Camping Dutch Ovens: Iron vs Aluminum


Traditionally, Dutch ovens and skillets are made out of cast iron. It’s what they had and it worked well. A well-seasoned cast iron is the original (and some say still the best) non-stick cooking surface. But today, there’s another option: aluminum. Like anything else, aluminum Dutch ovens have their pros and cons, so it raises the question of when should you opt for an aluminum Dutch oven over iron. 


The biggest pro is reduced weight. A 12-inch cast iron Dutch oven with a cover weighs in at about 20 pounds before you put anything in it whereas an aluminum Dutch oven of the same dimensions pulls the scale to slightly less than 7 pounds. That means a lot when you’re packing in somewhere on horseback or afoot. It also means youngsters will have an easier time with them and old-timers can add years to their camp cooking careers when cast iron gets too heavy.


Aluminum is also a very efficient conductor of heat, which means using less fuel and lower cooking temperatures. However, in campfire cooking aluminum’s characteristic of heating and cooling faster presents challenges. Cooking in cold temperatures and windy conditions may prove harder without your trusted cast-iron Dutch oven. The aluminum counterparts also tend to develop hotspots.

Stick Free

You’ll never have to worry about an aluminum Dutch Oven rusting and you don’t have to season them like cast iron. However, neither will cast aluminum ever be as stick-free a surface as well-seasoned cast iron. GSI Outdoors offers anodized aluminum Dutch Ovens that come close, but still, take the experienced cast iron chef some time to adapt.

Aluminum Dutch Oven

Aluminum Dutch Oven


Aluminum Dutch ovens work fine for long-simmering liquid soups, stews, chili, and the like, especially with ingredients that may tend to pull the seasoning from a cast iron pot. When you’re done, you can clean them up just like the rest of the dishes with water and detergent. However, when it comes to baking or cooking anything that might have a tendency to scorch or stick, you’re best off with cast iron.


When it comes to pricing, aluminum Dutch Ovens tend to run a bit more then cast iron kettles of the same size. GSI Outdoor’s 12-inch aluminum Dutch Oven retails for $90 and its 12-inch hard anodized model is $109.99. A Camp Chef 12-inch Classic Standard cast iron Dutch Oven’s MSRP is $65.  

Iron vs Aluminum Verdict

If you don’t consider price, there’s an even split between iron and aluminum camping Dutch ovens. However, iron Dutch ovens are still insanely popular on e-commerce sites like Amazon and sporting good stores like Cabela’s or Dick’s.

What do you prefer: iron or aluminum Dutch ovens? Tell us in the comments below. 

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