Dutch Oven Cooking with Charcoal

Minimize smoke and odor while using a Dutch oven

There are several ways in which you can cook on a Dutch oven, but a common one is to use charcoal. This minimizes smoke and odors. Cooking with wood produces more smoke and requires a substantial amount of wood to create the coals you need.  

The charcoal is normally placed both on top of and underneath the Dutch oven.

Dutch oven

A general rule of thumb to produce approximately 350° of heat is to take the diameter of the Dutch oven and double the number. You then use that many total briquettes.  For a 12″ Dutch oven, you would use 24 briquettes or for a 14″ oven, you would use 28 briquettes, and so on.

This rule of thumb does not work for all makes of ovens, for example unusually deep ones!

Lodge Cast Iron Cooking Chart

The following chart is put out by Lodge Cast Iron giving their recommendation for the number of briquettes required on both the top and the bottom of the dutch oven to reach a specific temperature.

Oven Size
(Coals needed Top/Bottom)
325°350° 375° 400°425°450°
8″ Oven10/511/511/612/613/614/6
10″ Oven13/614/716/717/818/919/10
12″ Oven16/717/818/919/1021/1022/11
14″ Oven20/1021/1122/1224/1225/1326/14
lodge dutch oven cooking chart
graphic from https://www.lodgecastiron.com/story/how-many-coals-use-when-cooking-with-a-camp-dutch-oven

Environmental factors as air temperature, humidity, altitude, and wind speed will all influence the amount of heat generated by the briquettes. Windy conditions will cause briquettes to burn faster.

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Charcoal briquettes placed under the oven should be arranged in a circular pattern near the edge of the oven.  Charcoals placed on the lid should be in a checkerboard pattern. Avoid hot spots by not bunching the briquettes.

To simmer foods such as soups, stews, and chili’s; place 1/3 of the total briquettes on the lid and 2/3 under the oven.

To bake foods such as breads and rolls, biscuits, cakes, pies and cobblers (rising); place 2/3 of the total briquettes on the lid and 1/3 underneath the oven.

To roast foods such as meats, poultry, casseroles, quiche, vegetables, and cobblers use an even distribution of briquettes on the lid and underneath the oven.

Like anything else worth doing this takes practice. Try it now don’t wait until it is too late.

One thing you need to be careful of is how you store your charcoal, over the years there have been many claims of wet charcoal spontaneously igniting as it dries. However, this is not a concern when you are only storing one or two bags. 

If you are storing a substantial number of bags in a pile, I would be careful to keep them dry.

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3 thoughts on “Dutch Oven Cooking with Charcoal”

  1. Thanks for the chart. I find it extremely difficult to find that kind of information. With this chart it is simply a matter of following the recipe. Thanks!

  2. howard, I couldnt access the post on spread and number of charcoal bricks for dutch oven cooking. I was able to yesterday. put this wherever it fits best———————————————- people starting with cast iron or dutch oven cooking often don’t know about getting started. get a book at the library or wherever you want to get your book. I have had good experience with amazon. the book I recommend (but any book, from any place will be a good start) is CAST IRON COOKING FOR DUMMIES amazon $14.29. also youtube and facebook – dutch oven cooking. backwoods home magazine, dutch oven will give have some very good info. on getting your dutch oven. what to look fore in choosing a D.O. which is better cast iron or aluminum, how to cure your oven, 6 necessary? tools for D.O. cooking, coal placement, tricks for cooking meat, veggies, how to bake breads, rolls and other breads. if you can locate a D.O. cooking club, they are happy to have new D.O. cooks. all 30? states that I checked , Facebook- dutch oven – texas, Ok, Nd ,Pa, Ca, or your state is a good source of info. . also check any state. all have different and good info on good recipes. they all have places to go to learn D.O. cooking. CAUTION THE SITE – PINTEREST – ASK ME FOR INFORMATION IN ORDER TO ACCESS THE SITE THAT I WOULD NOT GIVE. THE SITE SAID I COULD OPT OUT. THEY WANTED MY PUBLIC PROFILE, FRIENDS LIST, EMAIL AND OTHER INFO. I don’t need them that bad. Cabellas, Sportsmans Warehouse and Williams Sonoma offer classes. check with them for scheduling. J.C.Pennys. may have classes. reno nv. has a dutch oven club. the first group cookoff that I went to was at a state park and everyone either was in charge of a D.O. or pitched in to help and learn. we then ate some of everything (yum)and helped with the cleanup. a good source of cast iron cooking supplies is sportsmens warehouse. walmart has cast iron cooking supplies on the website. I have never seen any at the stores, but I have never looked for it at walmart. happy cookin to ya.—————————————————————-feel free to edit how ever you wish and correct my spelling. I am new to writing. a computer master (several steps above geek) talked me through FB in may 15. before that, the last thing that I wrote was a letter to my girl friend when I was stationed in s. cal in 62 or 63 so my grammar may be a little (or a lot off). any advice will be welcome. I enjoy this much more than when in high school.

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