Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dutch Oven Cooking


If you or your children have been involved in scouting, then you've probably seen a Dutch oven. But, for those who've never seen one it's best described as a "cast iron" pot.

Lewis and Clark used them to prepare food during their expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. Cowboys used them on cattle drives and they are popular with campers to prepare a tasty meal around an open campfire after a day of hiking, canoeing, or swimming.

Choosing an Oven

There are many brands of Dutch ovens manufactured by Camp Chef, Lodge, and MACA and many others. You can purchase Dutch ovens at most large sporting goods stores and I've seen them at garage sales and flea markets.

Many aspiring Dutch oven cooks have been introduced to cast iron cooking by a close relative. If you ask around amongst your family members you might find out that your father, uncle or grandfather has one stashed away someplace just waiting to be re-discovered.

Lodge is probably the most well-recognized brand name in cast iron cooking equipment. A Lodge pot costs more than most, but with Lodge you are not only purchasing a cooking utensil; you're getting a family heirloom. As an example, it's not uncommon for Lodge cast iron pots and skillets to be handed down from generation to generation, spanning many, many decades. During a recent visit to my mother's house, she showed me a Lodge skillet that is more than 100 years old that she received from my grandmother.

I recommend purchasing a Dutch oven with legs on the bottom. The legs will elevate the oven just enough that you can cook by placing charcoal briquettes directly underneath the oven without the pot becoming unstable or "wobbly". Cast iron ovens come in varying sizes ranging from 8" (2 quart capacity) to 16" (12 quart capacity) and in depths ranging from 3" to 5" depending on whether you choose a "deep" oven; typically deeper than 4"; or a standard size oven in the 3" - 4" range.

The depth will determine the type and quantity of food you can cook in the oven. A deeper oven provides room for larger cuts of meat or poultry such as rib roasts, whole chickens, and hams. As a reference point, I have cooked two cornish hens in my 10" Lodge. The birds did touch the lid slightly, but not enough to keep it from closing tightly. My 12" will accomodate a whole chicken and up to four cornish hens.

The MacScouter and Byron's Dutch Oven Cooking were used in researching this article.

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