Welcome to an awesome community of people who love good food and can cook it just about anywhere!
How do you get started?
You don’t need much to get started – a Dutch oven and a recipe! There are tons of accessories that really enhance the experience, especially cooking in the great outdoors. But you can learn the basics with just a dutch oven in your very own kitchen. This is a more controlled environment, and if something goes wrong, you don’t have a camp full of hungry cowboys who have nothing to eat. So, here are a few of the basics.
What is a Dutch oven?
Dutch ovens are just what their name implies, ovens! They are usually constructed of cast iron or aluminum. Go to our article about choosing the best dutch oven to find out which one will serve your needs.
Camping Dutch ovens have a rimmed lid to hold coals on top and legs to hold it off the coals beneath. You can buy them pre-seasoned or bare.
There are dutch ovens designed specifically for inside use. They have domed lids and are smooth-bottomed. They can be ceramic, and are sometimes referred to as French ovens. Although dutch oven cooking is commonly thought of as an outdoor activity, indoor dutch oven cooking can be delicious and very rewarding.
How does a Dutch oven work?
The cast iron takes the “point heat” from the charcoal or coals and evenly distributes the heat inside to create an “oven environment.” It also will retain it’s heat well.
Choosing a dutch oven.
The best dutch oven for you depends on where you’ll be cooking. The basic camping dutch oven is for your common outdoor cooking. Aluminum dutch ovens are usually for backpacking. And there are the indoor ovens. This is a great article describing the pros and cons of the different options. For a beginner it won’t make much of a difference what price point you choose, but if you catch the fever, like I did, you will quickly progress past the beginner stage and will wish you had a quality oven so I suggest you don’t buy too cheap to get started. For a high quality camping dutch oven, this Lodge Logic oven is a high-quality oven for a decent price. It will serve you well at any skill level.
How do You Prepare a Dutch Oven for Cooking?
With a pre-seasoned Dutch oven, there is really not much to do before you get started, wash it out with warm water and dish soap and you’re ready to go. If you have a new Dutch oven that is not pre-seasoned, you’ll need to clean and season it before use. If you have an old Dutch oven check to see if it smells rancid or if it’s rusty. Don’t worry if it is, you can restore it. These ovens are truly old school and will last forever. Go here for instructions on cleaning a rusty oven, here for instructions on sweetening a rancid oven. Even if your used Dutch oven seems fine, it wouldn’t hurt to re-season it before trying to cook with it.
How do you cook with a Dutch Oven?
A lot of Dutch oven enthusiasts claim to cook by “feel,” until you get to that point, here is a basic guide for using charcoal briquettes to get your desired temperature. You can expect quality charcoal to last about an hour in normal conditions (shorter if windy), if your cooking time is longer than that, expect to replenish the charcoal. And don’t forget to factor in the time to get the charcoal started when planning your meal. If you’re using the oven in your kitchen, set the temperature to 25 degrees above your desired temperature.
There are many recipes out there; here are a few classics that are hard to go wrong with. Whatever recipe you try, we’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment about what recipe you tried and how it went.
How do you clean, care for, and store your Dutch Oven?
When using a Dutch oven that was not pre-seasoned by the manufacturer, never use soap to clean it. Scrape as much food as you can of with a plastic spatula before scrubbing with warm or hot water. Don’t leave it wet for long as it will start to rust, heat it up to thoroughly dry it out. Lightly coat with vegetable oil before storing. When cleaning a pre-seasoned Dutch oven follow the manufacturers recommendations, usually warm soap and water. Of course, you can also use aluminum liners to make cleaning a snap.
The oven should be stored with the lid open and preferably with a paper towel inside.
What Accessories should you get for your Dutch Oven?
There are a few basic accessories that are almost required to cook outdoors with charcoal.
There are a lot of other accessories that, though not absolutely necessary, and depending on what your are cooking, will enhance the experience.
|Charcoal Starter||This is a tool that will get your charcoal started without starter fluid. This can save you quite a bit of money if you do a lot of charcoal cooking.|
|Aluminum Foil Dutch Oven Liners||Aluminum or Parchment Paper Liners – choose the one that is best suited to your needs. Not sure which one is right for you. Check out this article.|
|Measuring Spoons||Just don’t use your spouse's favorite ones.|
|Long Handle Spoon||Preferably wooden so you don’t melt a plastic one or mar the surface of your dutch oven with a metal one|
|Long Handle Knife||Good for a lot of things when your fire is hot.|
|Wood Spatula||The wood won’t melt and won’t mar.|
|Pancake Turner||For obvious purposes. Also called a spatula.|
|Aluminum Foil||Get the heavy duty kind. It holds up better and is less likely to tear and end up in your food.|
|Mixing Bowls||Preferably stainless steel and tall.|
|Paper Towels||Any ones will help, but there are heavy duty ones I would get that will help with dutch oven clean up.|
|Cooking Grate or Oven Rack||You know the thing from the bottom of your oven or the inside of your grill.|
|Can Opener||Use your imagination.|
Learn more about how to care for a Dutch oven here.