Dutch Oven Comparison

OK, I’ve been on a bit of a Dutch Oven “kick” lately.

(Which part of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder- “High Function Aspergers” or “On The Spectrum” was unclear?)

So now I’ve “reached completion”…

(“Control it”? What part of “compulsive” was unclear?)

FWIW, 100% of donations to this site are used to “answer questions” related to postings here. Should you wish to have a ‘directed question’ answered, just shoot the money to fund the search and “I’ll go there”. Any non-directed funds go to answering questions raised here, or whatever question strikes my fancy, and keep things interesting or to raising and answering new questions. I get nothing personal from any donation.

So with that said, I’d been on a Dutch Oven Kick. so spent donation money on Dutch Ovens. The result is that I now have 4 Dutch Ovens from 3 makers, so I can do a “Compare and Contrast”. As it is “your money” that was spent, it is your answer that is needed. So “here we go”:

The Stack:

Stack Of Dutch Ovens

Stack Of Dutch Ovens

So I “blew” your money on 3 out of 4 of these Dutch Ovens. The top one is a “Texasport” 4 quart. The bottom one is a 14 inch Camp Chef “Grand Canyon” that we saw here:

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/saint-patricks-day-feast/

With an almost 8 lb ( just over 3 kilo) 1/2 a ham (butt portion) and 3 giant potatoes along with carrots roast dinner.

Sitting just on top of that one is the 12 inch “Lodge” that I’ve owned for several years. On top of it is a smaller Camp Chef “Yosemite” 10 inch.

Aspect Ratio

First off. Something I’d never thought of before. The “Aspect Ratio” of the Dutch Oven.

This matters.

I spent nearly $60 of “your money” on that bottom oven just because the “almost the same diameter” 12 inch Lodge would not hold a “1/2 a ham” that is the usual size sold here. Now look at that picture. The Lodge is short. (Just on top of the bottom one). That extra 2 inches of diameter is NOT as important as the fact that the Camp Chef is just deeper.

I could not get the lid onto the Lodge with the ham in it. I’d wager that the 12 inch Camp Chef would have worked. Lesson Learned. Aspect ratio matters. (Height vs width ratio)

Don’t get me wrong. The Lodge is a fine Dutch Oven. Yet, I find that I like the Camp Chef ‘a little bit deeper’ more.

Now, look at the top two. That top one is a ‘4 quart’ Texasport. They come coated in wax, not seasoned. So I’ve spent a couple of pounds (kilo) of charcoal to burn off the wax, wiped it in cooking oil, and seasoned it. OTOH, it was $25 or so, and about 1/2 the cost of the pre-seasoned ones. So if “economy” is your driver, it seems quite competent, has a deeper aspect ratio (more depth / height) and as near as I can tell so far is “just fine” design. But you get to season it yourself.

So if you want best “economy of volume per mass or diameter” it’s better.

FWIW, the “fit and finish” of each of the D.Ovens looks about the same, with the Lodge maybe a tiny bit better? But not enough to matter, IMHO.

Now, notice that the Lodge is much shorter compared to the Camp Chef on each side. You can put more, and taller, things in the Camp Chef. I suspect the Lodge folks of going for the “less mass of iron in a given diameter” marketing position…

FWIW the cement paver that things are standing upon is a 16 inch square slab.

The Lid

Turns out that the lid designs vary.

Lodge vs Camp Chef lids

Lodge vs Camp Chef lids

I’ve set the Texasport to the side. It has a lid rather like the Lodge. Here you can see the Camp Chef on top, and the Lodge under it. The Lodge has a plain lid with a high ridge around the outside to hold coals in place. The Camp Chef has a shorter ridge, but also has 3 short legs. The lid is also deeper. Part of the added volume is the lid depth, so you can’t make 6 quarts of stew in the 6 quart oven. It is more like “5 quarts and the lid”. Yet that lid can stand over coals as a skillet for frying or browning. I like that. It also has a ‘thermometer notch’ in it that lets you stick in a thermometer to measure what is happening.

Here is a picture of the Camp Chef lid on a Coleman Gas Stove in ‘frying pan’ position:

Camp Chef lid as Frying Pan

Camp Chef lid as Frying Pan

I have not yet tried it as a frying pan. But I’ve used many a cast iron skillet. IMHO this is a perfectly fine griddle or frying pan. It will work well over coals or on a stove.

I have used the Camp Chef to roast St. Paddy’s dinner. It did fine with the lower ridge around the edge.

In Conclusion

OK, I’ve not used the Texasport yet. It looks fine and seasoned fine and costs about 1/2 the price of the others. I expect it will work fine too. As it is “made in China” just like the Camp Chef (and, while I don’t know, I’d guess the current Lodge production is not made in China) it is likely a fine economical option. Personally, I’d rather go a bit more ‘upscale’ but if money is a concern and you are willing to season it yourself, I see nothing about it that will disappoint.

The Lodge “has a name and a price”. I’m quite happy with my 12 inch. HOWEVER… It was too short to cook a simple ham that otherwise ought to have fit. I don’t like that. It has a clean and simple design and look (that also cleans well). I do like that. The short aspect ratio has implications. It likely cooks a bit faster than the others. But it costs easily 2 x as much.

The Camp Chef has a ‘decorative commemorative top” that, while pretty, is complex in shape and will tend to make cleaning just a bit more difficult. Frankly, I’m OK with that for the imagery. Yes, I have “Grand Canyon” and “Yosemite” Made In China. I still like it. The design itself has several features I like. The thermometer ‘notch’. The deeper aspect ratio. The lid that’s a skillet and “has legs” so can be used over coals. It also comes with a “lid lifter” in the box that can lift a pot by the bail with the backside of the hook. That $10 I spent on a Lodge lid lifter is now wasted and I’m very glad I didn’t buy a ‘pot glove’ as the lifter deals with that need. So “buy a Camp Chef” first and dodge about $20 of “accessories”…

At the end of the day, I like the Camp Chef line best. It hits the “sweet spot” of most function, modest costs, and interesting esthetics. Were I doing it all over, I’d own only Camp Chef. (Don’t know what I’d do with 4 ‘lid lifters’ though ;-) The thermometer notch matters a lot to me (though I can “calibrate me” with only one of them and then get the others right by ‘rule of thumb’.) The ability to use the lid as a ‘feet on’ skillet is nice. I will use that for bacon and eggs one morning or other. Then the deeper aspect ratio means more things just fit. Chickens, hams, turkeys… they are closer to the aspect ratio of the Camp Chef than that flat Lodge.

Yet I’d not have bought that 4 quart Dutch Oven were it not 1/2 the price. As a perfectly competent Dutch Oven for 1/2 the price, the Texasport line has a feature that matters.

At the end of the day, the one “left out” is the Lodge. Yes, it works fine and has good fit and finish. Yes, it is well made and not a “Made In China” device. Yes, I like it just fine. And if I had $100,000 / year income I might well spring for the Lodge instead just for those reasons. Heck, get the Giant Lodge that’s tall enough for a ham… Yet… As someone “on a budget”, I’d not buy another one. The other two brands “hold more per diameter” and the Camp Chef has more features; while both are cheaper.

No, no disappointment in the Lodge. It’s a fine piece of equipment. It just doesn’t quite have the “Features / cost” ratio I want. Anyone wants to give me $200,000/ year for a decade, and I’m “All Lodge all the time”….

In Conclusion

It’s pretty simple. Not one of these is a disappointment to me. Any one

They each have a niche. The Texasport looks like a fine economical solution. Like I said, I’d not have that “small one” were it not for the low price. Being smaller, it will likely save it’s cost in charcoal in the first year of use.

The Lodge is a fine Dutch Oven. If you can afford “top drawer” and don’t want the added features of the Camp Chef, it’s your choice.

But at the end of the day, I find the Camp Chef is the best mix of “Features per Buck” with convenience of pre-seasoned with size and shape per dollar.

So that’s what I’ve learned on this particular exploration.

As it stands, I’m quite happy with the “mix of brands” that I bought. I can use each for those things that it is best suited to do. Were I “doing it all over” would I change anything?

Not so sure.

That 10 inch Camp Chef and the 12 inch Lodge have more “overlap” in function that you would expect from their diameters, due to the aspect ratio differences. Most likely I’d not have bought the 10 inch, already owning the 12 Lodge; or from scratch, I’d buy the 10 inch Camp Chef instead of the 12 inch Lodge.

Yet I can see a case of a larger cobbler in the Lodge that isn’t quite right in the smaller diameter Camp Chef.

So I suppose what really matter is just realizing that there IS an aspect ratio difference and allowing for that.

All in all, I’d likely go by “4 inch steps” instead of 2 inch steps… but then again, I didn’t know to standardize the aspect ratio either…

So, in conclusion: Think about aspect ratio. “Take big bites” ;-) or have more gradation between sizes…. And, since coals used vary by diameter, think about how small you can go for a given meal. Size Matters.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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17 Responses to Dutch Oven Comparison

  1. Pouncer says:

    Is the stack practical as well as decorative? That is, could you put coals at the bottom, and between layers, build bricks along the side, and cook from the heat rising all the way up?

    Not sure why you’d want to, but given the “Yertle the Turtle” configuration it appears there ought to be some utility to it.

  2. John Robertson says:

    Interesting I have not used a real dutch oven in years, the oven is also great for simmering stew on a wood fired cookstove, or any that have erratic swings of temperature.Or reheating day old soups ect.
    Another efficient means of cooking is the pressure cookers, they are a neat way to cook rice and meats in a hurry with less fuel. Just avoid opening before the pressure drops.

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    Yes, that aspect ratio looked important to me as well. Lodge makes nice stuff but at a good price as well. The availability of a port for a thermometer probe is very handy to get a dependable outcome. I always use a temperature probe to get a good outcome to cooking large roasts and turkeys. If you did this everyday that mite not be necessary, but cook a large prime rib once a year is no time to practice! And a large wild Blackberry cobbler is way too important to risk! 8-) Looks like you need more practice with natural fire making materials. Something for later efforts. It is an impressive pile of Iron and useful as well. pg

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Pouncer:

    The “stack” is functional. The coals on the lid of one layer become the bottom coals of the next.

    Why do it? Roast Chicken, baked bread, cobbler desert. Need I say more? ;-)

    @John Robertson:

    I’d hardly used the Lodge at all until now.

    Turns out I rather like cooking in the D.O….

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Yes, a bit more practice with wood is in order. Counting briquettes is nice, but a thermometer port is even more important if using natural wood chunks.

    It is an impressive pile. But were I “doing it all over” I’d likely get the bottom most (Camp Chef 14 inch) and the one down one from the top (Camp Chef 10 inch) and call it a day. Maybe add one size smaller than the 4 quart (if they make one…)

    We’ll see in the usage just how often I want to do “bread and roast chicken” at the same time.

  5. John Andrews says:

    I got 4 of those big ones at a military surplus store. They had a fire and the dutch ovens were covered with fire fighting foam. I bought them for our Boy Scout troop for $20 each, about half price at the time. Each patrol had one and we used them often. At summer camp we would roast a huge piece of beef in a pit and bake 4 loaves of bread and two pies and there was never any left overs. I called the bread Fanny bread because when you bake two loaves in a dutch oven, when it is done it looks just like my wife’s fanny.

  6. Petrossa says:

    I am dutch and never heard of a thing called dutch oven. One is never too old to learn i guess.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Petrossa:

    Looks like it’s an “Englishism” and maybe even an Americanism to some extent. The wiki says:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_oven

    A Dutch oven is a thick-walled (usually cast iron) cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dutch ovens have been used as cooking vessels for hundreds of years. They are called casserole dishes in English speaking countries other than the USA (“casserole” means “pot” in French), and cocottes in French. They are similar to both the Japanese tetsunabe and the Sač, a traditional Balkan cast-iron oven, and are related to the South African Potjie and the Australian Bedourie oven.

    Early European history

    During the late 17th century, the Dutch system of producing these cast metal cooking vessels was more advanced than the English system.
    The Dutch used dry sand to make their molds, giving their pots a smoother surface. Consequently, metal cooking vessels produced in the Netherlands were imported into Britain. In 1704, an Englishman named Abraham Darby decided to go to the Netherlands to observe the Dutch system for making these cooking vessels. Four years later, back in England, Darby patented a casting procedure similar to the Dutch process and began to produce cast-metal cooking vessels for Britain and her new American colonies. Thus the term “Dutch oven” has endured for over 300 years, since at least 1710.
    American history

    Over time, the Dutch oven used in the American colonies began to change. The pot became shallower and legs were added to hold the oven above the coals. A flange was added to the lid to keep the coals on the lid and out of the food.

    So the basic iron pot started from a Dutch casting process, then in America, we modified it for open camp fire use and use with coals. But left the name pointing at the Dutch casting process originals. Meaning that the Europeans likely didn’t run into the American version for quite some time.

    Maybe we ought to start calling it “The American Camp Oven” instead ;-)

  8. Another Ian says:

    E.M.

    Might fit here

    http://www.taste-africa.com/product_potjie.php

    as a starter

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    It sure does. At the wiki, the various ‘other country’ names link to pages about those products. I just came back from looking at the Potjie. I like it! It looks more ‘cauldron’ like ;-)

    If I wasn’t already “full up” on American Camp Ovens, I’d likely get one of those.

    FWIW, I also followed the link on the Australian one. It’s a steel instead of cast variation. Seems they tended to drop the cast iron ones off their horses and have them break, so went to steel. Looks more like “just a big pot” to me (no legs, nor raise rim) but has some interesting variations on how to use it:

    http://www.southernmetalspinners.com.au/camping-page.html

    even has a metal “surround” for what they call a “camp oven” (a Dutch Oven flange top, but no feet) that lets you put it over a gas burner. It’s an instant solution to my “want an outdoor oven” (if it only had a thermometer port …) But also ‘gives clue’ on a simple approach to a ‘tin oven wrapper’…

    Looks like a lot of folks have solved this same problem of ‘oven without the house’ ;-)

    Even found a picture of someone using a brick “surround”, so I’m not the first (though theirs is more like a ‘fire pit ring’ while more is more like a walled enclosure).

    More pictures here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%C4%8D

    with a Balkan domed lid…

    Guess folks all over the world like their roasts and stews, even when out doors…

    The wiki on the Potjie has an interesting story of how the food was cooked:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potjiekos

    Sort of an ‘ongoing roasting together’ process, day by day…

    But I don’t think I’d want to be around a really really big one in missionary clothing ;-0

  10. Mike Morris says:

    A few years ago I read an article written by a chemist on the best choice for seasoning cast iron cookware. His assertion was that flax seed oil was far and away superior to the number two choice, lard. Apparently, it has to do with how flax seed oil polymerizes and such things. Having some supplement capsules on hand, I stuck a push pin in a couple and squirted them into a hot, clean pan and quickly wiped it down almost dry with a very small bit of cotton or paper towel held in tongs. Using the same bit of cloth, redo it 4 or 5 times and allow it to ‘dry’ or cure between coatings till no longer tacky feeling on medium heat on top of the stove. I invert the pan, works better. The result are astonishing! A long lasting, very non stick coating results that can be easily maintained with other various fats and oils for several weeks or so, depending on what you cook in them. It’s important to not get cast iron too hot and turn the non stick ‘varnish’ into charcoal. Also rinse them with hot water and a brush, let ’em soak with a tiny bit of dish soap to loosen stubborn stuff and avoid scouring off the coating when cleaning. Now you know.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Mike Morris:

    A few years back I did some experiments with oils and temps. It is the degree of “poly unsaturated” that matters. That’s the place where heat causes a break of the bond that can then reform as a cross link. The key temperature is “smoke point” (that varies by oil, but about 375 F to 400 F usually works.

    Flax oil is very reactive (as it is an omega-3 rich oil and has low breakdown temp). I’ve not tried it for seasoning as it is expensive here, but ought to work very well.

    When I need to do reseasoning (that is usually only after I’ve left a pan somewhere and it got rusty…) I just scrub down the old problem areas, lube up the pan with a poly unsaturated oil, put it upside down in the oven and hit 375 to 400 F for a couple of hours. Pretty much does it.

    You can use saturated oils, but higher temperatures are needed. I’d expect Flax oil to work at even lower temperatures as it breaks down in sunlight or room temperature long storage.

  12. The Bedourie (here http://www.southernmetalspinners.com.au/camping-page.html) works great. Steel not cast iron.The lid fits over the pot to keep ashes out. Cook the meat (needs to have some fat- whole chicken in the skin, a leg of pork, a well fed rabbit with a mutton bird inside etc) first with a couple of cups of red wine and seasoning- especially ginger. Add the potatoes after some time and about 15 minutes before dinner add the rest of the vegetables -carrot, tomatoes, broccoli etc.Cooked in the coals of a wood fire. The temperature will be right-. just need an occasional look to get the timing right. Ours is a 12 ins with special wooden handles to lift the lid, the pot or pot and lid. Think the cost was about $65.

  13. Greg Hall says:

    I will throw my 2 cents in about cleaning cast iron. I cook on vintage Griswold cast iron cookware exclusively and have for years. “Once you go cast iron, you never go back!” My routine is once the pan comes off the heat, the food is plated, the pan is run under hot water and a dedicated nylon scrubby is used to clean any residue out and it is back on the heat to dry the pan out then finally a wipe with a paper towl with some olive oil and the pan is placed back in the stack of Griswold pans ready for the next time. If something has burned or stuck on, just let it soak in water for a few minutes then use the nylon scrubby and back to heat to dry it out.
    While Griswold did make many size “Dutch” ovens, I don’t believe they made any with feet.

  14. Petrossa says:

    It’s just the brits are already so mean to us: ‘going dutch’ ‘dutch courage’ ‘double dutch’ :( and only because we beat their ass in multiple wars and helped you lot get started. And now a medieval cooking method :) We do have microwave ovens too you know ;-)

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Petrossa:

    Dutch Microwave? Sounds like a good name for a police radar gun… ;-)

  16. Petrossa says:

    EM Camera takes your license plate at the beginning of track, than when you leave the track, calculates average speed and the computer sends you the fine. No more radar guns, only infra-red btw. :(

  17. dutchovenqueen says:

    The more shallow Lodge dutch ovens are often referred to as bread ovens as they are the perfect size for making breads, cobblers, muffins ect. while the deeper camp chef ovens are often referred to as meat ovens as they have the deeper size to cook meats, stews, casseroles ect. Just a few tips my mother taught me as a child.

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