The Lost Art of Dutch Oven Cooking
LOVE the outdoors? Everything is better, even the food tastes better.
There’s only one thing that can improve when cooking outdoors, and that’s when you cook in a dutch oven. Why? Well, it gives a smokey, yummy taste like nothin else.
Nervous about it are you? No need to be. It can be a little intimidating all the fuss about what size to use, how much charcoal, and such, but I have an easy guide to walk you from start to finish.
It’s SO easy, think of it this way: Did you know that anything you can fry or bake in your kitchen, you can do in a dutch oven? It just takes a bit of practice, and a little know-how that I’ll share with you that Stan and I have learned over the years while cooking for our family, scouts, friends and large groups.
Oh, and one last thing, it’s a great alternative resource if the power goes out, so let’s get cooking!
To make it easy for you, if you click on any of the titles of suggested products/sizes of items, you will go directly to that source so you can check it out and see if it is one you would like to purchase – I’ve done the shopping for you!
Lost Art of Cooking – How To Cook In A Dutch Oven
Here’s our list of what we recommend to purchase: (remember you can click on the titles/words for easy shopping)
Useful tools and equipment
Heat Resistant Cooking Gloves to protect your hands
Dutch Oven Lid Stand is really nice to have a place to set the lid of the dutch oven so you don’t have to set it on the ground when you take if off of the dutch oven to check on the food, to hold a clean plate or serving bowl as you serve up your scrumptious delight!
Dutch Oven Lid Lifter is a MUST in handling those dutch oven lids – seriously, it’s the only way to mange it without burning yourself, or accidentally dropping ash into your food.
Charcoal Chimney Starter makes getting those charcoal briquettes going a breeze
Barbecue / Grill Tongs – Mr Grill to put the charcoal in to the chimney, also to place the hot briquettes where needed
Galvanized Charcoal and Ash Can with Lid to put your hot coals in if you are BBQ on your patio, or where small children or pets can get to them, this is really helpful
Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Table is really nice and just down-right handy so you don’t have to cook on the ground and it gives your coals shelter from any wind; which means you have much more control as you cook outdoors for fantastic food. Of course you can also use a fire pit OR heavy flat piece of metal; anything that is heat proof way, to elevate it off the ground such as the cement tree round forms we used here in our pictures.
Dutch ovens – we suggest various sizes so you can easily stack them. You may want to check these out to start with:
The many reasons to have Dutch ovens and know how to use them:
- The food tastes fabulous.
- If the power is out, a Dutch oven is another source of cooking. Just make sure that you cook with them outside. NEVER light charcoal in an enclosed area, such as a garage or inside your house as carbon monoxide gas quickly rises to dangerous levels that can be fatal.
- By stacking your Dutch ovens you can cook multiple foods at the same time.
- With practice, anything that can be prepared in a regular oven can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
- Dutch ovens are terrific for camping, picnics and outdoor entertaining.
In this post we will learn the basics of dutch oven cooking.
What to look for when buying a Dutch Oven:
A new cast iron Dutch oven can be very costly, However, garage sales, junk shops, and thrift stores are often a great source for used ones. Even a rusty old oven can be easily restored. One can save a lot of money and get a good quality Dutch oven pretty easily.
A few things to look for When buying a used Dutch oven:
- Cracks, chips, casting imperfections and rust spots
- Examine the pot and lid both inside and out
- Make sure the lid fits properly
- Make sure there is no rocking motion when the lid is on the pot
- Make sure the lid does not fit too tightly on the pot
- Check the wire bail for strength and that it moves easily
- If looking for a camping pot, then only buy a Dutch oven with legs and determine that these are in good condition
- Check the thickness of the metal – inconsistencies will mean inconsistencies when cooking
- Make sure there is a loop handle which makes it easier to pick up with a hook
- Avoid Dutch Ovens with riveted tabs
If you have purchased a ready to use Dutch oven follow these steps:
- Before using for the first time rinse with hot water but no soap, and towel dry
- Before each time cooking, prepare the cooking surface by wiping it down with vegetable oil
- After each time cooking, clean with a stiff brush under hot water with no soap and towel dry
- After it is dry and while still warm, wipe all surfaces down with oil
- Allow the oven to cool and then store in a cool dry place, do not store with the lid on top
A Dutch oven is formed as one piece, then the lid sliced off the top. The lid is unique to the oven. Make sure the lid fits properly and snug, otherwise your food won’t cook properly and it will get full of ash.
Size’s of Dutch Ovens
5 inch up to 22 or bigger
Most commonly used are
5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16
What to look for when buying a Dutch Oven
- When looking for a Dutch oven you want to take it out of the box and look for even casting and as smooth of a surface you can find.
- Check to make sure that the lid fits tight, such as you do not want it to wobble.
- A good fitting lid will help give the pressure cooker effect on main dishes and will not let the steam out.
- Also check the bail or the handle making sure that it is centered well so when you pick up the pot it is not lop sided.
Seasoning a Dutch Oven
Most Dutch ovens come pre-seasoned and only need to be washed with a little bit of soap (just this one time) and hot water.
- After washing set it on a heat source (like your stove top or camp stove) and let it dry completely.
- You can wipe it with a little shortening or Cast Iron Conditioner at this time and then let it cool and put away.
- You do not have to grease it every time you use and wash it, just when it looks like it needs it.
- If you have a pot that is not pre-seasoned, it has a wax coating that needs to come off.
- Wash the pot and lid with hot soapy water, rinse well and dry off with paper towels.
- Coat the entire pot and lid with a thin layer of shortening and place them in a 450-500 degree bar-B –Q grill upside down (so the shortening will not pool) on the rack, shut lid and leave in there for one hour.
- Turn off heat and leave in grill till cool. This should create a nice black patina on the cast iron.
If you are not satisfied with the results, repeat the process over.
You can do this procedure in your home oven but it smells and smokes up the house. Just open a few windows!
We like to use “The rule of Three” to gauge our temperature.
Take the size of your pot, for instance you have a 12 inch pot you would add three to the number 12 and put 15 coals on top and subtract three from 12 and place 9 coals underneath the pot.
This will give you about a 325 degree oven.
If you want a 350 degree oven, you would add one coal to the top and one coal to the bottom.
Doing this will increase the temperature 25 degrees. To decrease the temperature, simply remove 2 coals.
Coals are ready when the shoulders or edges are gray.
If you wait for the whole coal to be gray they will not last as long, this is when we say that they are “spent”.
Coals usually last for at least an hour to an hour and a half
Cleaning a Dutch Oven
After you are done with your meal and ready to clean up, put some hot water in your pot and use a scraper to loosen all the food.
Dump out water and put more hot water in the pot.
Use a plastic scrubber to clean it out well.
Dump out the dirty water again and then rinse completely with hot water.
Place the pot on a heat source and let it dry out completely.
Now you can give it a thin coat of shortening or Cast Iron Conditioner applied with a paper towel.
Let it cool.
If you do not have a cover for your Dutch oven, place a folded paper towel – half in and half out in the pot -and place the lid on top and cock it. You will want air to circulate while stored.
If you have a cover for you Dutch oven, place the lid right side up in the bottom of cover and then sit the pot on top of the lid.
Always store your Dutch ovens in a dry area.
Converting The Temperature
With a little practice, any food can be properly cooked in a Dutch oven, it’s important to understand how to bring the oven to the right temperature.
Here is a handy chart to help with the temperature so food will cook evenly and properly; cakes, roasts, chicken dishes, virtually anything can be deliciously conjured by adjusting the number of briquettes to match the required heat called for in your recipe.
Here’s how it works:
What Size Dutch Oven Do I Use?
Multiple Dutch Ovens aren’t generally necessary. However a set of varying sized pots can be helpful. Get what best suits your needs. Here is a great chart to help you when figuring servings and what size pots to buy.
Cooking with charcoal is VERY HOT, so use extreme care and keep children and animals away and at a very safe distance. Use caution yourself with proper tools since you will be working with very high temperatures when the charcoal is lit. 1- Place the charcoal starter/basket onto a Dutch oven table OR heavy piece of metal that is elevated.
These cement tree rings that are set to be opposite each other work perfectly. There needs to be air circulating underneath, which is why they must be up off the ground.
2- Fill the Charcoal Starter with charcoal.
3- Stuff wadded up newspaper underneath the charcoal basket. This will be the source of flame to light the charcoal. Lighter fluid can be used, but the newspaper method is better and cheaper.
4- Light the newspaper through the holes at the bottom of the charcoal basket.
As the newspaper lights, the smoke will rise.
5- Continue carefully stuffing wads of newspaper through the holes as the paper burns down.
6- When the edges are white, the charcoal is ready to use.
Note: Charcoal at the bottom of the bucket will be burning much hotter than those at the top; watch so as not to burn those down too much.To Begin
Once your food is in the pot, place the Dutch oven on the metal plate OR a Dutch oven table OR in a fire pit – make sure to cook in a prepared and SAFE area and that children are not able to access it.
The coals and ovens are HOT. (photo shows the coals already under the oven and on top, which I will now explain)
Carefully, with long tongs, take lit charcoal from the charcoal chimney and place the number you desire on the metal plate, Dutch oven table or pit; using recipe or chart above. Notice how they are touching and the white lite corners are sure to touch unlit ones. This allows for more cooking time as the lite coals burn down the unlit ones lite and burn through. Now place the Dutch oven on top of the lit coals.
Next, place the coals on top of the lid of the Dutch oven needed for the recipe.
Dutch ovens can be stacked allowing for different size ovens cooking at different temperatures.Stacking saves space and is economical too.
Be sure and discard coals into a coal bucket or a safe place such as a charcoal barbecue grill when finished.
It’s a good idea to have a large bucket of water near by for discarding the hot coals when finished cooking.Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2015
My thanks to Nancy Rappleye for sharing with me information from her presentation she did a few years ago on the subject; and allowing me to include it in this post.
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today
For More Posts On This Topic: