Saturday, February 6, 2010

Recipe: Camp Dutch Oven French Fries

French fries are nutritious, healthy, gluten-free, and insanely tasty if cooked properly. In a word, French fries can be exceptional. Exceptional French fries are not embarrased to share a plate with filet mignon, chateaubriand, ribeye steaks, and even the snootiest burgers.  But exceptional French fries don't just spring out of thin air.  Especially when you're camping.

While exceptional oven-roasted French fries are pretty straight forward, when you're cooking over an open fire out in the woods, it's a different story.  I had worked out a skillet fried version of campfire French fries last spring, but when I received my new camp dutch oven for Christmas this year, I thought I had better experiment some more.  The beauty of the camp dutch oven is that it allows for true roasting and baking, since you can pile hot coals on top of the lid.

Here's how to achieve exceptional roasted French fries over an open fire:

  • 2-3 large russet potatoes (for an 8-quart dutch oven)
  • oil
  • kosher salt
  • Canadian steak seasoning
Git you a campfire started.  In this particular case, Will Cash and I were up at Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was January.  We were at 8,000 feet.  It was about 10 degrees.

Will, sensibly, began by clearing snow out of the fire ring.  He then set up and lit the fire, and fed it for a half hour until we had a nice big bed of coals.

While your fire is being prepared (ideally, by your five-year-old), cut the potatoes into skin-on "steak fries".  Add a good coating of oil to the camp dutch oven (an eighth of an inch or so), and toss in the potatoes.  Season the raw fries generously with kosher salt and Canadian steak seasoning (or just pepper and granulated garlic).

If you have the luxury of a U.S. Forest Service campfire ring-plus-grill contraption, you can probably place your camp dutch oven right on top of the grill. Adjust heat as necessary by ading or removing coals from under the grill. Start with less heat than you think you need!  You should have no open flame, and your bed of coals should be pretty sparse. 

If you don't have a fire ring with a grill, simply clear out an area of coals on one side of your fire, and then replace a few coals in the cleared out area.  Because the ground near the fire will also have heated up, and the fire will be in close proximity, you don't need many coals under the dutch oven.

Place the lid on the dutch oven with the writing facing you (mine says "Lodge" and "12" since it is a 12-inch in diameter Lodge dutch oven). Pile as many coals on top of the dutch oven lid as you can fit, and cook the French fries for 7 minutes or so.

Lift the lid to check on the fries, and stir them around a bit to make sure they aren't burning on the bottom.  Rotate the base of the dutch oven about 90 degrees, and place the lid down with the writing facing you (since you rotated the base, keeping the lid facing you will have the effect of rotating the lid relative to the food inside).  Check on the French fries every 7-8 minutes, and each time you do, stir the fries around, rotate the base of the dutch oven 90 degrees, and replace the lid with the text facing you.

Camp dutch oven roasted French fries will take 20-30 minutes to cook.  Because of the thermal mass of the camp dutch oven, you can hold your fries for 10-20 minutes in summer, or 5 minutes in winter, while you finish cooking the rest of the meal.  That said, these fries are best when served nearly immediately... so once they are browning nicely and nearing completion, you can start grilling your burgers so everything is ready to serve at the same time.

If your French fries are cooking too quickly (often the bottom of the dutch oven gets too hot), pull the dutch oven off the fire, and re-arrange your coals as necessary to reduce the heat.  In this too-much-heat scenario, be sure to stir the fries around more frequently to avoid burning.

Serve with tomato ketchup (and a burger) immediately!  Eat quickly so your food doesn't freeze.


  1. I made these tonight for my family and they loved them. I used my lodge dutch oven pan combo and they worked out great.

  2. Glad to hear it! Thanks for stopping by.



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