Indoor or Outdoor Dutch Oven? You choose!

by Bruce and Kathy Jacobs

You know there are two basic kinds of Dutch Ovens. This is how to distinguish between the two. Only have the indoor? Find out here how to adapt it for outdoor use.

There are two basic types of Dutch Ovens: indoor and outdoor. The indoor Dutch Oven is intended for use in a kitchen oven. It is not intended for use outdoors on a fire. The outdoor Dutch Oven, on the other hand is designed for outdoor use.

The outdoor Dutch Oven has four main features which are easy to identify that make it the ideal tool for outdoor baking: the legs, the lid, the fit, and the size.

The Legs

For most outdoor Dutch Ovens, there are three or four legs attached to the bottom of the oven. This oven will be placed on top of burning coals. The legs prevent the oven from smashing the coals and allow the coals to get the air they need to burn.

The Lid

The lid of the outdoor Dutch Oven should also have a raised lip around the lip. After the food is placed in the oven to cook and the lid is placed on the oven, burning coals are placed on top of the oven to heat the lid. If you do not have heat on the lid, items inside are just cooked from the bottom, not baked. This lip on the lid keeps the coals on the lid and prevents any ashes from falling on the food when the food is checked.

The Fit

The lid of an outdoor Dutch Oven fits securely on the top of the oven. The lid should trap most of the air inside the oven. The lid should not be tight enough cause pressure to build up inside when liquids are boiled inside, but is tight enough to prevent heat from escaping rapidly.

The Size

On the whole, indoor Dutch Ovens are smaller than outdoor Dutch Ovens. Outdoor ovens will hold significantly more food.

What if I only have an Indoor One?

To use an indoor Dutch oven for baking, the problems of the legs and lid must be overcome. The fit of the lid for an indoor Dutch Oven will not be as tight as an outdoor one, so you may need to adjust cooking times to compensate, as you will not be able to put as many coals on or under an indoor Dutch Oven as you would an outdoor Dutch Oven.

The first problem you can fix is the lack of legs. You can bake in the oven by just setting it on the coals but this is a bad idea as the coals have a tendency to go out or get cold. A better idea is to place three bricks close to each other, rake your coals into the space between the bricks, and place the oven on top of the corners of the three bricks. Four very large nails (about 10cm or 5 inches long) or metal tent stakes can be driven into the ground/fire pit before the coals are started. If you can find a grill which is low enough, or a cake rack, these can also be used in some cases. We also had a blacksmith make us a metal ring with legs to hold the oven up.

By The Way: Those long nails work as very good inexpensive tent stakes which do not bend and cost about $.30 USD each. Just don't tell them that you are going to use them as tent stakes or they may triple the price.

The harder problem to work around is the lack of lip on the lid. However, you can do it with a little ingenuity and some supplies. Here are a few ways that you should try:

  1. Take a large sheet of foil and double it. Roll up the edges to give it some stiffness and provide a rim. After the food is in the oven and on the fire place the foil over the top of the oven. Place the lid on the foil, being careful to get it seated properly. Place your coals on top of the lid. You will probably need pot holders to remove the lid and check the food.
  2. Take a lid for a larger oven and turn it upside down and place it on top of the oven. The lid must be curved and significantly larger than the top of the oven. Place the coals in the bottom of the lid which is now toward the sky. Remove the lid by grabbing it with pot holders by the edges.
  3. Make a large ring of non flammable material like plumbers tape. Despite its name plumber tape is not tape, but a soft iron ribbon used to hang pipes. Wrap this ring in foil, leaving enough extra in the center to allow for the handle of the lid. Put the lid on the oven in the normal manner. Put the foil ring on the lid and put the coals on the foil ring.

Now that you have adjusted your indoor oven, try it out on one of the recipes on this site.