Dutch Oven Temperature Guide

How many briquettes do you use for a dutch oven (DO)?

First question is, how large is the DO? There are a few ideas on this and you will find that many people hold very strong beliefs on the correct use and care of DO’s. If I differ from your point of view, please comment and share your thoughts. If your using coals from a fire or natural lump charcoal, you will need to experiment a little as these can very greatly.

The key is practice, different oven depths and sizes affect the heat differently. Practice and eat good food, you will enjoy it.

I would recommend that until you get the hang of how this works go a little easy on the heat, you can always add more as your cooking, sometimes it hard to back off on the heat if it’s too hot. 

A common rule of thumb is for 350 degrees Fahrenheit,  multiply the diameter of DO by two, 12” diameter x 2= 24. If you need more temperature figure for each briquette added after this first number is equivalent to 25 degrees. I was taught that you add 2 briquettes to this total for 350 degrees.  You will see my results latter in this post.

As you cook you may need to add more charcoal. The briquettes will last 45 minutes to an hour and then you will need to start replacing them to keep a constant temperature. Wind can shorten the effective time.

These are just guidelines, depending on the thickness of the oven, material, wind and outside temperature, you will need to adjust as it cooks. 

Placement of coals

Placement of coals is very important. A rule of thumb is, subtract three for the bottom and add three to the top.  For a twelve inch oven place nine on the bottom and fifteen on top. 

This is purely a guideline. I would probably do this if I was making lasagna or cooking a one pot chicken dinner.  If backing cookies or pizza I would move a few more to the top. Whats nice is you can move them around as needed.

I usually like to put two or three in the middle of of the DO and a ring around the outside of the bottom and make a ring on the lid with a couple in the middle. This all depends on what you are making. Lift the lid from time to time and adjust the coals as needed. You will quickly catch on.

Rotating the oven


As you cook, rotate the oven a third of a turn and always turn it this same direction. If you decide to go clockwise a third of a turn then move the lid the same amount counter clockwise. This will make for more even heating. 

Temperature Testing

This summer I placed an oven thermometer in a DO. To start I placed twelve on the bottom and twelve on top. It took twelve on the bottom and fourteen on top to get 350 degrees. Then I added four more and got 450 degrees. The outside temperature was about 75 degrees and little to no wind. I let the oven warm up empty except for the thermometer for 20 minutes.

This was with 26 charcoal briquettes. 12 below and 14 on top.
After the 26 briquettes I added four more to the top.


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