Dutch Oven Temperature Chart: No More Guessing How Many Coals!


Coals From Wood vs Charcoal

Before I leave home I ask myself: How much firewood do I need for camping? And, I make sure to include the wood I need for cooking meals in my calculation.

When I am using coals from firewood, I still use this chart to help me determine how many coals to use.

When I am doing that, I am using hardwood (in our area we have lots of oak and mesquite, in other parts, maple, alder, almond and pecan are popular choices) and I let the wood burn down to provide a coal that is about the same size as a charcoal briquette.

When I am really trying to maintain a very specific temperature (like when I am making temperamental baked goods) I prefer to use charcoal briquettes because of the consistency.

Charcoal Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal

Wood and wood byproducts are combined with additives then compacted to form briquettes resulting in chunks that have a uniform size and shape.

Natural wood pieces are charred to create lump charcoal resulting in chunks that have irregular sizes and shapes.

Generally speaking, charcoal briquettes burn cooler and slower than lump charcoal. Because of their uniform size and shape, they are easier to cook with because they produce a more even amount of heat and burn at a more even rate. Overall, briquettes perform more consistently than lump charcoal.


Cooking Method And Dutch Oven Coal Placement

Our Dutch Oven Temperature Chart is a general guideline indicating the number of charcoal briquettes required to produce a certain temperature for different sizes of Dutch ovens … and, if you don’t have one yet, we have help for you to answer the question, What size Dutch oven should I buy for camping?

Oven Size Persons Served

A general rule of thumb to determine the size of oven you need to feed the number of people you are serving:

Oven SizePersons Served
8-inch Dutch oven1-2 people
10-inch Dutch oven4-7 people
Standard 12-inch Dutch oven12-14 people
Deep 12-inch Dutch oven16-20 people
Standard 14-inch Dutch oven16-20 people
Deep 14-inch Dutch oven22-28 people

The cooking method of your particular recipe will more specifically determine the placement of the briquettes.

Unless a recipe calls for something different, the typical coal placement under the oven is a circular pattern positioned so the ring of coals is completely tucked under the outside ring of the bottom of the oven. The coals placed on top of the lid are usually placed in a checkerboard pattern.

Dutch Oven Temperature Chart For Baking Roasting Simmering And Frying by CampingForFoodies


Roasting

DUTCH OVEN TEMPERATURE CHART & COOKING TIPS FOR ROASTING - Camping For Foodies com

Divide the heat. 1:1 ratio with even coals on top and bottom.

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Baking

DUTCH OVEN TEMPERATURE CHART & COOKING TIPS FOR BAKING - Camping For Foodies com

Divide the heat. 3:1 ratio with most coals on top.

Simmering & Stewing

DUTCH OVEN TEMPERATURE CHART & COOKING TIPS FOR SIMMERING AND STEWING - Camping For Foodies com

Divide the heat. 4:1 ratio with most coals on bottom.

Frying & Boiling

DUTCH OVEN TEMPERATURE CHART & COOKING TIPS FOR FRYING AND BOILING - Camping For Foodies com

Concentrate the heat. All coals on bottom.


How Much Heat 1 Coal Produces

Charcoal briquettes produce the most consistent heat but they are all manufactured using different elements and quantities of materials so there is no exact temperature calculation for each briquette.

Generally speaking, a charcoal briquette will generate about 10 F degrees of heat.


Coal Chart For Cast Iron Dutch Ovens

NOTE: This Dutch oven temp chart is based on using a cast iron Dutch oven. You will need to reduce the number of charcoal briquettes for aluminum Dutch ovens which we discuss below.

Some recipes don’t identify a specific temperature, they may require different levels of heat. In that case, use the following temperatures as a guideline:

Temperature LevelTemperature Range
Slow250-350 degrees F
Moderate350-400 degrees F
Hot400-450 degrees F
Very Hot450-500 degrees F
Dutch Oven Temperature Chart Number of Charcoal Briquettes Required, dutch oven temperature chart is a guide for charcoal briquettes to achieve specific cooking temperatures, Camping For Foodies com

Factors Influencing Coal Count

Dutch Oven Temperature Guide And Tips, dutch oven temperature chart is a guide for charcoal briquettes to achieve specific cooking temperatures, Camping For Foodies com

Use this Dutch oven temperature chart as a guide only because weather, elevation and cooking methods all play big roles in outdoor Dutch oven cooking.

This is where the “art” part comes into play … you will need to adjust the number of charcoal briquettes for your particular situation. Consider these factors…

Wind And Dutch Oven Cooking Temperatures

Because it adds oxygen to the cooking environment, wind causes coals to burn faster and hotter.

It can also blow heat away from the oven so you need to use some sort of wind block around your Dutch oven when cooking in windy conditions.

You can create a shield with rocks, logs or even aluminum foil; it is even easier to use a Folding Camp Stove Windscreen or Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Table.

Lightweight Compact Folding Camp Stove Windscreen

HIGHROCK Lightweight Compact Folding Camp Stove WindscreenHIGHROCK Lightweight Compact Folding Camp Stove WindscreenHIGHROCK Lightweight Compact Folding Camp Stove Windscreen

 

Using a tool like this Lightweight Compact Folding Camp Stove Windscreen helps reduce the negative impact of the wind while cooking in your Dutch oven.

It has 9 panels that fold neatly in its storage case. It is made from aluminum keeping it lightweight for transporting.

The more you can reduce the impact of the wind, the more accurate the Dutch oven heat chart will be in producing the expected cooking temperature.

Also, Dutch oven accessories are great camping gift ideas for people who love cooking on their camping trips!


Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Table

Lodge Steel Collapsible Outdoor Cooking TableLodge Steel Collapsible Outdoor Cooking TableLodge Steel Collapsible Outdoor Cooking Table

 

The Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Table is nice because it allows you to stand while cooking and can accommodate two ovens at the same time.

The 3-sided attachable 12-inch-high windscreen protects your Dutch ovens while cooking in windy conditions. The legs fold for easy transportation and it has adjustable leveling feet.


Ground Temperature, Moisture And Dutch Oven Cooking Temperatures

Dutch Oven Temperature Guide And Cooking Tips - Moist Cold Ground Steals Heat From The Cooking Environment - Camping For Foodies .com

As I said, a Dutch oven cooking chart is just a guide.

If you are cooking with your Dutch oven sitting directly on the ground, remember that moist cold ground steals heat and can extinguish your charcoal.

This is especially important when you are trying to maintain a precise temperature for baking things like these easy Dutch Oven Biscuits.

I use an inexpensive cookie sheet or a disposable aluminum pan as a barrier between my charcoal and the ground to provide a dry surface for the coals.

Maintain Even Heat For Baked Goods

Also, don’t forget to use a lid lifter to turn your lid and oven about one-quarter turn in opposite directions every 10-15 minutes to produce evenly baked goods.

Try this technique with pies, like my Upper Crust Apple Pie.

And cobblers, like my Dutch Oven Berry Cobbler.

And cakes, like my Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

And breads, like my Dutch Oven Cornbread.

And quiches, like my Bacon & Cheese Dutch Oven Quiche.

Camp Baking Tip: Use liners to easily lift baked goods out of your oven to cool, slice and serve. Heavy-duty foil works but I like making my own parchment paper liners for pennies. See how to use Dutch oven liners.


Air Temperature, Sunlight And Dutch Oven Cooking Temperatures

Heat is robbed from your Dutch oven by colder air temperatures, higher humidity levels and higher elevations.

On the flip side, direct sunlight can make a black cast iron Dutch oven heat up quickly.

Warm temperatures and direct sunlight may create conditions requiring less charcoal briquettes for your cooking … remember, the Dutch oven heat chart is just a guide so monitor your cooking conditions and adjust your coals accordingly.

Because we live and camp in Arizona with over 300 days of sunshine each year, we like cooking under the shade of our Camping Coleman Instant Canopy so we don’t have to worry about direct sun overheating our Dutch oven while we are cooking with it.

Camping Coleman Instant Canopy

Coleman Instant Canopy, 13x13 FeetColeman Instant Canopy, 13×13 FeetColeman Instant Canopy, 13x13 Feet

 

We use our canopy for protection from rain and sun when cooking with our Dutch ovens.

You can set it up quickly and it comes with a wheeled carry bag for transportation. The framed canopy has a vented top which allows air to easily escape during windy conditions.


Altitude, Humidity And Dutch Oven Cooking Temperatures

Dutch Oven Temperature Guide And Cooking Tips - Higher Elevations And Higher Humidity Require More Coals - Camping For Foodies .com

In the winter, we camp at elevations around 2,000 feet above sea level and we don’t need to adjust much from our Dutch oven briquette chart.

In the summer, on the other hand, we camp in the mountains at elevations around 7,000 feet above sea level and have to add more charcoal to maintain the temperature in our Dutch oven heat chart. Why?

At higher elevations the air is thinner causing the need for more coals while cooking with the best Dutch oven for camping.

High humidity can cause issues when you are getting your charcoal briquettes lit too.

Both scenarios may require you use more charcoal to reach and maintain a desired temperature.


Tips For Lighting Charcoal

We use our Chimney Starter for lighting our charcoal briquettes quickly without lighter fluid. We just place the number of briquettes we need in the starter, place some wadded up newspaper under it and light the paper. The airflow created in the starter’s design gets your coals red hot in minutes. It’s almost magic!

Weber Rapidfire Chimney StarterWeber Rapidfire Chimney StarterWeber Rapidfire Chimney Starter

 

Never seen one in action? Check our our VIDEO to see how to use a charcoal chimney! Lighting charcoal briquettes is a breeze with our Rapidfire Charcoal Chimney Starter.


Aluminum, Cast Iron And Dutch Oven Cooking Temperatures

The material your Dutch oven is made from makes a difference in heat requirements for cooking.

Our Dutch oven charcoal chart is designed for use with a heavy cast iron Dutch oven vs an aluminum Dutch oven. What’s the difference?

We discuss the differences between Stainless Steel Dutch Oven vs Cast Iron vs Aluminum in detail, so check out this post for more information. But, generally speaking:

Aluminum Camp Dutch Ovens

GSI Outdoors 12-Inch Aluminum Dutch OvenGSI Outdoors 12-Inch Aluminum Dutch OvenGSI Outdoors 12-Inch Aluminum Dutch Oven

 

Aluminum Camp Dutch Ovens are popular with people concerned about the weight of their equipment.

  • They weigh about 66% less than cast iron.
  • Aluminum ovens are rust-free, easy to clean and heat quickly.
  • They require approximately 25% less coals than cooking with Cast Iron Camp Dutch Ovens.

Cast Iron Camp Dutch Ovens

Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven, 6-QuartLodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven, 6-QuartLodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven, 6-Quart

 

Cast Iron Camp Dutch Ovens heat more slowly but retain heat longer than aluminum.

  • They are the more traditional choice for camp cookware and they evenly distribute heat to cook food evenly.
  • Personally, we use cast iron Dutch ovens on our camping trips and have designed our Dutch oven charcoal temperature chart based on this more popular style.
  • We have more camping Dutch oven tips related to coal placement the you’ll want to see.

Food Doneness And Dutch Oven Cooking

Don’t rely solely on a Dutch oven cooking chart and food recipe instructions to determine when your food is cooked properly. Why?

Because Dutch oven cooking is a little more art than science, it is important to verify your food is up to temperature before you sit down to dig in … especially the internal temperature of meat!

If you are cooking after dark, make sure you have good campsite lights set up so you can visually inspect the food for doneness first. 

When the food looks done, verify it is up to the proper temperature internally.

A food thermometer is an easy-to-use tool to check the temperature of your food; there are:


Great Reader Comment From Loren:

Really quite a good article! As you note, many factors can influence cooking temperature and since that temperature is in a near constant state of flux, one shouldn’t get too crazy about trying to obtain/maintain some precise heat level. A few factors not mentioned that can be important are the temperature of the food items going into the Dutch, the starting temperature of the oven, and the amount of iron in the oven (eg. thin/thick-walled or cooking a 10″ cake in a 12″ oven). Any and all of these will dictate how much of your briquette heat potential is used up just bringing the oven/food up to cooking temperature. I generally don’t make any significant change in heat application when using an aluminum Dutch. They do shed heat much faster than cast iron so are more sensitive to wind and won’t hold food temperature as long when off heat.

Determining when something is done is a frequent question, especially when first learning to use a Dutch. In the absence of a thermometer, the following works pretty well:
1. if it doesn’t smell, it ain’t done
2. if it smell burnt, it is
3. if it smell done, it probably is or is nearly so
Enjoy!!

Thanks Loren!

I want to give a big shout out to Loren … Thanks for sharing your tips with us Loren!


Accessories For Camp Oven Cooking

One of the most popular brands in outdoor cooking gear doesn’t stop at ovens! The Lodge Dutch oven accessories can be used with any brand of Dutch oven.

Lodge Dutch Oven Accessories Are The Best Camp Cooking Gear by CampingForFoodies

You can also find other brands of camp Dutch oven accessories that make camp cooking even more fun than it already is!


Maintaining Cast Iron Cookware

Proper cleaning and seasoning of cast iron cookware is important for this rugged yet delicate gear.

Cleaning And Seasoning Cast Iron Dutch Oven Cookware - Camping For Foodies .com

Dutch oven chili recipes are in almost all campfire cookbooks on the market. You can cook this classic campsite meal using a grate or tripod directly over your campfire ring. But, make sure you clean it properly after dinner because the acidic ingredients will wear-off the layer of seasoning in your oven. Vegetables like tomatoes (fresh or canned) deteriorate the smooth surface you build-up with proper cleaning, drying and oiling of cast iron.


FREE Printable Menu Planner

Now that you have all of this knowledge about how much charcoal to use with your Dutch oven, it is time to do some cooking!

Use my camping menu planner to stay organized when planning meals for your next trip. It’s FREE and you’ll get it delivered instantly to your inbox!

Camping Menu Template Meal Planner Free Printable by CampingForFoodies features a collage of free camping printables including a camping menu planner template, a campfire stew recipe card and a healthy no cook camping salad with text over the image that reads free camping menu template, tips and recipe ideas.

If you’re looking for awesome ideas for yummy camping food, you’re in the right place! Here’s our entire camping recipes list.

Get FREE camping tips and meal ideas emailed to you!


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Use This Camp Dutch Oven Temperature Chart To Know How Many Coals For Cooking by CampingForFoodies

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14 Comments

  1. David Pedersen says:

    How many coals do you use if you stack your dutch oven 3 or 4 high, using the heat from one to heat the next, I see the charts for individual dutch ovens but nothing for multiple ovens. I cook for scouting events with many people with dutch ovens but I’m always guessing how much charcoal should I use. You can’t put 17 coals between the top of one and the bottom of the next, you will burn the next one.

    1. Kim Hanna says:

      Hi David! Thanks for the question! Stacking 3 or 4 Dutch ovens high is really ambitious and I congratulate you for doing it! That being said, I have never stacked more than 2 Dutch ovens at a time because it is difficult to control the heat and I also find it hard to rotate the ovens and stir the Dutch oven recipes that require stirring throughout the cooking process. I have found that I need to reduce the amount of coals when I am stack cooking because the oven on the top of the stack does seem to get too hot and has the potential to burn…just as you described. So, when I stack, I put the “baked” item on the bottom and I put the “simmer” recipe on the top because simmering is not as temperature critical as baking. Also, I do a little “try and see” by starting with about 1/2 of the number of coals on the top oven I think I will need then adjust as I watch the food cook depending on which of my Dutch oven camping recipes I am cooking. I know this is not as specific an answer as you were looking for but I consider Dutch oven stack cooking to be more art than science compared to cooking with a single Dutch oven. I hope this helps. Happy Camping, Kim

  2. Chuck and Ruth says:

    Hi Kim, We are new to cooking with our Dutch oven in camp. I have my trusty cast iron kitchen one I bring camping to cook with in our camper, but bought one to cook with outside also. We are very much looking forward to seeing your recipes and trying them out. We have 11 in our family (when the kids and grandkids are all in camp), and we are wondering if the recipes might be doubled or tripled (as we have very big eaters in our group) as the need my be? Thanks so much. Chuck and Ruth

    1. Kim Hanna says:

      Hi Chuck and Ruth, Thanks for stopping by! I love that you go camping with your entire family!!! Feeding 11 hungry campers can be a slight challenge with some Dutch oven camping recipes but others will scale just fine. Here are a few of my recipes that would work great in your situation:
      Dutch Oven Thai Campfire Chicken Recipe

      Campfire White Chili Recipe

      Campfire Dutch Oven Chili Recipe

      Hot Italian Sausage Soup Recipe

      Enjoy your family camping trips! And, if you have time, I’d love to hear about some of your adventures!

      Happy camping, Kim

  3. Jerry Wetter says:

    Great article! Is the temperature chart above for a 12″ deep or a 12″ regular or doesn’t it matter? Thanks.

    1. Kim Hanna says:

      Hi Jerry, Thanks for the kind words and the question! I use this chart whether I am using my standard Dutch ovens or my deep Dutch oven because it is a good starting point. Once I determine how the current weather, elevation and cooking method are impacting my meal, I adjust coals as necessary. That’s why I always say that Dutch oven camp cooking is part “art” and part “science” and why I personally love the challenge of cooking with Dutch ovens on our camping trips. Happy cooking!

  4. Loren Anderson says:

    Really quite a good article! As you note, many factors can influence cooking temperature and since that temperature is in a near constant state of flux, one shouldn’t get too crazy about trying to obtain/maintain some precise heat level. A few factors not mentioned that can be important are the temperature of the food items going into the Dutch, the starting temperature of the oven, and the amount of iron in the oven (eg. thin/thick-walled or cooking a 10″ cake in a 12″ oven). Any and all of these will dictate how much of your briquette heat potential is used up just bringing the oven/food up to cooking temperature. I generally don’t make any significant change in heat application when using an aluminum Dutch. They do shed heat much faster than cast iron so are more sensitive to wind and won’t hold food temperature as long when off heat.

    Determining when something is done is a frequent question, especially when first learning to use a Dutch. In the absence of a thermometer, the following works pretty well:
    1. if it doesn’t smell, it ain’t done
    2. if it smell burnt, it is
    3. if it smell done, it probably is or is nearly so

    Enjoy!!

    1. Kim Hanna says:

      Hi Loren! Thanks for your tips … I am going to update my post with them! You make some really good points about using your nose to smell for doneness! Happy camp cooking to you! Kim

  5. I love camping with friends! I like the idea of using the canopy, it would be a great extra to my Grand Canyon tent. It`s a super comfortable and it feels like a house.

    1. Kim Hanna says:

      Hi Ross, Thanks for stopping by! We love camping with friends too! Happy camping!!!

  6. How long will the charcoal last? How far in the cook time should you plan to start more charcoal to add to the oven for cooking?

    1. Kim Hanna says:

      Hi Jeff, thanks for the question! There are a few factors that influence how long charcoal briquettes burn. In windy conditions, the briquettes burn faster so you will need to anticipate adding more briquettes earlier when you are cooking for longer periods of time. The quality of the charcoal is another factor that impacts burn time; we have found cheaper brands are inconsistent when it comes to light time and burn time so we prefer to use a better quality (regular, not match-light) briquettes for optimal performance. Determining when to start your second batch of charcoal is where art meets science. Watch your first batch and how fast they are burning because of the wind (or lack of it) and then anticipate when you should start your second batch allowing for about 15 minutes when using a rapidfire chimney starter. You’ll see the edges catch first and eventually the coals will turn a gray color covered in ash when they are ready for cooking. Thanks again for the question and happy camp cooking!

    2. Daniel Stephens says:

      I use this method everytime i go out camping and is wonderful. Just like the BBQ Coals will last longer that you will need for cooking the meals themselves, I Use them for dinner and for desserts but I use 3 different Ovens (all the same size) 2 for dinners and 1 for dessert. I will cook my dinners then use them for my dessert or breads for the next day right after cooking my dinners. You usaully will not need any more charcoal for cooking at these temps But altatude and weather conditions may require 1- 3 more coals of needed.

      1. Kim Hanna says:

        Hi Daniel! Thanks for sharing your great tips! I need to start making bread for the next day as soon as my dinner is finished cooking in my camp Dutch oven. That is a great way to get the most heat out of a set of coals! Happy Camping, Kim