Dutch Oven Cooking 101

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 14, 2010

range. Guessing at the settings would make cooking anything a hit-or-miss proposition at best.

Choosing an Oven

Generally when we speak of an outdoor Dutch oven, we mean a heavy, rough surface cast iron pot with three 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.

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.

4 NECESSARY ACCESSORIES

A few high-quality accessories are absolutely critical 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 kitc hen tongs Food-service supply stores sell these for $2 or $3. They allow you to position charcoal briquettes without burning your knuckles.
  3. Welder’s gloves Or gloves made especially for camp cooking protect your hand when handling hot gear.
  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.

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—

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