If you’re headed to high camp this season, there’s a good chance that many of your meals will be cooked in a Dutch oven.And while most of us think of a Dutch oven as a heavy stew pot, anything that can be prepared in a conventional oven can be done in a Dutch oven. I’m talking breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. If you’ve ever been to a Dutch oven cook-off, you’ve seen everything from frittatas to cheesecakes beautifully prepared in this versatile Cast iron cookware.
Dutch oven aficionados are passionate, and perhaps a little cultish about their craft. They’ll engage in heated discussions about how many briquettes should go on top and bottom, the best way to condition cast iron and how they refuse to share their “secret” recipes. As with any time you get a bunch of outdoor types together, there’s always plenty of friendly competition as they test the limits of Dutch oven cooking. From what I’ve seen, the sky’s the limit.
I think a lot of people feel like Dutch oven cooking is more complicated than it is. When it comes to controlling the internal temperature, there is a bit of a learning curve and I’m no stranger to overheating my Dutch oven and burning the bejeezus out of what was inside the pot. But I’ve since got it figured out. In general, you want to put twice as many coals on top than on the bottom. That creates the oven and, by using less on the bottom, you’re less likely to burn what’s inside. For a 350 degree 12-inch Dutch oven, place 17 hot briquettes on top and 8 on the bottom. If you want it hotter, like for frying, place a few more on the bottom and a few less on top.
Most cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned, but eventually you’ll have to recondition it. When properly conditioned, the surface is as non-stick as the best high-dollar cookware. There’s actually less maintenance involved with keeping your cast iron conditioned than the expensive pots and pans. Best of all, I don’t care if you find a cast iron skillet that has been buried for 20 years, with a little elbow grease, it can be as good as new. Take this from someone who is an admitted pan-abuser.
VIDEO - C. W. “Cee Dub” Welch perfected his Dutch oven cooking skills during a thirty-plus year career doing wildlife research and as an Idaho game warden. His knowledge of cast iron cooking runs deep. He’s got cookbooks, a website and makes numerous personal appearances around the country. In the video, he shows how to bring an abused Dutch oven back to life.
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