Forget the burgers and dogs on your next camping trip. Make dinner special with these Dutch Oven Recipes that are perfect for the great outdoors, including this Campfire Dutch Oven Berry Cobbler. Find more of my cast iron campfire Dutch oven recipes.
We are a scouting family. I have two boys in
Cub Scouts Boy Scouts, and my husband as the Cub Master Scout Master. Sometimes I wonder who is more excited to be a scout, my sons or my husband? Either way, it’s a win-win situation for us.
As a family, we have learned so much through scouting, and we are blessed with an AMAZING pack filled with wonderful families. In fact, today we just returned from our adventures with the pack and our camping trip to Anza Borrego State Park in Southern California.
When we camp with the scout families, the pack usually provides the Saturday night dinner. We have had fun with foil cooking and the standard burger and dogs on a grill. But this was a special night.
It was FoodBuzz’s monthly 24×24, where 24 bloggers are chosen to make a special dinner on one specific night, in this case, last night March 26th, 2011. And our special night, an evening under the desert stars, we were going to have a heck of a meal!
I proposed to FoodBuzz “a gourmet dinner cooked in Dutch Ovens.” I was thrilled when my proposal was accepted, but anxiety soon settled in. What exactly makes a meal a gourmet meal? I had limitations.
First, this was a Cub Scout camping trip, and absolutely no alcohol was allowed. Even in cooking. Scratch the Beef Bourguignon. Second, there was a budget. The meal couldn’t exceed $5/head. Scratch the exotic meats. No lamb. No venison.
Third, no pork. Some families, for religious reasons, didn’t eat pork. Bye-bye pulled pork, and so long bacon. YIKES!
I knew I didn’t want a standard meal that you would eat at a camp out. I could easily do another Dutch Oven Chili with Cornbread or even a beef stew. But, that was too predictable. It was time to think outside of the box.
That’s when I settled on Dutch Oven Chicken Cacciatore and Vegetable Lasagna (which is now featured as my Hungry Man’s Lasagna in my camp cookbook) for dinner. I made chicken cacciatore at home and I knew it would convert well over the campfire.
The lasagna made me a little nervous. I wanted it to be easy to assemble, with no pre-cooking involved. So the noodles weren’t cooked beforehand and neither were the vegetables.
I used frozen spinach and frozen slices of zucchini. My marinara was store-bought and I used a mixture of ricotta, milk, mozzarella and parmesan for the cheesy layers.
Cooking with Dutch Ovens is rather simple once you figure out how they work and how to use them. You are basically applying heat underneath the cast iron pot, as well as on top of the lid, making a small portable oven.
First, you have to heat the coals up using a chimney. If you are sautéing vegetables or browning your meat, you will want to have a lot of coals, 25 or so, under the pot. Then add the oil and continue as you would with a cooktop.
I found myself “winging” it a lot. If the coals were too hot and my meat browned too fast, I removed some coals from underneath. If it appeared to be cooking slowly, I’d scoot more coals under the Dutch Oven.
When I was done searing the meat or cooking the vegetables, I combined everything in the Dutch Oven and covered it. Then I reduced the number of coals to approximately 8-10 underneath and 20 on the lid.
To bake with a Dutch Oven isn’t too difficult either. Remember my Pineapple Upside Down Cake? That’s a classic for camping! This simple chart, provided by Lodge Cast Iron, helps you determine the baking times with the amount of coals needed for which size Dutch Oven you choose to use.
I had several ovens on hand, from small 10-inch versions to larger 14-inchers. I had my handy conversion chart and my Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook as my guide. I added a few more coals for the bigger ovens and a few less coals for my smaller one.
Dessert was equally important for the night. First, we had Cub Scout with a birthday and he didn’t like cake. We easily baked this giant chocolate chip cookie in a Dutch Oven. Thank you, Mr. Mario, for the beautiful decorating job!
Also for dessert was a Very Berry Cobbler (pictured on top). Thank you Mr. Neil for chopping all those strawberries. I mixed them with, blackberries, blueberries, sugar and cornstarch then poured everything into a Dutch Oven.
I topped it with pieces of refrigerated Honey Biscuit dough and sprinkled it all with brown sugar. For the kids? Chocolate fondue! We had pretzel rods, marshmallows, strawberries and bananas for them to skewer and dip into the gooey chocolate.
I was cooking for 30 so many times I was bouncing around from pot to pot, trying to chop vegetables, take pictures and save the food when gusts of wind would pass by camp and swirl the ashes about. It really was crazy-fun.
I don’t know how exactly we did it, but we did, and we had a whole lot of laughs in the process! A huge thank you to the dads who cheered me on and gobbled down all the food that I prepared. No chore was turned away, from managing the coals to holding lanterns when it got dark. Luckily, since I did all the cooking, I did not have to do the clean up!
Anza Borrego was a fabulous back drop for our campfire meal! The wildflowers were starting to bloom and the sun was shining all day. The rain clouds from San Diego were halted right at the mountain ridge, and the Cub Scouts had a blast hiking and learning how to be Junior Rangers at the Visitor Center.
Rocks beaconed the boys to climb them and trails were followed and hiked for hours. Everyone passed out with tired muscles and full tummies last night. Sure, we were woken up at 3am with 50-mph gusts of wind that shook and rattled our tent, but those are the adventures we have with camping.
Need more campfire or Dutch oven recipes? Then I have a new book for you: The Camp & Cabin Cookbook (Countryman Press 2018). I have 100 recipes that are all prepared outdoors and over fire using multiple techniques, including the beloved Dutch oven. Learn more about my camp cookbook!
- 2 lb strawberries, quartered
- 1 lb blueberries
- 1 lb blackberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 TBS lemon juice
- 2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 refrigerated package of biscuit dough
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- Using a Chimney Charcoal Starter, light up 23 coals. Keep coals in chimney until coals are glowing orange.
- In a fire pit or fire safe grill, place your 10-inch cast iron Dutch oven with 7 of the hot coals underneath it.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir the berries, granulated sugar, flour, lemon juice and zest with your hands until combined.
- Pour fruit mixture into Dutch oven and spread evenly.
- Open and separate refrigerated biscuit dough and cut into quarters.
- Place biscuit pieces in a bowl and coat evenly with brown sugar.
- Top berry mixture evenly with sugared biscuit pieces and cover with Dutch oven lid.
- Scatter the remaining 16 hot coals evenly onto of Dutch Oven lid.
- Bake until biscuit topping is golden and fruit is bubbling. Serve warm.
You can also mix in peaches, plums, apples or pears.