a variety of egg dishes for breakfast. I can’t go without biscuits or cornbread but my all time favorites are cobblers. I mean WOW, you’ve never eaten cobbler until you’ve tried one from a Dutch oven. Seriously, hooked for life! Wish we had space for recipes but here is a link with a few you can start with. “Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101” also offers a variety of simple recipes too.

How do I clean and store it?
Unlike conventional pots and pans, you DON’T use soap when cleaning your Dutch oven. You’ll need to clean with hot water and a stiff brush. Once cleaned, dry thoroughly with a towel and immediately wipe a light coat of cooking spray or vegetable oil on all interior and exterior surfaces. Store in a cool and dry place with folded paper towels inside and between the lid and the oven to allow air to circulate.

Now that’s a pretty high level overview. There are so many different sizes and types of ovens, and accessories available are plentiful. I recommend you purchase a book or spend some time online researching cooking methods and recipes, but beware, don’t do any of this while hungry!

Do you do any Dutch oven cooking? Share your experiences, tips and recipes below!

Happy “Dutch” oven cooking!

Roland @ACK