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Welcome to Dutch Oven Cooking

dutch-oven-towerWelcome to the wonderful world of Dutch oven cooking. For those of you who are experienced with black pot cooking I hope you find this page informative and enjoyable. For the beginner my hope is that this short article will help you on your way to enjoy the world of Dutch ovens. Once you have a bit of experience I am sure we can all agree that there is nothing you can’t cook in the campsite or your backyard that you can cook at home.

The Dutch oven is a complete kitchen on its own. The Dutch oven can be used with wood fires, charcoal and propane stoves. The heat source is not as important as how much you use for what you are cooking. The placement of the heat is also vitally important as to what type of dish you are preparing. For frying or stewing you need all or most of the heat on the bottom and for baking the majority of the heat is on the top.

Question may be is how much heat do I need? Most Dutch oven recipes call for 350* . One easy way is to use a 3-2 method. This is based on the size of the oven for example when using a 12" oven add 3 to the diamater for the amount of coals on top and subtract 2 from the diamater for coals on the bottom. This totals to 25 coals to reach 350* on 12" Dutch oven . Should you need more or less heat than 350* then add or reduce your charcoal based on 15* per briquette.

Please refer to the chart below for more information on temperature and number of briquettes per size of your oven.

Dutch Oven Temprature Chart

Oven 325°F 350°F 375°F 400°F 425°F 450°F
8-Inch 15(10/5) 16(11/5) 17(11/6) 18(12/6) 19(13/6) 20(14/6)
10-Inch 19(13/6) 21(14/7) 23(16/7) 25(17/8) 27(18/9) 29(19/10)
12-Inch 23(16/7) 25(17/8) 27(18/9) 29(19/10) 31(21/10) 33(22/11)
14-Inch 30(20/10) 32(21/11) 34(22/12) 36(24/12) 38(25/13) 40(26/14)
16-Inch 34(22/12) 36(24/12) 38(25/13) 40(28/14) 42(28/14) 44(30/14)

When using briquettes, ignite them about 15-20 minutes before you need them. Arrange them on the lid and under the oven in a circular pattern so they are at least 1/2" inside the ovens outer edge. Top or bottom, do not bunch them as they can cause "hot spots' that can burn the contents.

To prevent small "hot spot" problems in cooking lift and rotate the oven a quarter turn every 10-15 minutes, and then rotate the lid a quarter turn in the opposite direction.

Now you know how many briquettes to use so where do you put them? As it was mentioned earlier in frying all the briquettes are under the oven. When you are stewing the rule is 70% on the bottom and 30% on top. However when you are baking be sure to use 70% of your charcoal on top of the oven and 30% on the bottom.

DUTCH OVEN TIP #1- When baking in a Dutch oven always create an airspace between the inside bottom of the oven and the bottom of the item you are baking. This will help prevent the burning of your biscuit bottoms and make your pan de campo worth bragging about. You can use foil balls, rocks or commercial trivets, just make sure the Dutch oven and your baking pan is level.

Be watchful of the quality of your briquettes as you are cooking and replace them as needed as they turn to ash and your heat will be affected. Always keep a fresh supply of charcoal ready to be used.

Please keep in mind that Dutch ovens become very hot as they are being used and cooks should always were gloves when working around the fire pit and Dutch ovens.

A lid lifter is a tool that can be used to lift the lid of the Dutch oven for inspection or adding ingredients. A Dutch oven lid should always be turned a quarter of turn when replaced on the pot this helps seal the lid to the pot.

DUTCH OVEN TIP# 2- When cooking with a Dutch oven it is best NOT to use metal utensils to tend to the food. Wood or high quality plastic is best. Keep in mind that metal will damage the “patina” of the oven and make harder to clean and possibly rust.

Another valuable tool around the Dutch oven is a paint brush. The brush is used to clean the top of the oven of ash and small charcoal pieces that could fall or be blown into your oven when the lid is removed for inspection. Always handle lids carefully as they are very hot and never set them on the ground while working with your pot, because whatever is on the ground is now going to be in your food.

DUTCH OVEN TIP #3- Use three METAL tent stakes to create a lid rest near your cooking site so you can place your lid on top while you work with your pot. Just drive the stakes into the soil in a triangular pattern deep enough to give your lid clearance from the ground.

Cleaning a Dutch oven is not hard at all but must be done properly to protect the life and quality of your oven, not to mention your meal. Once you are done with the oven pour about two inches of water into the oven. Be very careful not to put cold water into a hot Dutch oven because this may cause it to crack. Place the oven back on the heat and boil the water. Using nylon bristled brush scour the inside of the pot to remove any food particles not removed by the boiling water. Be sure and scrub the lid of the pot inside and out as well. Once the pot is cleaned, remove all water and again place the pot on the heat to dry the water from the pores of the pot. Once the pot is smoking, remove it from the heat and apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the pot inside and out. This will season the pot and create the “patina” discussed earlier which will protect the oven from the elements and will being used. Once the oven has been seasoned let it cool naturally.

DUTCH OVEN TIP #4- Never use soap when cleaning a Dutch oven. Dutch ovens are made of cast iron which is a porous material that will absorb the soap. Once soap is in the oven it will come out while a meal is being cooked and put a Twang in your roast beef you really did plan on being there.

The last step in becoming a Dutch Oven Culinary Specialist is to find a favorite recipe, get your chuck box ready to go, light up some charcoal and give it a go. You’ll never learn without taking a chance and making a few mistakes but it will all be worth while when you sit down to dinner.

See you round the fire pit!

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