Gallery: Campfire Cooking: How To Make Chili In A Dutch Oven

  • Campfire Chili

    I love chili, I love campfires, and I love long, slow cooking. Why not combine the three?

    Start with the right fire

    The ideal fire for Dutch oven cooking is one that has a large supply of glowing, ash-covered embers. Live logs burn fast and hot, while embers are perfect for maintaining the slower, steady heat you want for Dutch oven cooking.

    Unless you have a tripod to hang it from, clear out a large section of your fire pit and line it with a layer of hot coals.

    Preheat your oven

    Preheat the base of your Dutch oven directly on the hot coals until its smoking hot.

    Sear your meat

    Sear your meat in a single layer, letting it sit for a few moments at a time to encourage good browning and flavor development. You can use whatever meat you'd like for chili, but here I'm using pork shoulder.

    Add flavorings

    After your meat has been seared, remove it and set it aside, then add your flavorings. In this case, I'm flavoring my meat with... more meat. Homemade venison chorizo, to be precise. If you go with only one meat, there's no reason to remove before adding the...


    ...aromatics. If you removed your chunks, add'em back in now, along with along with your aromatics. In this case, that's a good amount of ground chiles, cumin, oregano, onion, fresh jalapeño pepper, and chopped cilantro.

    After everything is nice and aromatic, you can add your soaked dry beans, water, tomatoes, and a bit of salt (remember, the liquid reduces, so go easy on the salt until the end).

    Cover and go

    Depending on how long I've got before dinner time, I'll vary the amount of coal above and beneath the pot. Ideally, I'll let it cook at a sub-simmer for 6 hours or more until the beans are creamy and the meat is falling apart. Higher heat can get you a hot meal in 3 hours or less. The best way to judge how fast you're cooking is to...


    ...peek now and then. Carefully lift up the hot lid and check on the contents. If you're boiling vigorously, you want to remove some coals from underneath. I check mine every few hours to make sure that it's maintaining temperature, and that the water level hasn't dropped so low that the beans and meat are beginning to burn.

    Slow and steady

    The best part about a Dutch oven meal is that it'll stay hot and ready to serve for hours. Just carefully pull the pot out of the firepit to a safe spot and leave it lidded with a couple of hot coals in order to keep everything toasty. You'll have enough to eat now, and a few hours later when you're half a bottle deep into the other great campfire staple: Jack Daniels.

    Dutch Oven Chili

    Dutch Oven Chili
    Kenji Lopez-Alt

    Just like cooking at home, the key to great chili is to build up flavor in layers.

    Get the recipe »