Dutch oven cooking is extremely fun, and a great way to cook meals when you’re outside in the backyard or camping at your favorite locale. There are plenty of recipes available online and in dedicated dutch oven cookbooks, and you can always try your hand at adapting a few of your favorite meals to cook them in a dutch oven. With a little know-how and some basic accessories, you’ll be on your way to cooking like an expert in no time!
So to explain the basics of dutch oven cooking...a heat source such as charcoal or firewood generates the heat you’d normally get from your stove, to cook your meals inside a cast iron pot. Normally this pot sits right on the ground surrounded by the heat or hung slightly above it. Delicious outdoor meals with no stove or oven needed.
You start by lighting a bunch of charcoal briquets and give them a little bit of time to turn into nice, toasty coals. They’re used as the heat to cook whatever is on your menu. How many briquets you need depends on the size of your dutch oven and the temperature you need for your recipe; approximately two-thirds are placed on the lid to create top heat, the other one-third go beneath your dutch oven to generate heat from the bottom.
Okay, now we’ve talked about the basics, let’s touch on what you actually need to buy to get started.
If you don’t already own a dutch oven, you’ll need to purchase one. A good dutch oven is made from heavy cast iron and has a heavy, tight-fitting lid. They can be smooth on the bottom - making them well suited to using inside on your stovetop - or they can have legs that get them slightly up off the ground when using them outdoors. Look for one that does not have an enamel coating with thick sidewalls and bottom.
Dutch ovens come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 1-quart teeny tiny things all the way up to ones that have a 13.5-quart capacity. While there are specific uses for the really big ones and the really small ones, it’s best to start off buying one that can be used for a variety of recipes. For most families of four, a 6-quart dutch oven is a great starter piece. You can use it to cook main meals, desserts, and even some bread. As you get more experienced you may find yourself wanting to purchase smaller or larger sizes to accommodate different recipes.
To get started on your dutch oven adventures, you’ll want to purchase a few things. These aren’t all necessities, but they will make cooking easier. At the minimum buy a lid lifter and a set of gloves for cooking outdoors. You’ll appreciate having them.
When cooking with a Dutch oven outside or when camping, most people use charcoal as a heat source instead of firewood since charcoal is easier to control the heat. A chimney starter is an easy way to get charcoal briquettes lit and create the coals you need to cook with.
You’re first thought is that you’re going to need tongs to move food around. You’re somewhat right, but you need a pair of extra-long tongs to move your coals around after you get the charcoal burning. The longer the better to keep your hands from the heat.
One of the advantages of using cast iron for cooking is that once it heats up, it stays hot for a long time. Buy a pair of heavy-duty, heat resistant gloves so you can move your dutch oven when your food is done cooking.
To prevent the top of your dish from scorching because of the charcoal on the lid it’s necessary to periodically rotate the lid. A lid lifter makes this process easier than trying to rotate the lid using gloves. An 18-24” long handle keeps your hands away from the heat when you need spin the lid or remove it completely to check on your food.
One of the worst things is when you take the lid off your dutch oven to check on food or stir it and there’s no clean place to set the lid down! The thing is heavy and it’s covered in charcoal. Having a nifty lid stand to set your lid on will keep it clean and prevent having ashes knocked everywhere.trivet rack lifts the food up off the bottom of the Dutch oven to keep the underside from scorching. It can also be used to smoke meats with wood chips or steam veggies for a healthy side dish.
That’s pretty much it! Go out and get yourself a dutch oven and the accessories you want. Then buy yourself a couple of dutch oven cookbooks, or check out some websites online to figure out some easy recipes and start cooking! The more experience you get, the more involved your meals will become, and the more fun you’ll have.