Campfire cooking with a traditional cast iron Dutch oven is usually an integral part of any outdoor camping experience. Dutch oven cooking is so popular with outdoor campers that you will probably find more campfire recipes for this piece of camping cookware than any other. But whether you are a beginner, or an experienced camp cook, there are some basic tools and accessories you will need. These 6 essential tools for cooking with a Dutch oven will make the job a lot easier… and safer.
Thick leather gloves – When you think about it, this is a no-brainer. Handling a heavy stew-laden cast iron Dutch oven is not like using a soup pot or frying pan handle at home. To begin with, you will most probably be cooking over a campfire, so you will be dealing with open flames and hot coals, in addition to the heavy cast iron weight. A 10 qt. cast iron Dutch oven can be very heavy when it is loaded with hot bubbling stew or pot roast.
It is also important that the gloves be loose fitting, so they are easy to get on and off. Especially off! Thick leather gloves will protect your hands from the flames and heat of the pot for a while, but when it does start to be felt through the gloves, they will get very hot, very fast. You want your gloves loose so you can get them off quickly. This is an item you don’t want to cut-corners with, get a good pair.
Lid Lifter – Another tool that is as important for safety as it is for convenience. There are several varieties, but a typical lid lifter is an iron rod, (approx. 15″ long), with a hook on the end that fits into the loop handle on the lid. This allows you to safely lift the lid without having your hands too close to the flames or hot contents of the pot.
Some additional features of the iron hook lid lifter might include: a welded cross piece just above the hook that helps control the swaying of the lid when you lift it, (or even a 3-prong stool-leg type arrangement that rests against the top of the lid to keep it level), a coiled-wire handle to grip the lifter, and a formed loop on the end, (with or without a strap), used to hang-up the lifter when not in use.
Long-handled tongs – You will be using your Dutch oven for more than just stews, and that frequently means turning or placing items in the deep-sided pot. The long handles on the tongs will allow you to do this without having to put your hands too close to the open fire, or the hot sides of the oven pot. If possible, Teflon-coated or rigid plastic tongs are best. You always want to use as few metal utensils as possible when you cook with a piece of seasoned cast iron cookware. A metal spoon or spatula can scrap the oil coating from the piece, requiring it to be re-seasoned.
Long-handled Teflon-coated or Plastic Utensils – As mentioned above, the long handles keep your hands away from the heat and flames, and the Teflon or plastic will not scratch the oil coating of seasoned cookware.
Lid Stand – This is usually a wire-formed stand, 8″ – 10″ across, with three or four curled legs. A lid stand gives you a place to safely sit a hot cast iron lid, without using the table top or a piece of firewood. (where it might slide off) This isn’t a “required” accessory, but once you use one you will realize it’s not just a luxury either.
Whisk Broom – This seldom thought of Dutch oven cooking accessory is so inexpensive, and so useful, you will be kicking yourself, wondering why you didn’t think of it first. It works perfectly for brushing ashes off the lid, so they don’t become an added ingredient in your campfire recipe, and for brushing ashes from the Dutch oven pot before you set it on the table. Just make sure you get one with broom-straw bristles, not plastic or synthetic ones.
Those are the basic cast iron Dutch oven tools and accessories you should have. You will find your camp cooking will be a lot easier with all these tools at your disposal, but at a minimum you should at least have the two safety items, the gloves and lid lifter, before you do any cooking over a campfire.