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Dutch Oven Chilli & Cornbread


Chilli and cornbread is a classic meal that is well suited for camping - provided you have a dutch oven of course. It's great for cold evenings to fill up on some warm food before heading to your hammock or tent. This recipe is also extremely flexible. If you want to feed two people buy a can or two of chilli. If you want to feed 4 or 5 people get 5 or so cans of chilli. If you follow the directions it will not change the result; only the time it takes and number of coals you'll end up using. Just make sure you have room to add the cornbread at the end.

Safety note: Make sure you have a fire ring for your dutch oven. The wind can pick up and blow embers from your coals all over the place, make sure you have a ring!

What you need:

  • Dutch Oven
  • Coal chimney
  • Lid lifter
  • Lid stand
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Matchlight charcoal
  • Vegetable oil, Peanut oil, Canola oil (not olive oil)

(Optional items:)

  • Dutch oven parchment paper liners (makes cleaning a breeze so you can move on to baking your dessert in no time)


  • Canned or homemade chilli (however much you need)
  • Two small packs of instant cornbread mix (like Jiffy etc...)
  • 1/2 cup water (for cornbread mix)

Step 1: Get your coals ready

What you want is Kingsford Matchlight charcoal and a coal chimney. I can't say enough about how convenient matchlight is when it comes to dutch oven cooking. They get ready quickly and evenly everytime. If you're worried about matchlight imparting chemical taste to your food, don't! Since we are using the dutch oven the coals are strictly for heat and are not exposed to your food.

How many?

The gernal rule of thumb is -/+ three. That is to say that you take the diameter of your oven, 12" is kind of standard, and subtract three to get the number of coals for the bottom:

12" oven - 3 = 9 coals on bottom.

Now add 3 to the diameter to get the number of coals for the top:

12" oven + 3 = 15 coals on top.

As you get more experienced with the dutch oven you will get a feel for the right number of coals based on how the food is cooking. This rule will largely become a starting point or a safety net until you see how the food is reacting and then you can add/subtract on the top or bottom as needed.

How to Arrange them?

Once the coals are glowing nice and red or have a good layer of grey ash coating, place them in a circular pattern, evenly spaced. Make sure a couple of coals are placed in the center of the circle to provide even heat. Use this same method for adding the coals to the lid. Make sure your coals have some room to breath, but that the circle on the bottom is not wider than the bottom of the dutch oven. Otherwise you will lose a lot of heat.

Step 2: Add the chilli

Line the dutch oven with a thin coating of oil and spoon in your chilli. Put the lid on and place the oven and move it on top of the coals. Now, add the coals for the top as described in Step 1.

Start another batch of coals now or very soon. You want to make sure you have some ready when the first batch is gone. Stir the chilli, rotate the oven 1/4 turn, and rotate the lid itself 1/4 every 10-15 minutes until the chilli is hot, but not boiling.

Step 3: Add your cornbread batter

Get out your mixing bowl and cornbread pack. Follow the directions for mixing on the packs (just adding water will work fine). If you want to get fancy you can try adding corn, carrots, cooked bacon crumbs, shredded cheese, etc.. to the batter as well.

Stir the chilli one last time as you will not be able to do this once the batter had been added. Now that the batter is mixed spoon it evenly over the chilli, keeping the bowl low to prevent the batter from falling to the bottom. If the batter does get to the bottom, however, it will still cook and tase fine.

Step 4: Go for hard burn

This is where the true amazingness of the dutch oven comes forth. Because you are heating it from both the top and bottom you can control the temperature of either independently - within reason of course. At this point we are going to put 4 coals on the bottom just to keep the chilli warm, but not burn it or cause it bubble too much while you're waiting for the cornbread to cook. Now put 20 or more coals on the top. This will cook the cornbread quickly.

Check the cornbread and turn the oven and lid a 1/4 turn every 10-15 minutes as before. If the cornbread is browning too fast remove some coals from the top, if it's not cooking fast enough add some. Use a knife or a fork and stick it into the cornbread. If it comes out batter free then it's done! 

Step 5: Food coma

Eat, enjoy, and have fun!

Make sure to check out the video below:

Take care,


November 3rd, 2015

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