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Dutch Oven Pizza
Dutch Oven Pizza is really pretty easy to make once you learn a few outdoor Dutch Oven cooking tricks. I like it because it is a nice introductory meal to prepare in the ovens, and it makes you look like a culinary hero to your crew of hungry pizza eaters!
For the past six years, I have taken groups of people camping and Dutch Oven cooking throughout the state of Utah and other neighboring states. We call ourselves the MightyCampers. On a typical camping trip, we have anywhere from 15-35 people turn out for dinner and adventure. The meal is often the highlight of our trip! I always try to design meals that pull the group together. Pizza making is a greatmeal to do with a large group such as this.
In one evening a few years ago, while camping out on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, we cooked seventeen pizzas in four ovens. It took us about four hours from start to finish. In the end, we were a very full bunch and the leftovers made a great breakfast. We followed up the pizzas with a couple of rounds of warm chocolate chip cookies for dessert, cooked in the same style as the pizzas. It’s going to be tough to top that trip! Total preparation, cooking, and clean up time depends on the volume of food you are making and how much help you can get from your cooking team. Enjoy!
Basic Pizza Dough—2 Pizzas in 14-inch Ovens
10-20 lbs of charcoal, depending on how many pizzas you will be making.
Start your charcoal on fire using a charcoal chimney. (I prefer Kingsford charcoal. It seems to burn the most consistently.)
Mix all the ingredients together and knead until a soft dough is formed. With instant yeast, you need to let the dough rest in a ball for 10 minutes, covered with a light cloth.
You will be using your oven upside down, with the lid on the bottom and the legs sticking up, in the air. I cook with my ovens on a metal table. If you don’t have one of these, you can use a broiler pan, old cookie sheet, hibachi-style charcoal grill, or other flat, non-flammable surface placed on a concrete driveway or sidewalk.
Place the lid upside down on a metal holder or ring to keep it off the metal table. While the dough is resting, preheat your Dutch Ovens with the charcoal in a ring slightly inside and underneath the upside down lid. (Coal placement is important, so keep coals away from the middle underneath the oven. This will help ensure even cooking without burning the bottom. You want enough coals to heat the ovens quite hot, around 400 degrees F.)
Place the rest of the oven on top of the lid (with the legs sticking up, in the air). Place coals in a checkerboard pattern on the top of this oven to cook the top of the pizza. Allow preheating of the entire oven as your dough rests.
After 10 minutes, divide the dough into two balls and roll out into a round pizza shape the size of the inside of your Dutch Oven lid. Lightly grease the surface of the lid. Be careful, it’s hot!
Place the rolled out dough on the lid and spread the sauce, cheese, and toppings on the dough. Thick toppings take longer to cook. If you plan on trying the deep-dish kind, you may want to precook your dough for a few minutes. My crusts usually turn out to be fairly thick, so I allow them to precook (from bottom heat) as I am covering the crust with sauce and toppings. I like thick crusts better and they fill people up quicker so I can spend less time bending over hot ovens! Or, you can use a thinner crust that will cook faster. As you wish!
Let the pizza cook for at least 15 minutes. Turn the lid and the rest of the oven in opposite directions every 5 minutes or so to help even out “hot spots.” The cooking time depends on the thickness of the toppings, the heat of the oven, the ambient temperature, how well the ovens are preheated, the surface you are cooking on, how windy it is outside, and other exciting variables. Cooking time may take from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the above variables.
After about 10 minutes, check the bottom of the pizza to make sure it is not burning. I like to cook my pizzas to a golden brown on bottom, with the cheese in a nice gooey, melted layer on top. If you like crispy pizzas, cook them a bit longer. If the bottom is getting dark, but the cheese has still not fully melted, remove the entire oven from the bottom heat and continue cooking with top heat only until finished.
Adjust the coals as needed to help maintain a temperature of at least 400 degrees F throughout the cooking time.
Slide the pizza off the lid onto a large cooking sheet, cut, and serve!
The key to all of this is to remember that cooking; especially in the outdoors, should be fun. Dutch Oven cooking usually takes a bit longer than cooking the same dish at home, so plan accordingly. I bring along snacks so my fellow MightyCampers will stay content both before and during our cooking adventures. Have fun. Don’t stress too much about how dark your pizza might be when you take it out of the oven. I’ve found that if you involve everyone in the cooking, they will eat just about whatever comes out of the oven because they helped create it!
For more information on Dutch Oven Cooking, I recommend the following resources:
www.idos.com (The International Dutch Oven Society is a great resource for both beginning and experienced cooks.)
www.gwdos.com (The Greater Wasatch Dutch Oven Society is the Utah Dutch Oven cooking chapter. See their website for monthly, local Dutch Oven potluck dinners.)
www.lodgemfg.com (The website for my favorite ovens, the Lodge Dutch Oven.)
www.campchef.com (The website of my favorite stove for outdoor Dutch Oven cooking.)
www.mightycamper.com (Visit this website for information on upcoming Dutch Oven cooking events and outdoor retreats.
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