Dutch Oven Cooking

  • Shared Cooking Secrets
  • Old Fashioned Cooking in Modern Times
  • It’s All About the Taste!

By Rich Creason

Cast iron skillet on left, Dutch oven (lid behind) and deep skillet with glass lid (great for frying chicken).  Rich Creason Photo

Many guys (and some of the ladies) enjoy outdoor cooking over hot coals.  A steak cooked on the patio grill tastes excellent.  Even at the campgrounds we travel to, most of the guests will have some type of grill for steaks or hamburgers.  Some people even cook potatoes and corn on the grill.  Of course, I’m different.  My outdoor cooking is done over (and under!) hot coals.  I do mine in a cast iron Dutch oven.

Dutch ovens were brought to this country when it was new.  Cast iron skillets and other pots and pans were also used, but the oven is the most versatile.  Nearly anything you can cook at home, on or in your stove, can be fixed in this cooking pot – from meat to pies and cakes.

A true Dutch oven will have three legs on the bottom so the container will be raised above the coals.  It will have a flat lid on the inside which can be turned over to use as a griddle for frying eggs, pancakes, or meat, and have a flanged lid on the outside to hold hot coals on top.  The lid will have a handle in the center which can be used for lifting (with the proper tool).  The oven will also have a heavy wire bail for carrying when empty or full of delicious food.

My favorite is a 12-inch diameter Dutch oven made by Lodge Manufacturing Company   (I have three of these).  Other sizes are available if you have another preference.  Lodge also has cast iron skillets, griddles, cornbread molds and accessories such as lid lifters, heavy gloves and more.  These items may be purchased at many Mountain Man Rendezvous like the ones held at Friendship, Indiana, sporting goods outlets, or better hardware stores.  Taken care of properly, your Lodge cast iron selection should last a lifetime.

Season your new oven by thoroughly washing it.  Allow it to air dry.  Next, coat the inside surfaces with a thin layer of salt-free cooking oil.  Then heat up in your indoor oven or over an outside fire for about an hour over moderate heat.  When done, again wipe the surface with oil.  Keep the lid off except when cooking to prevent moisture condensation inside.  After cooking, never clean with soap as it will fill the pores and get in the food next time.  Use hot water and a soft plastic scrubber.  Heat dry it. When cool again, reapply more oil.  Never cool with cold water as it may crack or warp the metal.

Dutch ovens can be used for browning, frying, steaming, baking, deep-frying, and more.  Stew is one of my favorite meals fixed in a Dutch oven.  Meat chunks, potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, tomatoes, or whatever I have available, plus liquid made from two cups water and four bouillon cubes are what I use.  I cook it for two to three hours.  About thirty minutes before we eat, I cut up two cans of refrigerated biscuits on top of the stew, replace the lid, and get my plate ready.  Wild game is excellent in it and some people even cook beef or other weird meats in it.

For dessert, I pour two cans of fruit pie filling in the bottom of another oven, cover with two boxes of white or yellow cake mix, then cut up two sticks of butter on top of that.  No stirring of ingredients.  The cobbler needs about twenty charcoal briquettes, (hot) below the pot and 15 on top.  It should be done in 45 minutes.  Many Dutch oven recipe books are available in the library or at stores which sell Lodge cookware.

Dutch ovens have been around for hundreds of years.  There has to be a good reason why.  Try one and find out for yourself.

The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.