Campfire cooking doesn’t have to mean hot dogs on a stick.

By using a Dutch oven, you can make just about any meal you’d normally cook at home.

The secret to great Dutch oven cooking is even temperature control using heat convection, applying heat through the placement of charcoal or wood coals above and below the Dutch oven.

The best rule of thumb is to take the diameter of your Dutch oven (for example, 12 inches), and add three for the number of briquettes (of coal) on top. Then, take the diameter of your Dutch oven and subtract three for the number of briquettes underneath. So a 12-inch Dutch oven would have 15 coals on top and nine coals on the bottom. This will give you a 350 degree cooking temperature, which many recipes call for.

It does not have to be precise! Outdoor temperatures will vary coal amounts and timing. Each additional two briquettes provide 20-25 degrees of heat; just add or remove briquettes to adjust heat.

Only use clean charcoal, not self-starter charcoal and never use lighter fluid. Under the oven, space the coals evenly around the outer edge of the oven with only one or two coals in the center. On the lid space the coals evenly around the outer edge with a couple of briquettes on each side of the handle.

If you have questions about Dutch oven cooking or would like to learn more, contact the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center by calling 501-907-0636, ext.104.

Dutch Oven Recipes

Dutch Oven Cobbler


• 2 cans fruit pie filling

• 1 box cake mix; use yellow for apple, peach or blueberry and chocolate for cherry

• 1 can soda; use 7UP with yellow cake and Dr. Pepper with chocolate cake


  1. Line a 12-inch Dutch oven with parchment paper.
  2. Pour fruit pie filling into oven.
  3. Dump cake mix over top of fruit and spread on top but do not mix in with the fruit.
  4. Pour can of soda gently over cake mix.
  5. Spread in gently with cake mix, trying to cover all the dry spots, but do not mix in with fruit.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, meaning you will need 15 coals on top and nine coals on bottom.

Dutch Oven Green Beans & Bacon


• 1.5 pounds fresh green beans

• 1 package bacon

• Brown sugar; enough to cover

• Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the ends off the fresh green beans.
  2. Place prepped beans in a 12-inch Dutch oven.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper over beans.
  4. Cut bacon into bite size pieces and place on top of the beans.
  5. Generously sprinkle brown sugar on top of bacon.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees, meaning you will use 25 coals on top and 13 coals underneath.
  7. Stir occasionally and remove from heat when tender.

Camp Stove Recipes

Not ready to dive into Dutch oven cooking? Here are a few easier recipes courtesy of the Slaton family.

Campsite Donuts


• Pillsbury biscuit dough (plan on two biscuits per person)

• Small bottle of canola or vegetable oil

• Cinnamon and sugar to taste


  1. Fill a medium-sized skillet three-fourths of the way with oil and heat it over a medium to low flame.
  2. While the oil is heating, open the biscuit dough punch donut holes.
  3. Gently place a donut hole in the oil to test it: if it browns too fast, it’s too hot, and if it doesn’t sizzle right when you drop it in, it’s not hot enough.
  4. If the hole cooks properly (golden brown and no raw dough in the center), start adding the actual donuts.
  5. Adjust the temperature of the oil as the dough cools it off.
  6. When each donut is done, drop it on a plate with the cinnamon and sugar mixture, cover it on all sides, and enjoy.

Red Beans & Rice with Sausage


• 1 box Zatarains red beans and rice

• 1 package Kielbasa sausage


  1. Chop the sausage into one inch chunks, and brown it in a pot.
  2. Take out the sausage and cook the red beans and rice in the same pot according to the instructions on the box.
  3. Add the browned sausage a few minutes before the rice is done, and serve.
  4. Add some Texas Pete’s hot sauce to light it up!

Hollie Sanders is the facility manager at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center