After an extremely depressing car-camping dinner of limp, charred tinfoil "hot pockets," I went searching for something more. With all kinds of time for meal preparation when you’re camping, I figured there must be something that would put the fun back in family camp cooking. Enter the Dutch oven, which is basically just a large, sturdy, and robust pot that you can place on the fire. Luckily for me, a tip from my Midwest-based brother led me to Mick Witte, who we've affectionately coined the “Dutch Oven Yoda.” Indiana-based Witte talked me through the camp cooker's superior versatility and shared some sweet Dutch oven recipes for you to chew on.
How did you first get introduced to the Dutch oven?
Shortly after my son joined Boy Scouts in 2007. The adults camped as a patrol, similar to the boys. We shared the duties and responsibilities among the group, which meant that cooking and dishes also rotated among the adults.
What do you love about the Dutch oven when you camp?
It's so versatile that it's hard not to love. It can be used over a gas stove, wood coals, charcoal, or hung above an open fire to fry, stew, or bake. The pot itself can be used as a deep skillet or a pot to boil in or cook in, while the lid can be used as a flat griddle or skillet. Together they create an oven that can cook virtually anything, with the only limitation being the size of the oven—and your imagination.
Tell us about your current Dutch oven set-up.
There are several brands available, from no-name to big name. I prefer Lodge, as it is made in America, still manufactured, and is available at a variety of retailers. The Lodge cast-iron Dutch ovens range from 1 quart (6 inches in diameter) to 10 quarts (14 inches diameter), with both smaller and larger discontinued models available on the second-hand market.
This size range allows for a multitude of cooking options, both for recipes and mouths to feed. Lodge also has a variety of accessories to aid in Dutch oven cooking and cleanup, including trivets, lid stands, tripods, lid lifters, scrapers, scrub brushes, and more.
Can you share a couple of go-to Dutch oven recipes?
The versatility the Dutch oven lends itself to migrate recipes from home cooking to camp cooking. A youth favorite that happened this way was Marzetti. I was able to double most of the ingredients, layering them in the pot, allowing us to feed more people. Here you go:
Dutch Oven Marzetti
1 pound ground beef
1 pound sausage (I like 1/2 spicy / 1/2 mild)
2 large onions, chopped
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 large can tomato soup (26 ounces)
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
16-ounce elbow (or similar) noodles (4 cups)
1 1/2 pounds grated cheddar cheese
Preparation: Precook pasta. Add beef, sausage, and onion to Dutch oven over stove or 20 coals. Brown meat and cook until onion is tender (not brown). Remove meat and onions to a mixing bowl and discard grease. Add seasonings, tomato soup, tomato paste, and water to meat. Mix well. Add Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar, stirring well. In 8-quart Dutch oven, place layer of cooked noodles. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat. Bake at 375 degrees (27 coals, 18 top, 9 bottom) for 45 to 60 minutes. Spoon on plate. Serve with salad.
Mick's Dutch Oven Scrapple
One of my favorite breakfast recipes is Dutch oven "scrapple." I modified an existing recipe to allow for easier preparation.
3 pounds of your favorite flavor of "Little Smokies" sausages
1 25-ounce jar of applesauce
3 boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix
3/4 cup of brown sugar
Preparation: Put Little Smokies (drained) in the bottom of the 12-inch or larger Dutch oven. Mix the cornbread mix with the applesauce and brown sugar. Pour the mix on top of the Smokies, covering evenly. Cook at 350 degrees (25 coals, 16 top, 9 bottom) for about 60 minutes. Spoon on plate. Top with butter and/or syrup.
Looking for healthier options? Sub out some veggies for meats or just web search by ingredient for an endless array of delicious Dutch oven recipes for your next car camping excursion.
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