One of the greatest pleasures when camping is cooking a meal in a camp oven. Everyone loves stoking the fire, checking the coals and stirring the pot while cooking up a hearty meal.
A camp oven, also known as a Dutch oven, is a versatile cast iron pot with a lid that lets you prepare a family-sized meal anywhere. You can use a camp oven over the fire when you’re out in the bush or on the stove at home or even in your caravan.
Follow our camp oven cooking tips and you’ll be tucking in to a hearty meal before you know it.
Seasoning Your Camp Oven
If you have just bought a new camp oven, there’s some simple prep to do before you use it. Seasoning your oven before cooking with it protects the cast iron, ensuring it has a long, rust-free life.
Some new Dutch ovens come pre-seasoned but you should season your pot regularly to maintain a non-stick layer on the inside and keep away the rust. It’s best to do the seasoning process at home or somewhere you can regulate the temperature, rather than on a open fire.
Seasoning works by forcing moisture out of the metal and opening the metal’s pores for oiling. Follow this step by step guide and have your camp oven seasoned in no time.
How to season a camp oven:
Preheat the oven or BBQ to 200C.
Place the camp oven in the middle of the oven with the lid placed on top but slightly ajar.
Allow the oven to heat slowly to a point where it’s just too hot to handle the pot with bare hands.
Use oven gloves to remove from the heat and carefully use a paper towel to apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the pot inside and out.
Place the camp oven back into the hot kitchen oven or BBQ upside down with the lid placed on top so the oil doesn’t pool.
Leave it in the oven for around an hour at 200C so the oil can harden and create a protective coating.
Remove and allow to cool slowly.
Repeat the process one more time.
After heating for the second hour, remove from the oven and spread a thin layer of oil and ensure it is absorbed into the metal.
Your camp oven will now be left with a shiny, black finish.
Master the Basics of Camp Oven Cooking
Outdoor cooking can be a challenge if you don’t know the basics. You can adapt any recipe to suit an outdoor camp oven as long as you understand heat placement and heat control.
Remember: if you would cook this meal in an oven at home, you need to heat both the top and bottom of the camp oven. If the meal is usually cooked on a stove then bottom only heat will work fine.
Controlling the heat of a camp oven is often a struggle for campers. Starting off too hot, too soon will result in food being burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Avoid placing your camp oven directly on a open fire, you should cook on or over coals because they provide a steady heat.
Have a bucket of water or sand ready to extinguish the fire when you’re done with it (or in case the fire gets out of hand). Once the fire is out and the ashes have stopped hissing, prod the ashes with a metal rod and pour more water or sand on it until the ashes are completely cold.
Now that you’ve seasoned your camp oven and know the basics of camp oven cooking, take a look at these delicious and easy-to-follow recipes.
4 Easy Camp Oven Recipes
You can cook so many simple but delicious meals in a Dutch oven. From camp oven chicken recipes to roasts and even desserts, it’s easy to find something different to cook each night.
Camp Oven Roast
No need to wait until you get home to a full kitchen to enjoy a hearty roast meal. The roast is an easy and nutritious meal to whip up in your camp oven. You will need roughly 1 hour of cooking time for each kilo of meat and another 30 minutes for cooking the vegetables.
Leg of lamb or butt of beef large enough to feed the family
Mixture of onions, potatoes, carrots and pumpkin, chopped
Preheat the camp oven by placing on hot coals in the fire.
Take the meat out of its packaging and rub with a coat of oil, season and add any herbs.
Pour a small amount of oil in the oven’s bottom and place the meat on a trivet (alfoil covered saucer or similar).
Put on the lid and place a shovel of hot coals on top of the lid.
After 30-45 minutes open to check the meat is cooking and add the vegetables.
Place another shovel full of hot coals on the lid.
After another 30-45 minutes open and check if vegetables and meat are ready by slicing with a knife.
If not, return the lid and another load of coals and continue to check every 15 minutes until ready.
Camp Oven Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken cacciatore is a one-pot wonder that involves almost no cleaning up. Make sure you make plenty so there are leftovers that can be reheated after a long day on the road. A quick wipe of the pot is all a camp oven needs. Don’t immerse your pot in soapy water as it draws in too much moisture.
1kg chicken pieces, bone in or out
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 capsicum, diced
½ cup wine (optional)
2 tablespoons capers
2 teaspoons dried oregano and rosemary
1 tin tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
Place the camp oven on the coals to pre-heat and add olive oil. Brown chicken pieces in batches and remove from oven.
Saute onion and capsicum until soft then add mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes as well as the herbs.
Stir in wine if using and stock and use a spoon to dislodge any pieces of chicken or vegetables from bottom of the pan.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil before reducing heat to low and cook for between 45 minutes and 2 hours. Check often to make sure the heat isn’t too high or low.
Serve with pasta, rice or damper to soak up the sauce.
Camp Oven Lamb Shanks
Lamb shanks are perfect for a cool evening around camp. Lamb shanks can be bulky in your camp fridge or freezer so plan on cooking them early in your trip. They also have a long cooking time so make sure you get to camp 2-3 hours before you want to eat.
4 lamb shanks
Flour for dusting shanks
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 can tomatoes
1 cup water
½ cup red wine (optional)
Rosemary, salt and pepper
Dust lamb shanks in flour and brown in the oven.
Remove the shanks and wipe out any excess oil.
Place the onion, garlic and other vegetables and saute in the camp oven.
Add the lamb shanks, a tin of tomatoes, wine and rosemary (if using) and season.
Sit camp oven on top of hot coals and place more hot coals on the lid.
Turn camp oven about 90 degrees every 30 minutes for even heat.
Check the lamb shanks between 2 – 3 hours and take off heat when ready.
Serve lamb shanks with boiled or mashed potatoes
Camp Oven Damper
Damper is an ideal camping food because you only need a few ingredients and you won’t have to worry about buying bread. Damper is fun and rewarding to make, especially for the kids. It won’t take them long to learn how to make damper in a camp oven once you show them how. The secret to a good damper is a crunchy outside and fluffy inside.
2 cups self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
Use a bowl to mix the flour and a pinch of salt.
Slowly add the water until the ingredients combine to form a dough.
Use your hands to cup the dough into a round shape.
Place a foil covered trivet in the oven’s bottom and place the damper on top.
Use hot coals or even heat beads if you have some to cook the damper.
To check if it’s ready tap the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready to come off the heat to enjoy.
Camp Oven Cook Books
Need more camp oven cooking ideas? Grab a book and try some new recipes!
Put your camp oven to good use with some recipe books and guides like the Australian Camp Oven Cooking book which gives you information about the different camp oven cooking gear, menu planning and building your cooking fire.