Most of the guides I have found relating to Dutch ovens recommend placing hot coal on and underneath the oven, or hanging the oven from a tripod.

I was wondering if my cast iron Dutch oven could be placed either on the fire directly or on the wood coals at the edge of the fire. I have included an illustration to help.

Illustrations of a dutch oven

  • 1
    I've never seen a Dutch oven used in any other way than directly in the coals. I'm pretty sure the old Boy Scout manual says this is how it is to be used. Dec 19, 2016 at 12:26
  • 1
    Actually the inset on the top of the lid is designed to allow coals to be put on top of the pot allowing you to bake in a dutch 'oven'.
    – JimmyJames
    Dec 19, 2016 at 15:02
  • It's cast iron. You're afraid you're going to ruin the shiny finish? ;-) Dec 20, 2016 at 2:10

5 Answers 5


The short answer is yes. You can't harm a cast iron Dutch oven with the temperatures generated by a normal campfire.

Ideally you have the type of Dutch oven with three legs and a lid designed to hold coals. Those were specifically designed to be right in the fire.

The more common type with a flat bottom and domed lid are probably better used by suspending with their bail instead, simply because they're more prone to burning the food when in direct contact with the coals. However, you can cook perfectly good meals with them by learning how to let the fire die down into nice cooking coals, and how to bank the coals for effective cooking (more like your second diagram).

I have both types and prefer cooking on my three legged oven. My brother prefers the flat bottomed kind, but he's got the tripod for suspending the oven, and I don't.

  • Good answer; I'd like to add a point. You wrote "can't harm a cast iron Dutch oven with the temperatures generated by a normal campfire." Those reading, don't gloss over "normal campfire". I've used a large bonfire many times. The fire gets 5 or 10 feet across and even taller than it is wide and will burn you even if you stand 20 feet away. A bonfire like this can (supposedly, I haven't measured) exceed 2000 degrees F. When cooking in this, it is important to wait until after it has burned down to a shorter, cooler fire; just as delliottg suggests "let the fire die down"
    – Loduwijk
    Jan 24, 2018 at 19:24
  • Another note: I often cook with Dutch ovens directly on/in small fires. In fact, I have piled flaming wood around it if I want a higher temperature. I have also cooked with nice steel pots, the kind intended for your indoor stovetop, directly in a fire as well, though this tends to make the pretty pot look bad after even if you scrub most of the soot off. Note that you need to be careful cooking in the higher temperatures in the middle of a fire, as your food will burn easy if not tended well. And it's harder to tend food in the middle of a fire at all.
    – Loduwijk
    Jan 24, 2018 at 19:28

Yes, you can with no trouble.

I have one that I use a lot direct in the fire. I built a little fire pit outside at home using regular cinder blocks. I used a tripod and hang my cast iron pot just above the fire.

I use camping as well all the time in fireplaces like this.

  • Note that the last sentence of your second paragraph and your picture are not quite what is being asked. At least, I don't think it is. Without that tripod, put the oven directly on the fire. It will be hotter. Even in this situation, "Yes, you can" is still correct. But there is a lot of heat loss by raising the cookware up higher over the fire; usually a good thing since you often don't want the full heat when cooking, but I'm making the distinction because of OP's question.
    – Loduwijk
    Jan 24, 2018 at 19:36

You could place it on the fire but you would likely burn the contents. Putting it directly on the fire is also not stable, as the wood shifts as it burns.

A tripod over a fire is useful for stability and to reduce the temperature.

Coals at the edge should work.

Why not just pull some coals to the side?

  • I don't wish to handle the coal/charcoal any more then I need to, and I am not too fussy when it comes to camp cooking
    – dave37
    Dec 18, 2016 at 12:36
  • ... and I didn't want to go out buy more stuff if there was another way
    – dave37
    Dec 18, 2016 at 12:44
  • 9
    You don't need to buy more stuff, just use a stick from your firewood pile to scrape some coals to one side then you can easily put the dish on them.
    – Chris H
    Dec 18, 2016 at 14:44
  • People have been putting dutch ovens directly in fires for centuries. I've done it many times and haven't burned anything yet. It's easier, faster and a more efficient use of the fire than hanging it over flames and requires zero additional equipment. Dec 20, 2016 at 2:14

Yes, but that would be to use it as a pot rather than an oven even if you used it with the lid. To use it as an oven, you should put two-thirds of the heat source on the top of the lid (with one-third on the bottom). Typically, you should use charcoals briquettes as follows to achieve a 350 degree backing temperature: Bottom has charcoals equal to two-thirds of the diameter of the top in inches. Top has charcoals equal to four-thirds of the diameter of the top in inches. For example, a 12 inch Dutch oven would get eight briquettes on the bottom and sixteen on top. If you left the briquettes there for sixty minutes you would have the equivalent of about one hour in a standard home oven at 350 degrees. For each decrease/increase of the temperature by 25 degrees, remove/add three total briquettes (one from bottom and two from top). Of course, outside temperature and wind will affect the Dutch Oven. Also, to ensure even heating, rotate the entire pot (including top) counter clockwise by 90 degrees every 15 minutes and the top only clockwise by 90 degrees every fifteen minutes.


Cast iron dutch oven's can even be burnt in a fire to clean them out. Aluminum dutch oven's, however, can melt when placed in a campfire.

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