I've wanted to do dutch oven (DO) cooking for a long time, but never got around to it. This winter, when I decided I was going to get a camper, I also decided to dive in and start DO cooking. I ordered my first DO back in February, and used it out on my back patio to get the hang of it. I'm hooked! I've since ordered 3 more DO's, and expanded to other cast iron cookware. I now have an 8 inch/2 quart DO, 10 inch/4 quart DO, 10 inch/5 quart DO, and a 12 inch/8 quart DO. My plan is to have the 8 inch and 4 quart 10 inch DO packed in the camper, which is plenty for if I'm camping alone or with my son, but also have the other two available to bring with if it's a larger group. This summer, we are having a large family camping outing, with a potluck one night, so I'm planning on cooking a pot of Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup in the 12 inch DO for my contribution. I already made it at home in one of the 10 inch DO's, and it was AWESOME!
The cooking I've done at home has been with charcoal. It's pretty simple - Take the size of the DO in inches, double it, and that's the number of briquettes to prepare. For a 10 inch DO, that would be 20 briquettes. Once the coals are ready, you arrange them with 1/4 of them under the oven and 3/4 on the lid (the lids have a lip to hold the briquettes). That should give the proper temp of roughly 350 degrees (varies based on many factors, but a close ballpark figure to work with). Then add the ingredients as the recipe calls for, and you're good to go.
I've found a lot of my slow cooker recipes work really well in the dutch oven. The two biggest differences that you need to be aware of is that with a slow cooker, you basically throw everything in it, and let it cook all day with practically no intervention needed. But a dutch oven needs to be watched, the coals replenished as needed, and while the cast iron is good for distributing the heat, it's still a good idea to rotate the DO every now and then. This keeps it from one area sitting on a hot spot all the cooking time, and another spot on a cooler spot the whole time. The other difference is how long you cook it for. A slow cooker goes for about 6 to 8 hours on average (at least my recipes usually call for that long), but take about 1/4 of that time in the dutch oven. So 8 hours in the slow cooker would be about 2 hours in the dutch oven.
For camping, I'm going to try cooking with the DO's different than I have at home. I bought a tripod to hang them over the fire and cook that way. It's not a cheap tripod you find for grilling over the fire, but a heavy duty that can handle the weight. I've also bought a 12 inch cast iron frying pan, a reversible cast iron griddle/grill (griddle on one side, grill on the other), and I even found a cast iron waffle iron on Amazon that I bought. Of course, these will not be able to hang on the tripod and cook (I could try, but things would probably fall out of the pan). So I got a stand up grill for over the fire, and plan to use these on that to cook over the fire. So I'll be able to actually fry bacon and make waffles over the open fire!
And since I mentioned it, here is my recipe for the Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. It was originally for a slow cooker, but I've modified it for a dutch oven. I just followed the tips above, and it came out great!.
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Ingredients1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 thighs)
1/2 cup wild rice, uncooked
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 (10-3/4 ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups sliced carrots (I like shredded carrots, but either will work)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions1. Place chicken in 4-quart Dutch Oven. In large bowl, mix wild rice, onions, soup, broth and carrots; pour over chicken.
2. Cover; cook for 2 to 3 hours.
3. Stir in whipping cream.
4. Cover; cook 15 to 20 minutes longer.
Update: I'm always on the lookout for new recipes, and found a couple of older cookbooks for the dutch oven at Popup Portal (yes, I know I don't have a pop-up, but it's a very good site that has a lot of good general information about camping along with specifics for pop-up campers). These were posted by member xvz12, who did not write them, but found them on a bulletin board many years ago (for those that don't know what a "bulletin board" online was, it was basically the online social media before the Internet became popular).
The Dutch Oven Cookbook by Mike Audleman
The Geezer Cookbook by Dwayne Pritchett