Dutch Oven Cooking 101
(this is a compilation from several web sites and my own experiences, and sorry it is a little on the long side).
FIRST AND FOREMOST, DUTCH OVEN COOKING IS NOT AS HARD TO DO AS IT FIRST SOUNDS. SECONDLY,
It gives you a lot of social contact with whomever you are cooking with, i.e. friends, family etc. b/c you have to sort of babysit most meals while they are cooking. THIRD,
usually the guys cook (little bride loves this) and the women folk assist or sit back and be entertained while we try to "one up" someone else. We have in the past had get together's and have a "cocktail" hour while preparing our meals. We have never had a dull moment while cooking a meal "Dutch Oven" style, and I always seem to learn a new technique or trick.
James Rogers (Airforums member) held an Air Stream - Dutch Oven Rally
last Oct. We had an excellent time. Check out his thread (see his thread, same name), and he has also posted some pictures. Additionally, he is putting together another one this year, "DUTCHSTREAM 2010 RALLY", September 30 - October 3, 2010 at Ripplin' Waters Campground & Cabin Rentals, Sevierville, Tennessee. To make reservations call 1-888-747-7546. We are planning to attend this one also, and have been "recruiting" more friends to go. It's too much fun, and too easy. The last one, we got a tour of the Bush Bean Factory.
You can cook anything in a Dutch oven that you can cook on your gas or electric range and
oven at home. This belief is supported by history. A friend met us at the Dutch Oven Rally last Oct. in Sevierville Tennessee, who had never used one, by the end of the weekend, he had, I believe, either three or four Dutch Ovens. One morning he and his wife had produced the best tasting pull apart "Monkey Bread" we had ever had.
Originally, dutch ovens were not the flat-bottomed variety that city folks placed on iron grates in fireplaces. Pioneer ovens had legs to hold them above glowing coals pulled out of the campfire. With ovens like the pioneers had, you too, can cook fantastic meals. You could even do it with coals from a wood fire (which is where I first began to learn), but there is an easier way that makes successful Dutch oven cooking possible, even for greenhorns, that would be to use charcoal briquettes. I have some with "legs" and some without. Both work equally well, but with flat bottomed ones you need a heavy duty trivet or iron grate to set it on.
Most problems with Dutch oven cooking arise because they don’t come with thermostats. Imagine what would happen if you lost all the dials on an electric kitchen range. Guessing at the settings would make cooking anything a hit-or-miss proposition at best.
Choosing a Dutch Oven: Generally when we speak of an outdoor Dutch oven, we mean a heavy, rough surface cast iron pot with three feet (But I also use one without the feet). The pot should have a long heavy-gauge wire handle attached to the sides that is called a bail. The lid of the pot should fit tightly and have a lip that will hold coals without them falling into your food and a handle on top that can be picked up with a lid lifter.
Your first outdoor Dutch oven probably should be one of standard depth — about 4 or 5 inches. It is tempting to buy deeper ovens, because they hold more. Deep ovens are great for large quantities of stew or big roasts. However, the lid-to-bottom distance of deep ovens makes baking breads, cakes or biscuits almost impossible. We think Lodge Dutch Ovens to be the best.
A standard 10-inch diameter oven makes enough casserole to serve three or four people. A 12-incher will feed a large family. A 16-inch oven requires a large family just to lift it when full. (we have an 8-incher for side dishes).
4 NECESSARY ACCESSORIES
A few high-quality accessories are absolutely critical (but not always necessary) to Dutch oven cooking success. Don’t skimp on these items!1. Lid lifter
Test its function before buying. You should be able to remove a Dutch oven lid easily with enough control to hold the lid vertical and shake off ashes.
2. Extra-long kitchen tongs
Food-service supply stores sell these for $2 or $3. They allow you to position charcoal briquettes without burning your knuckles. I use a basic set of barbecue tongs.
3. Welder’s gloves
Or gloves made especially for camp cooking protect your hand when handling hot gear. A kitchen oven mitt does work, but the cast iron can burn through easily, I have used them in a pinch.
4. Poultry-watering pans
Farm-supply stores sell these 16-inch wide, 5-inch deep metal pans. Get three per oven. Start charcoal in one. Place your oven in another while cooking. The sides of the pan keep wind from blowing away precious heat. They also allow you to dispose of charcoal ashes neatly after cooking. The third pan, placed upside-down beneath the pan and oven, allows you to cook without causing permanent damage to grass or pavement. I got three pans from Walmart in the dog food section, they work equally as well (and I think I paid about $3 apiece).
7 RULES TO SUCCESS
The key to successful outdoor Dutch oven cooking is knowing the temperature of your oven. The secret to this knowledge is charcoal.
Rule No. 1
Charcoal briquettes produce more uniform heat than campfire coals. They last longer, too. Brand-name briquettes have more consistent quality than bargain brands. More important, they are consistent in size— about 2 inches square — which is important for predictable heat.
Rule No. 2
Once you know this, everything else falls into place. Take your oven’s diameter in inches and double it. This is the number of high-quality, standard-size charcoal briquettes you will need to heat your oven to 325 degrees every time.
- For a 10-inch oven, you need 20 briquettes.
- For a 12-incher, you need 24 briquettes, and so on.
It’s that simple.
Individual Dutch ovens vary slightly in cooking temperature with the same amount of charcoal, depending on their shape and thickness. These guidelines get you close enough so that, with practice, you can discover exactly what works for your oven.
Rule No. 3
Because heat rises, briquettes heat the bottom of a Dutch oven more than the top. Consequently, you will need to divide your briquettes between the top and bottom for even heating. How many more briquettes will you need on top? About twice as many — two-thirds up, one-third down.
Rule No. 4
- To heat a 10-inch oven to 325 degrees, you need seven briquettes below the oven and 13 on top.
- To heat a 12-incher, you need eight below and 16 on top.
Briquettes should be spaced evenly below the bottom of the oven. On top, place one briquette on each side of the center handle and space the rest evenly around the perimeter.
No matter how evenly you space briquettes on the bottom of the oven, there will be hot spots. To compensate for this, lift the entire oven and turn it 90 degrees every 15 minutes (say clockwise), and turn the lid 90 degrees in the opposite direction (counterclockwise).
Rule No. 5
Some recipes call for temperatures higher or lower than 325 degrees. To change oven temperature by 25 degrees, add or subtract two briquettes.
If you want to bake biscuits at 375 degrees, add four briquettes to the number used for a 325-degree oven.
To slow-cook venison chili at 250 degrees, remove six briquettes.
Add or remove two-thirds of the briquettes from the top and the remainder from the bottom to maintain even heat.
Rule No. 6
Charcoal briquettes last about 30 minutes. When recipes call for longer cooking, start replacement charcoal early to avoid temperature drops.
Rule No. 7
Baked goods tend to cook faster on the bottom than on top. To avoid overcooking the bottom or under-cooking the top, remove the oven from the bottom charcoal after two-thirds of the baking time has elapsed. The bottom of the oven retains enough heat to finish the job while the top browns.
During these cold winter days, when your just bored out of your gourd, serf the Internet and look up some articles on Dutch Oven cooking. Bring one if your interested, and I will try to give anyone some help getting started if they want. USER BEWARE!
, I am by no means an expert
, rather a novice
who just enjoys getting together with others, who enjoy eating good food, and having a good time while preparing it, as opposed to always "just showing up" at a gathering with a cooked meal. I hope this has interested a few to try, and worth considering. If I can answer any more questions, just contact me.
SEE YA'LL AT D & B RALLY!