Using a Dutch oven temperature chart as a guide to achieve desired cooking temperatures is half the battle when cooking in the great outdoors! It’s part art and part science … so, let’s start the charcoal and get cooking! Psst we’re compensated…see our disclosures.
I love Dutch oven camp cooking because it is challenging and fun! But, here’s another reason I am always the cook … the rule at our campsite … the camp cook is excused from clean-up duties! That means after you finish cooking and eating your yummy Dutch oven camp meals … it is time to kick back, relax and unplug! I treasure my rest-time in this “I’m Unplugging” Hammock With Attached Accessory And Carrying Bag! The attached accessory bag allows you to stay reclined as you reach for your book, drink and sunglasses that are conveniently tucked into the attached bag within arm’s reach! At the end of a relaxing weekend, just fold it up and pull the string for easy transportation and storage! Check out the video to see it in action!
Dutch Oven Temperature Chart
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. 😉
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.
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.
The Lodge A5-7 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
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. 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.
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.
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
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 your Dutch oven. 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. We use our Chimney Starter for lighting our charcoal briquettes quickly without lighter fluid.
Lighting charcoal briquettes is a breeze with our Rapidfire Chimney Starter! 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!
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?
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 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.
Cooking Method And Dutch Oven Temperature Chart Briquette Numbers
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. The cooking method of your particular recipe will more specifically determine the placement of the briquettes.
Dutch Oven Coal Placement
- Roasting – Divide the heat. 1:1 ratio with even coals on top and bottom
- Baking – Divide the heat. 3:1 ratio with most coals on top
- Simmering & Stewing – Divide the heat. 4:1 ratio with most coals on bottom
- Frying & Boiling – Concentrate the heat. All coals on bottom
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! A food thermometer is an easy-to-use tool to check the temperature of your food; there are inexpensive Dial Kitchen Pocket Thermometers, more advanced Digital Kitchen Pocket Thermometers and even more sophisticated Non-Contact Infrared Kitchen Thermometers.
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
I want to give a big shout out to Loren 😊 Thanks for sharing your tips with us Loren!
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