Use a Dutch Oven for Great Outdoor Pizza
Whether you are looking for an outdoor pizza oven to go in your backyard or a camp pizza recipe I have the solution and it’s easier than you think.
Nothing say’s camping to me like cooking in a dutch oven but that doesn’t mean you can only do this while camping. I frequently use my dutch oven at home. It’s quite possibly my favorite cooking implement and it’s hands down the most versatile.
Even without charcoal you can use it inside the oven or grill for baking breads or making pizza. I’ve recently been on a kick to master dutch oven pizza and wanted to share my successes.
Let’s face it, there’s not many foods better than pizza. OK, yeah there are probably quite a few that are better but nothing beats pizza on the overall popularity scale. It’s just too bad you can’t make it at camp.
Well, that’s actually a myth. You can make pizza at camp. In fact, you can make some of the best pizza you’ve ever made at camp. The key is the dutch oven.
Made from cast iron the dutch oven provides the perfect cooking vessel for pizza for one big reason.
The bedrock of great pizza is the crust. Great crust has a good crisp bite that gives way to a slightly chewy interior. The chewy part comes from gluten which should be an integral part of your dough recipe. Make sure you are using bread flour or adding gluten to your all purpose flour.
The crispy exterior of the crust comes from high heat. Pizza crust needs to cook in almost an explosive way, with high heat hammering it quickly causing the crust to rapidly set and begin to brown up. The air bubbles from the yeast rapidly expand creating wonderful pockets. Steam from the dough explodes out into the air pockets locking in the gluten and creating that chewy deliciousness.
The problem with your residential oven is the only thing transferring heat to the crust is air circulating around and a flimsy aluminum pizza pan. You need something with more mass to deliver more heat. This is what makes pizza stones popular, but there is an even better material. Cast Iron!
With the pizza in a dutch oven you get direct heat on the bottom from the crust touching the iron and radiating heat above from the charcoal covered lid. This combination will give you the perfect crust and beautifully melted cheese.
Dutch Oven Pizza
If you don’t have one already the first thing you will need is a dutch oven. The biggest thing you want is straight black cast iron (no enamel coating) and a rimmed lid. The rim helps hold the coals on top. See the picture below as a reference.
I recommend a 12 inch / 8 Quart Lodge dutch oven. Lodge is one of the top brands and extremely high quality. There are cheaper ones available and they will work great too, but Lodge is hands down the best. You can find these at most sporting goods stores that carry camping supplies as well as places like Walmart. You can also find them on Amazon Prime.
The second thing is some good crust. It’s certainly possible to make pizza in a dutch oven with some canned or packet crust, but if you want a true artisan crust you need to make the dough yourself. The internet is full of good pizza dough recipes. I would be truly honored though, if you would try mine. I’ve made a lot of pizzas with this recipe and it’s really easy.
Next you will need sauce. I have you covered there too with a homemade sauce recipe of my own. I have a lot of people that love my sauce and have even asked me to sell it. If you have something else you prefer, that will work just fine here too.
Finally, you need to choose your cheese and toppings. I’m a big fan of mozzarella and pepperoni but you can top this however you like. I will leave one caveat here. If you want to make a pizza with a lot of vegetable toppings please keep moisture in mind. The dutch oven will hold a lot of moisture in so a lot of vegetables that are mostly water could cause a soggy pizza. If you have this problem simply take a few small metal skewers or rolled up pieces of foil and make a small gap on the dutch oven lid. No more than 1/8th of an inch. You want just enough to let extra moisture escape.
Related Story: I helped an entire cub-scout pack cook 40 pizzas last year
To start you will need to light charcoal. You want enough to provide a single layer on the top and bottom of the dutch oven. A charcoal chimney makes this a lot easier, but instant light charcoal or lighter fluid are both acceptable.
Once the charcoal is lit use tongs to make a layer of coals the size of your dutch oven. Set the dutch oven on top and cover the lid with more coals.
Let the dutch oven preheat for a few minutes. This is critical to getting good crust. It won’t take more than 3 – 5 minutes for it to get hot. If you any longer it will get too hot.
One of the most common problem people face when trying to cook pizza in a dutch oven is getting the pizza into and out of the oven. Trying to sneak a spatula underneath a pizza in a dutch oven is no easy task. The solution is to use foil. Use the edges to lower the pizza in, and pull it back out. It makes it so easy that you can even check your crust while cooking.
Lay your pizza crust out on foil that is about 3 times bigger than needed. Lightly spray with olive or canola oil where the pizza will touch the foil. Top the pizza however you like. This was plain cheese for my kids. The extra foil edges give you built in handles to pick the pizza up and lower into the dutch oven and pull the pizza out when finished. See below:
Cover with the lid and cook for 5 – 7 minutes before checking. You should get beautiful crusts and chewy melted cheese. The picture below is mozzarella and pepperoni.
My dutch oven is a smaller one, so I make personal size pizzas. With the 12 inch Lodge I mentioned above you can make a good pizza for two. If you want to make a big 16 inch hand tossed one check out this 20-quart Bayou Classic dutch oven that is 17 inches across. It’s also on my Christmas list.
Hold on, don’t leave yet!
Do you want another way to make great pizza? Check out my post on grilling pizza!
Did you make some dutch oven pizza? Tell me how it went below or ask me any questions you have.