One constant hazard for dutch oven cooking is ash. Charcoal burns, producing ash. When it gets in the food… well, it ensures that people won’t come back for more. Fortunately, learning to control ash isn’t hard.
One of the easiest ways to control ash is with a good lid lifter. This will give greater control when handling a lid with coals and ash on top. There are two general designs of dutch oven lid lifters. One thing that we quickly discovered is that different types of lid lifters behave differently.
We initially purchased a cast iron set that included a Camp Chef lifter (pictured right). This has turned out to be better than most of the one-piece designs. Generally, these designs suffer from the fact that one has to play with balance and leverage a little to keep the lid from tipping ash ink your food. Some people prefer this type, but most find the Mair design (below) superior. Regardless of your preference, the Camp Chef lifter is essential for safely moving our larger frying pans, which have the loop opposite the handle for just this purpose.
The “Cadillac” of lid lifters, is the Mair lid lifter (pictured left). This design, while larger, allows you to solidly grip the lid tightly with negligible effort. It has four points of contact. Three legs sit on the lid, and a fourth is a hook that pulls the lid tightly against the three legs. The hook is operated by squeezing the hand grip. This eliminates the tricky balancing sometimes needed with the other designs. The drawback is that it is bigger and in some people’s eyes cumbersome.
For quick tasks such as rotating an oven, I can agree that the smaller, simpler lid lifters are handy tools. When I want to control ash, such as when I want to remove the lid, I’m a bit of a “butter fingers” and prefer the solid grip of the Mair design.
Fortunately, all of the outdoor supply stores that I’ve been in have had both lids and lifters on display, and I’ve been able to play with both designs. I hope that you have that opportunity also. Regardless, neither lid lifter design carries a high price tag, and you’ll not go wrong acquiring one of each.