How to choose the right dutch oven for your next campfire cookout — plus 3 top-rated picks

Dutch oven cooking over a campfire
ByCynthia Fetherlin

Dutch ovens are one of those kitchen staples that go back centuries and yet are still beloved today. This heavy-duty cookware is, after all, sort of a do-it-all product: It can be used to bake, fry, simmer, and even roast. All you need to make a warm meal is a grill, hot coals, or just an open flame, which means they're great to pack for vacations in the great outdoors. The best dutch ovens for camping are those made of cast iron because they can withstand the intense heat that comes with cooking over a campfire.

When shopping for a dutch oven for outdoor use, size is a big factor. To help narrow down the right size for your needs, consider how many people you'll be preparing food for:

  • One to two people: A 2-quart dutch oven is the ideal size for one or two people, so whether you're camping alone, with a partner, or with a friend, this is really all you need.
  • Three to six people: A 5-quart pot is the better choice for a small group because it opens up more recipe options, like roasting a whole chicken.
  • More than six people: If you're roughing it with a big group (think six or more people), you may want to go for a dutch oven that's 8 quarts or more. It'll give you all the capacity you need to feed a lot of hungry mouths.

It's also worth noting that cast iron needs special care to make sure it lasts for a long time (and believe me, it will last). Hand-wash yours gently with warm water and immediately dry it with a lint-free towel. This will help keep it from rusting over time. Once it's dry, you'll want to season it by rubbing vegetable oil on the inside in order to create a "seal" to prevent food from sticking.

To help narrow down all the choices out there, I've put together a list of the best dutch ovens for camping.


The overall best cast iron dutch oven

In my research for this piece, I found the Lodge name pop up over and over again as one of the most trusted brands in this category of cookware. This Lodge dutch oven is available in a 5-quart option (pictured above), as well as in 2- and 8-quart options, so you can choose the right size for your group. It has nearly 5,000 reviews and still maintains a high 4.6-star rating, so you know it's a reliable, high-quality pick. Many reviewers noted how thick and durable it is, making it a great addition for a rugged campsite.

Made of sturdy cast iron, it comes pre-seasoned, so it will be ready to go as soon as you get your hands on it. Lodge also offers this pick in a bundle with perfectly sized silicone holders, to make taking it off a campfire much safer.

One reviewer says: "This thing rules. We took it camping and made fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and cheese in it for our breakfast burritos. It didn't burn or stick. I was so impressed by how evenly the heat distributed. [...] Buy it, it's totally worth it.”

  • Available sizes: 2, 5, and 8 quarts


The best dutch oven for large groups

Also from Lodge, this cast iron dutch oven comes in a 10-quart version, so it's ideal if you're camping with several people. While the price may be a little steep, the flat lid can double as a griddle (for cooking things like sausage or even scrambled eggs), so you get double the cooking surfaces. The flat-top design also allows you to stack hot coals on the lid when its closed to speed up the cooking process.

The addition of metal feet on this 27-pound pot allows it to sit evenly over a bed of coals or, if you have a tripod grill (keep scrolling for a great one), you can use the metal handle to hang it over a campfire. Also, just like the first pick, it comes pre-seasoned, so food won't stick no matter how much it simmers. Reviewers also noted how durable it is, so it's an investment that's definitely built to last. In addition to the 10-quart size pictured above, this model is also available in 5 or 8 quarts.

One reviewer says: “Cooked chili over the fire the other night. Huge pot. [...] Very heavy of course. I sit mine by the fire so [I] didn't try hanging it. Chili didn't stick even when it got low and we warmed it up again. Love Lodge. Very happy with it and came quickly.”

  • Available sizes: 5 quarts, 8 quarts, and 10 quarts


The best budget pick

This inexpensive dutch oven from Utopia Kitchen will do what you need it to at a fraction of the cost of others in this category. It comes pre-seasoned, but unlike the picks above, it's made with enameled cast iron, which means there's a smooth glaze on the surface to help keep rust from forming and make clean up much easier (traditional cast iron pots and pans don't have any coating). According to the brand, you can use dish soap to wash this dutch oven, though reviewers recommended immediately drying it with a towel afterward.

One downside is that pots with an enameled finish can't withstand as much direct heat, so for outdoor cooking, you'll want to keep your grill on a low setting or raise your grilling surface to prevent too much heat exposure. This pick only comes in one size (5-quart), but that's a decent volume for those who are camping with a group of four to six.

One reviewer says: “This [...] is exactly what I needed. It is big enough to cook an entire meal in for my entire family. This time of year I generally keep my wood stove burning 24-7. Just put this oven on top and I can slow cook stew or chili all day long. When its done I just add a heat diffuser underneath it. And it will keep my food warm without scorching or over-cooking it.”

  • Available sizes: 5 quarts


A crucial add-on: A lid lifter for hot dutch ovens

Cast iron gets incredibly hot when you cook with it, and this lid lifter from Lodge will allow you to remove your dutch oven's lid without the risk of burning yourself. The T-shape design can even be used to push away hot coals. Measuring 15 inches long, it's a popular cooking accessory on Amazon, with hundreds of five-star reviews.

One reviewer says: "I use this for our camping trips. It comes in super handy to help me lift the lid or the pot of my Dutch oven from the fire pit when I don't think my oven mitts will do. I was a little nervous the first time because it didn't feel like it could be stable using it, but it worked beautifully. The design makes for a little more bulk than ideal since space is at a premium when we pack up the car, but not so much that we wouldn't bring it."


Also helpful: A tripod grill

This Coleman tripod grill is designed to be set up directly over a campfire, so you can hang your dutch oven (if it has the proper handle) or set it directly on the grill. You can even adjust the height of the grill, depending on whether you're using high heat for frying or low heat for simmering. Once your meal is served, you can hang a lantern on the hook to light up your whole campsite for after-dinner card games or storytelling.

A few reviewers mentioned that it's important to make sure the legs are set up evenly over your campfire. This will help distribute the weight of the pot and prevent any accidental spills.

One reviewer says: “Got a lot of great comments from neighboring campers who had a portable grill with charcoal and had a pit going at the same time. The best part [is that it] was light and worked great. Used the fire pit to cook dinner, enjoy the fire and burnt some marshmallows at the same time with one fire.”

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