I love cooking outdoors with our dutch ovens. Food is just better when it’s cooked over an open fire it seems. We do quite a few campouts where it seems the whole point of the campout is preparing the meals. Besides an actual dutch oven, there are a few items I use when cooking over a fire (or charcoal) with cast iron cookware.
Some Dutch Ovens come with one, some don’t. But this is at the top of my list of must-have accessories. Each Camp Chef dutch oven comes with its own. Lodge sells one, which is a little larger and more substantial. The lid lifter is the best way to pull the hot lid off the pot to check on your meal.
Tongs for cooking
I have a nice set of multi-purpose tongs for stirring food, breaking up meat into smaller chunks, serving, and anything else that you need to do with food. The right set of tongs is as good as a Swiss Army knife for cooking!
Tongs for charcoal
If you have an old set of tongs that are ready for the trash, set them aside for charcoal duty. Otherwise, just pick up the cheapest pair you can find (not plastic, and not extremely short) to dedicate to moving charcoal briquettes or wood fire coals. It’s especially good to have a fairly long-handled set of tongs for this if you’re using wood fires to cook on a regular basis. Most recipes require you to put coals on the lid of your dutch oven. And if you’re cooking on a campfire, or preparing multiple dutch ovens full of food, you may want to make separate piles of coals, or pulls some coals out of your campfire and off to the side to cook on. You’re going to be moving hot coals on a regular basis, so a dedicated set of tongs for this will be handy to have with you.
My personal preference is to avoid match light charcoal. It doesn’t always light with a match, but it does always smell like lighter fluid. So to consistently start my charcoal, I use a charcoal chimney. I’ve had the same one for almost 10 years now, made by Weber, which I bought when I got a kettle grill. Now I use it for grilling, and also for any dutch oven cooking I do with charcoal. Just dump the charcoal in the top, and wad up some paper in the bottom part of it. Set it in the dirt next to your fire pit, or in your fire pit (away from anything that will burn of course), and light the paper. In a few minutes, the charcoal will be burning nicely. No smell of charcoal starter, no trying to build a pyramid of charcoal on top of some newspaper, and no worries.
Spatula for scraping/cleanup
Cleaning the dutch oven isn’t difficult, but sometimes you need to do some scraping. I usually boil water in my cast iron to get it clean, and I have an inexpensive spatula that I can scrape it with while the water is boiling. Just grab one of the cheapest plastic ones they have at Dollar General or Walmart, or I’ve linked to one here on Amazon as well.
There are times you are going to want to pick up the dutch oven. The Camp Chef lid-lifter will let you take the handle of the dutch oven and lift the whole oven with it. But what happens when you want to tip the pot up to pour something out? The only thing to do is to touch the bottom of the pot and tip it. For that, you need gloves. I actually use an old pair of welding gloves. There are also BBQ/Grilling gloves that work just fine. The welding gloves are actually cheaper, but they are also a little bulkier. Either will work. They are also great to use if you are grabbing coals from a campfire with your tongs. Getting within 15” of the campfire to grab coals tends to get a little hot! And that is when I like the welding gloves, because they usually are longer, and protect part way up your arm. The BBQ/Oven gloves only to your wrist.
You’ve boiled and scraped your dutch oven to clean it, and you dumped out the water. There is one more little stubborn spot of food that you missed. Now what. Take a strip of aluminum foil and wad it up into a ball. That can be used to scrub that last little bit of stubborn stuck-on food out of your pot. Be careful if the iron is still hot.
Cast iron conditioner
Veggie oil is perfectly OK to use. However, I started using some actual cast iron conditioner when I was putting my cookware away for a longer period of time because it doesn’t “go bad” as the vegetable oil will sometimes. And I’ve found that it doesn’t get sticky like a build-up of vegetable oil will at times, either. I’ve ended up using the cast iron conditioner more regularly now because I like the finish it puts on the cookware. This is a personal preference thing, and I still use the veggie oil at times, but give this stuff a try if you haven’t yet
A lid holder or a good clean rock
When you check your food around a campfire, you don’t want to set your dutch oven lid down in the dirt, then put it back on the food. After a while, there may be enough extra grit in the food that someone will notice. If you have a nice clean rock to set it on, that can work. But you don’t always have that luxury. There are a few accessories that you can keep with you that will do the job nicely. Lodge makes a lid holder, but this one is pretty much the same thing for a little less money. Besides holding your lid, you can use this to place a skillet over the coals for cooking. You can also get the CampMaid kickstand, which is a lid lifter AND a stand to hold the lid while not in use.
The links above are my Amazon affiliate links, but these are the accessories that I use all the time. There are other accessories that I use for convenience at times, but these are the essentials. Leave a comment below, and let us know what items you find indispensable when you cook over a fire.