Camping & Survival

Alternative Cooking Method for Preppers

Dutch Oven Cooking Supplies

The concept of “prepping” encompasses more than just having a supply of food to eat. The fact is veteran preppers will tell you in addition to a stash of food; you also need to have a plan and the gear to handle everyday tasks as well. For example, let’s say your electricity or gas supply is gone. How would you cook for your family? Living without utilities can put a kink in your day. Keeping a normal routine is not always easy, especially when it comes to preparing meals. However, there is one alternative cooking option every prepper, homeowner and even campers should own and that is a traditional Dutch oven.

A Dutch oven is a heavy iron kettle with a tight-fitting lid perfect for cooking meats, entrees, soups, breads and even desserts. This culinary workhorse is often used over a bed of hot charcoal or over an open fire. And because most meals prepared in this type of kettle are no-fuss, “dump and go” types of recipes requiring little attention, make the Dutch oven an ideal alternative method for cooking meals when electricity or gas is not an option.

Dutch ovens come in small, medium and large sizes. An average-sized kettle is about 12 inches in diameter and holds about 6 quarts. It is important to know, not all ovens are created equal, some brands are only suited for light cooking in a conventional oven. Others such as the Dutch ovens by Camp Chef and Stansport designed for open-fire or charcoal-pit cooking are the perfect choice for preppers as well as campers.

Buying a Dutch oven may seem a little intimidating but it does not have to be so. When I spoke with Camp Chef’s Steve McGrath, he offered the following helpful tips for buying, baking, cleaning and storing a Dutch oven.

What to Look For

Lid fit is the most common and easy way to distinguish a quality Dutch oven. You want a lid that fits snug in the kettle it is paired with. Too loose of a lid and the heat will not stay in the oven. A lid that is too tight often gets stuck once the oven heats up. Also, examine the finish, is it rough, smooth or inconsistent? You want an all-over smooth finish free of obvious flaws and small cracks.

Reason for the Season

Seasoning is a process used on cast ironware such as Dutch ovens to cure or prepare the metal for the cooking process. This process eliminates the time-consuming step of self-seasoning an oven before its first use. Today most ovens come pre-seasoned. However, you will need to maintain the seasoning. It is a simple process that includes heat and thin layer of lard or vegetable oil. Just remember if you use your Dutch oven infrequently, this protective layer may go rancid.

Stack Dutch Ovens for one Complete Meal
Because the cast iron holds heat well try stacking two dutch ovens to create an entire meal.

What to Make

Dutch ovens have been around for a very long time and there are countless delicious recipes available using the oven as the only method of cooking. The recipes range from hardy stews and roasts, to complete one-pot entrees, to heavenly desserts and delicious breads. A simple Internet search will render many delectable Dutch oven delights.

Oven Maintenance

After enjoying a delicious meal from your Dutch oven, you need to make sure to clean it properly before storing it away. Hot water, a scouring pad and a little elbow grease will clean most things. Occasionally you may need a pan scraper for dry or stubborn pieces. Avoid citrus-based soaps or other acidic cleaning items, as they tend to eat away the seasoning. Store in a cool, dry place and fold a paper towel and wedge it under the lid to allow air to circulate plus it soaks up any additional moisture.

The image of a Dutch oven is often associated with camping trips or even chuckwagon cattle drives from days gone by, but the truth is Dutch ovens are still being used by many folks today. In a nutshell, the Dutch oven is a timeless alternative for cooking delicious homemade meals without using electricity and is a perfect tool for the home prepper.

Do you have a Dutch oven? How frequently do you use it? What’s your favorite recipe? Tell us in the comment section.

Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics like archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (10)

  1. Re-seasoning: If you buy a used Dutch oven or fry pan that was used and abused and wasn’t properly cared for you might want to consider cleaning and re-seasoning it. Years ago my ex had a couple of cast iron skillets that got hard for her to cook with because the food kept sticking.

    I was working in the automotive field at the time. We had a hot tank at the shop for cleaning engine blocks for rebuilding. If you use one just don’t put anything aluminum in it. I soaked the cast iron skillets long enough for all the built up crud to come off to bare metal. After that I hit it with the steam cleaner then oiled it with cooking oil so it wouldn’t rust. I’ll bet she’s still using them.

    Another guy in the shop with the same problem had used carburetor cleaner to do his. He put it in a big five gallon can of carb cleaner to soak and it to took it down to bare metal. Then he steamed cleaned and oiled it. Just a thought. Both methods worked. Hank

  2. For hobo stews and pot roasts I don’t think you can beat a Dutch oven buy my wife really wow’ed the gang with a blueberry white cake on a rainy camp out. She did her magic over a wood fire after it had burned down to coals. It was fantastic!
    Try it next time you might like it. She’s kind of secretive about her formula but I saw her use a box of white cake mix, a can of blueberries, a couple of eggs and some butter. She mixed it right in the pot and cooked it on the coals. That’s about all I can tell you. I’m the pyromaniac who always get the job of start the fire and I do the eating and the clean up, not the cooking. Hank

  3. A great point on the seasoning on the dutch oven going rancid if left over a period of time, all one needs to do is bring the oven up to temperature over a bed of coals for at least 3-5 minutes to kill any pathogens that may have been introduced and re-season and your good as new! thanks for the great post!

  4. We’ve just started using our Dutch oven camping, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t work well in a SHTF situation.
    You’ll notice coals on the top of the oven. It is important that you get an oven with a concave, and not a convex cover. If the coals won’t rest on top, you won’t be able to cook properly.
    Also, space permitting, I still like a large propane field stove. If you can cook a bunch of food quickly, you’re spending less time being static and vulnerable. The Dutch oven is also quick, but heavy. A charcoal starter is highly recommended for the Dutch oven. Either works well, depending on your needs.

  5. Learning to cook on cast iron has been a 55-year endeavor. Initial exposure was to my grand dad’s set (some of which I inherited). Cooking was learned over open wood flame, wood coals, LP gas, Butane, and charcoal, both lump and briquettes. A few things learned along the way:

    Don’t use aluminum, no matter what the ads for them say. They do not hold up and don’t cook well, and acidic food make them look like … well, not real nice and you can’t clean it up.

    If you want to use coated cast iron (like the pretty-colored ceramic ones), use them on your stove at home. They’re not good over wood/charcoal, and are inconsistent in heat dispersion.

    Over the years I’ve used several brands but have generally found myself gravitating to Lodge. Lodge has a great list of do’s and don’ts for cast iron cooking, maintenance, and cleaning on their website at the link below.

    Don’t worry about ruining something. Take the family for hamburgers and soak it in water to soften it up, scrape it out with a plastic scraper, wash it, and dry it and start over again tomorrow.

    If you lose seasoning (or think you have), you can always reseason it. I picked up a 20” fry pan with lid at a junk sale that was rusted, sanded it down with fine steel wool (which a lot of folks will tell you not to), soaked it in oil, wiped it down several times and put on new oil, and eventually re-seasoned it. I’ve had it for more than 20 years, now. I haven’t seen another that big and can’t even tell for sure who made it, except it was some foundry in Montreal. It is great balanced on rock over pine coals at 0-dark-30 a.m. for bacon, potatoes, and eggs.

    It’s been fun – now I’m teaching two of my grand kids and trying to figure out how to split my collection between them when I can no longer hit the toolies.

  6. We have cooked and messed around with dutch ovens for probably more than 40 years and have owned several. Our personal preference is for Lodge products — generally made in America in Tennessee. Check them out on the web, usually a complete line of products and they ship by mail. Cabelas has some Lodge products but they also have at least one other brand. We now only use Lodge products.

    Cast iron is very handy around elk camps. Start a stew before going out to hunt and come back to a cooked meal. Worked pretty good, especially if one guy stayed around camp to tend the fire. Slow cooked meals on somewhat regular heat worked best. Don’t try to rush cast iron cooking, in our experience.

    We had one son who gained a measure of fame 20 plus years ago in the Boy Scouts for his culinary success with dutch ovens, especially his cobblers and stews. They were great!

    Dutch ovens are available used but be careful. We live in Oregon and around here dutch ovens have been used to cook meth. In my mind, I would not want to cook food in an oven formerly used to cook meth. I do not know of any way to test a used product to be sure that the porous cast iron has not absorbed something I do not want to ingest.

  7. We have a generator modified to run on either natural gas, propane or gasoline. And of course a gas grill with several extra tanks. Also, a fireplace and several cast iron skillets.

  8. If you find a used unit and it has some rust one of easiest ways to rid it is with a potato.
    Cut a potato and just scrub the pan, the whole pan especially on the inside.
    The eye may not not the slight color variance.
    Wipe out with paper towels or damp cloth. a rinse with very hot water and a quick dry.
    You can store. by just running potato around and you will soon note an slight slippery feel.
    Just put. for a good month or more no worry.
    In the field you do not want to scrape, never in fact should even a brush be used other than real bristle.
    You can use a spud in field to clean.
    For the lid make sure it has good open handle(s), as they are heavy..
    Reports of cheapies breaking after spray with oven cleaner then set aside in plastic bags, cleaned off and cured in oven do explode.
    It is “cast” which does not like banging.

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