Campfire Dutch Oven Beef Stew

Cast iron pan with carrots, onions and mushrooms cooking

Cooking over an open fire adds a delicious spice all its own to a meal while camping.

It also creates a great opportunity to gather all the campers in your group to laugh and talk while anticipating that great meal that you will soon to share together.

We’ve cooked this recipe a few times for friends and were not surprised by the reactions we’ve had when we suggested it. Initially, we get a bit of surprise and questions like “wait, you can cook right in the camp fire?” or “How do you adjust the temperature?”  Or our favorite, “why buy an awesome camping trailer with that full kitchen just to cook outside on the fire? “ We have found that any doubts quickly disappeared as soon as the smell of sautéing onions and with a wine reduction starts filling the camp site.

outdoor pan cooking beef
Photo Credit: Sam Elliott

We also like cooking over the campfire because it is a slow and easy process. Once you get past the initial sear of the veggies and beef, the heat of the coals does all the work, while you sit around and wait to chow down.

Ingredients

  • 2lbs stew beef patted dry
  • 4-5 strips of bacon diced small
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 table spoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ 1 table spoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3 sliced medium carrots
  • ½ cup celery diced
  • 2 table spoons salted butter
  • ¼ of Flour
  • 2 cup bold red wine – Cabernet, Bordeaux, Malbec, or Pino Noir in a pinch.
  • 32oz can diced tomatoes
  • 32oz Beef stock
Cutting veggies
Photo Credit: Sam Elliott

Cooking Equipment

Hot coals and cast iron pan
Photo Credit: Sam Elliott

Prepare Your Fire

To make this recipe we are going to use your campsite’s fire pit or grill but we aren’t going to use firewood. We are going to use a bag of Charcoal. We like Kingsford original. Make sure it is not quick light and is lighter fluid free. We can’t stress this enough, don’t use lighter fluid to get your fire going! Using lighter fluid will leave your stew with a chemical flavor no one will like. Instead, get a charcoal chimney and light your charcoal bricks with ease.

Cast iron pan on coals
Photo Credit: Sam Elliott

Once you have those coals white hot, now it is time to cook. Pour the charcoal into your fire-pit or grill and try to keep a uniform pile so that your dutch oven can rest directly on top of the coals. Do not put the lid on. Make sure to reserve enough hot coals so that you can make a nice ring of coals around the lid of the dutch oven when you put the lid on.

It will only take a few minutes to get warm. When you put your hand over the surface of the dutch oven and can’t hold it there for more much longer than three seconds, you are ready to cook.

Sear, Sear, Sear!

In order to get the best flavor, we are going to get a good base going at the bottom of your dutch oven. This means we will be cooking the ingredients and then taking them out to cook the others before mixing everything in and cooking the stew. Let’s get started!

  1. Add your bacon to the dutch oven and don’t add any oil. When the bacon is golden brown, remove and set aside.
  2. Next, add the onions in and let them sweat for 5 to 10 minutes. You don’t want to burn or blacking the edges, just get them nicely caramelized.
  3. Once they are nicely browned, slide the onions all over into the corner of your dutch oven and add in your butter.
  4. Once butter begins to bubble, add your mushrooms right on top of it. These mushrooms will take just a second but will quickly soak up the butter. Don’t panic if the bottom of your dutch oven suddenly looks a lot dryer as those mushrooms are soaking up the liquids and some tremendous flavors along with it. When the mushrooms are nicely browned remove them and the onions. You can put them in the same plate as the bacon.
  5. Now let’s get some more aromatics going and add in your carrots. Let the carrots cook for a minute or so and also add in the celery. You probably won’t need more than about 3-5 minutes, your goal is just to get a nice color on these veggies.
  6. Remove the celery and carrots to the same plate as your other reserved ingredients.
  7. Time for the meat! It is important that the meat be patted dry before you dust with flour and sear. This will let you get that golden brown sear. Make sure that you just use a light dusting of flour because the flour will burn more quickly than the meat. Once your meat is in the pot don’t stir it around. Let it sit and get browned 2-3 minutes.
  8. Once you are sure you are golden browned (but not burnt) turn all your pieces with your tongs, add your diced garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. With the meat nicely browned, remove it with the rest of your ingredients.

Now we Deglaze

Hot pan with wine reduction
Photo Credit: Sam Elliott

Tasty Tip: Deglazing is the process of removing all the tasty brown bits of food that we left in the bottom while cooking the ingredients. This is what is going to separate your Dutch oven beef stew from all the rest so do not skip this step!

  1. To deglaze, add your wine. You should use at least a cup but can use more to your tastes. Don’t worry about impacting kids or folks that don’t drink. When you cook with wine the alcohol will evaporate three times faster than water. So just keep the lid off while you are scrapping up those brown bits and let your sauce reduce by about 1/3.
  2. Once your wine deglaze has reduced, mix back in all of your ingredients. Beef, bacon, onions, all of it.
  3. To finish, add your beef stock, herbs, diced tomatoes , bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste and cover the dutch oven.
  4. Place a single row of white hot charcoal around the lid of your dutch oven and cook for 90 minutes. After that 90 minutes check it every 20 minutes or so until it looks done or until you just can’t stand to only smell the deliciousness anymore!

Depending on your wind protection, you may need to add more charcoal during your cook. This is easy with your charcoal chimney. Simply get another chimney going full of charcoal and add in more white hot bricks where you think you need them. Once your stew is ready, start scooping out bowls, pair with some crusty bread and a glass of red wine or a big IPA and you will be in camper heaven!


Young couple smiling wearing hiking gearHome While We Roam is an Atlanta, Georgia-based family who love RV life. They’ve traveled more than 15,000 miles around the United States with their red Winnebago Minnie Plus travel trailer in search of simpler living, deeper family ties and epic adventures! Find them on Instagram @homewhileweroam.


 

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