Dutch oven: cast iron/pre-seasoned/aluminum - Mountain Buzz

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Old 02-07-2010   #1
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 17
Dutch oven: cast iron/pre-seasoned/aluminum

Any suggestions on what type of dutch oven works best?
Cast iron are the least expensive, then pre-seasoned; aluminum is most expensive.
I'd appreciate any thoughts...

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Old 02-07-2010   #2
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Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
Go with the anodized aluminum. That's all I use, and they are awesome. Light weight, and easy to clean up. They don't need to be seasoned. There's a reason cast iron are inexpensive, they weight a ton and require a bit of care. They are great at home, but not on the river. Get a 12 in dutch, it's the most versatile size. I use a 12 & 10 inch dutch. The 10in doesn't have attached legs and nests inside the 12 for transport. Dutch oven cooking on the river is .....Da Bomb!
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Old 02-07-2010   #3
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Oct 2007
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I would tend to agree with KJ. Cast iron DO's require a little more maintenance. I generally prefer hard anodized on the river. A good seasoned cast iron DO does have better nonstick properties, but you can be a little rougher with the aluminum.
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Old 02-07-2010   #4
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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Considering how much weight ppl put into rafting gear (having propane tanks, a full kitchen, 4 burner stoves, blasters, tables, chairs, umbrellas, etc.) I don't care too much about the 20lb difference an iron vs. aluminum dutch oven makes. This isn't ultralight backpacking.

I love the way my cast iron cooks on coals. I think it absorbs the flavors better than an aluminum DO as well.

If you do go for the cast iron, go with the non-seasoned. It's really easy to season one at home inside your regular oven with vegetable oil or shortening laying around.

I just seasoned my 12 inch the other day, but then again I've also been cooking everything from french meals, to brownies, to mexican in my fireplace the last few weeks in my DO.
(Cooking brownies again tomorrow night as a matter of fact).

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Old 02-07-2010   #5
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 134
We melted an aluminum one on a camping trip once. Be careful if you have really hot coals. That was over a hardwood fire though if I remember correct. Not to many of those on river trips.
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Old 02-07-2010   #6
thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1969
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I have had my cast iron Dutch Ovens for 30+ years they cook great. But the way to go is anodized aluminum. From boaters on the buzz and talking to others, aluminum is the only way to go. Cast iron takes a lot of care to maintain and if not done right will give you a very negative experience in DO cooking (your food will taste bad). Spend the extra money on aluminum and you will be happy.
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Old 02-07-2010   #7
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Moab, Utah
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 133
Hmmm. Al or Fe? I remember using Al for awhile when I was guiding, and the only thing I remember about it was that it was light in weight.

My fav Fe seasoning methond is to put the DO over flame, and then use an oily rag to keep wiping it. Once it gets smoking you are on your way - keep wiping, adding oil as needed until you are tired of watching the finish build up. Works great.

I remember what a friend told me when I asked him
"Hey, Josh, how do you clean your dutch?"
Josh, "I do it like you do."

Half way through cleaning I wondered how he knew how I cleaned dutches. When I asked him he said "Well, if you're cleaning them, thats how I do it."
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Old 02-08-2010   #8
Rockingham, North Carolina
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 54
We float remote Alaska rivers each summer/fall. Usually 10 days or so at a time. The aluminum dutch oven rocks. We make garlic biscuits, cornbread, cakes, etc... Just so much you can do with it. We have the 10" and 12". The 10 is good for 2-4 people, the 12 is good for 4-6. Very lightweight and cooks great. We also found some powdered shortening (oil) from a Canadian website, Harvest Foodworks. Granted, most of us don't need to keep weight down on most rafting trips, but these remote trips with bush flights in and out to the gravel bars keeps us packing light. One other thing I love about the powdered oil, no mess. Just sprinkle the powder on a hot pan/dutch oven, and it turns to, well.. oil. Amazing stuff. Below is a pic of our aluminum with a pineapple upside down cake. With powdered milk, eggs, and now oil, it couldn't be easier. We don't take coolers on our trips either of course. After a long day of floating and flyfishing, fire up the dutch oven and make a cake or something. Talk about a morale booster

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Old 02-08-2010   #9
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,777
GSI hard anodized aluminum is the way to go on river floats

Been dutch oven cooking for a while and have way more DO's than I need. Once you start DO cooking, the appeal of old cast iron units in yard sales kicks in.

My opinion is a well seasoned cast iron (I like Lodge made in Pittsburg TN) is the best cooking DO out there. Sure, clean up is a pain sometimes and they are heavy as well and take more care in transport. Nothing cooks like the real deal tho. When I am car camping and doing biscuits or corn bread, my go to unit is a size 10 Lodge cast iron well used unit.

I have been blessed to get to do quite a few river trips.

I used the regular aluminum for a while and they do work ok. I just use a lot of Pam cooking spray. Heat control is critical in that they heat up fast and cool down fast. Key attributes are easy clean up and light weight. Having said that, I rarely use my standard aluminum DO's any more. The exception being my Camp Chef Ultimate big DO. This thing steams veggies and bakes potato's like no other.

My standard set up for river trips is GSI Hard Anodized DO's. I have two size 12's, a size 10 and 14. All were expensive, but worth the price. Depends on the menu and trip size but I rarely use the 14. My go to unit on river trips is the size 12 with a size 10 nestled inside the 12. For bigger groups I use two 12's. The size 10 is great for trips with special needs IE no meat folks along on a trip or for smaller sized side dishes. Or, if I have a in between size group where a size 12 is not quite enough food or two 12's are more than the amount food needed. These GSI units clean up like a champ, do not flake off metal, heat control is adequate and are easier to transport due to weight and toughness. Clean up is fast and easy. I use Pam spray as well and things rarely stick. So far I cannot get that good looking brown top crust on corn bread like I get with cast iron. But cakes, casseroles etc work great and corn bread cooks fine.

Bottom line if I could only have one DO and it had to work every where I cook, it would be a size 12 GSI hard anodized aluminum.

They are expensive now, but like Partner Steel Stoves, you better buy one now as the prices only go higher each year and they (at least I have never heard of it) wear out.
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Old 02-08-2010   #10
North Bend, Washington
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 476
I've got a cast iron DO. It's huge! Weighs a ton- BUT I can cook for 25 in it. One trick I learned to make life easier is to use an cake pan inside of the DO. I have one that perfectly nests so that it doesn't touch to bottom. Result- no clean up of the DO, no burnt bottom and a handy size reference (ie my pan is equivalent to a 9x13 so no conversion of recipes).
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