The Art of Dutch Oven Cooking

by
Louie in Ohio
Survival Blog



When I think
of Dutch Oven cooking I usually have visions of campfires and Scout
Camp, of apple cobbler and savory stews. But as I further my preparations
for TEOTWAWKI
I realize that I want my Dutch ovens at my retreat.

Any heavy pot
with lid can be used and called a Dutch oven. But when I say Dutch
oven I am referring to the three legged cast iron (or aluminum)
covered pot that is normally used outdoors.

Much of the
information I give you is basic and you may wish to explore these
topics in depth. One of the best sources of information would be
your state’s Dutch Oven Society. There you can find classes,
recipes and knowledgeable people.

My first introduction
to the outdoor art of Dutch oven cooking was at a Boy Scout Leader
Introduction to Outdoor Skills class.

The aromas
coming from the cooking fires on that autumn morning are still in
my memory.

I purchased
my first Dutch oven soon after returning home from that training
weekend. Years later my collection has grown to fourteen Dutch ovens
and now I usually teach that class at the training once or twice
a year.

Not only does
food taste better cooked outdoors, it tastes better yet when cooked
in a good quality Dutch oven.

Let me help
you avoid some mistakes and perhaps some disappointments in buying
and using a Dutch oven.

As I said earlier,
I definitely want Dutch ovens at my retreat. You can bake bread,
pies, cakes, and biscuits. You can make stews, casseroles, and other
dishes. A Dutch oven can act as a type of pressure cooker to tenderize
tougher meats.

Buying Your
Dutch Oven

Like any tool,
quality counts!

If I could
have only one Dutch oven I would buy a quality, name brand, twelve
inch cast iron, three legged oven with a rimmed lid. By rimmed lid
I mean a mostly flat lid that has a raised rim around the edge.
This rim helps to hold coals during the cooking process. FYI, some
Dutch ovens have a domed lid, some with points on the inside which
helps in self-basting. While these have their place and use, I would
stick with the campfire style oven.

There are
many brands of ovens on the market. The most common is probably
Lodge. They are US made and excellent quality. My first oven was
a Lodge.

Camp Chef
also offers ovens in a variety of sizes and styles. I believe that
they are now all Chinese made. I do have some and like them very
much.

Cabela’s offers
Dutch ovens under their own name. Like everything from Cabela’s,
they are great. Also they have one of the best Customer Service
Departments anywhere.

There are
other brands out there, some custom made, and some junk. I have
one of those junkers and use it fairly often. It just doesn’t
cook evenly or retain its finish. It is however expendable and that
matters when teaching Boy Scouts how to cook in one.

You should
be able to purchase a good quality twelve inch Dutch oven for less
than $80 USD. It would be frugal of you to pick it up at the store
if you can versus having it shipped, as they are quite heavy.

Your New
Dutch Oven

After you
have unpacked your Dutch oven you will notice one of two things:

  1. Your oven
    has a nice black finish or
  2. Your oven
    looks like raw metal

If the former,
all you need to do before using is to wash it, as it is already
seasoned. More and more ovens are coming seasoned from the manufacturer.
NEVER USE SOAP ON A SEASONED DUTCH OVEN! I suggest you use
warm water and baking soda. Rinse with hot water, wipe out with
a paper towel, and let air dry.

Once your oven
is clean you may use it, or put away for later use. If it is going
to be several days before you use it, or you live in a humid area,
I suggest you oil it. You may use any good grade vegetable oil.
I prefer olive oil spray like Pam. Lightly oil the oven and lid
inside and out. Take a clean paper towel and make sure the entire
oven is covered, removing excess oil.

Store your
oven with the lid ajar or the oven setting on the lid in a dry area.
Many manufacturers also make storage bags for their ovens.

If your oven
looks like raw metal then it probably has not been seasoned. Many
of the lower end ovens are raw. Also many people prefer to season
their ovens themselves.

Seasoning
a New Dutch Oven

Seasoning
is basically taking oil and baking it onto the metal giving it a
slick (almost Teflon-like) finish (patina).

Wash your
Dutch oven with HOT soapy water. Okay I know I said to never use
soap on your oven, but yours is not seasoned yet. Soap will remove
the patina on your seasoned oven and will leave a soapy taste in
food.

Scrub your
oven thoroughly with a plastic scrubber. Wash it inside and out.
You need to remove the oils used in manufacturing and those used
in protecting from rust during transit.

Rinse well
with copious amounts of hot water. I will fill my oven with water
and place it on the stove bringing it to a slow boil. Drain your
oven, towel dry with paper towels (I always use paper towels with
my ovens to avoid previous odors including fabric softeners on dish
towels). If the water was hot enough the remaining water will soon
evaporate.

With the oven
still warm lightly coat your oven with a quality pure vegetable
shortening like Crisco. Make sure the oven and lid are thoroughly
covered inside and out.

Place the
Dutch oven upside down on a rack in the kitchen oven. Place the
lid right side up on a rack. (Place foil under the oven to catch
dripping oil). Bake your oven at 350 degrees F for at least an hour
or until smoke quits coming off the Dutch oven. I usually try to
do this when my wife is away from the house. I also try to open
a window or two to help eliminate the aroma and smoke.

You can also
do this outside on your gas fired grill, although I don’t personally
think it does as good a job.

Cleaning

One of the
secrets of Dutch oven cooking is to keep your oven very clean.

Some people
will line their ovens with ready made foil liners, parchment liners
or aluminum foil. I too sometimes use these items, but usually only
when I am making a desert with a lot of sugar which tends to burn
onto the bottom of the oven. Using liners does help in the cleanup,
but it does change the taste of many foods.

After using
your oven scrape out any remaining food. I always use wooden or
plastic utensils to avoid digging into the patina. Using a plastic
scrapper is very handy at this point. Remove as much food as possible.

Wipe the oven
with a clean paper towel, adding a little warm water as necessary.
Wash the oven with another paper towel and warm water. DO NOT
USE SOAP AND DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE ELSE TO DO SO EITHER!!!

You can use
a plastic scrubber if there is a spot or two that needs extra cleaning.
Sometimes I will use table salt to scrub the oven. Make sure that
you rinse it very well as the salt will corrode the oven.

Rinse well
with hot water, wipe out with paper towels, and oil with a high
quality vegetable oil (again I prefer spray olive oil).

Note on storing:
If you use too much oil on your oven it will thicken as lighter
materials evaporate leaving a gummy mess. The oil will also turn
rancid (although that doesn’t really hurt anything). This is
why I use the olive oil cooking spray. It leaves a thinner coating
of oil.

When you heat
your oven for use the rancid oil will cook off enhancing the patina.

Refurbishing

Sometimes
you may put your oven away with moisture inside and it will rust.
If it is very minor just scour it with a plastic scouring pad or
table salt and a paper towel. Rinse, dry well, oil and use or properly
store.

A friend of
mine once brought me a beautiful fourteen inch Dutch oven that he
had been storing in an outbuilding. The roof must have leaked and
filled the oven with water. The outside was perfect but the inside
totally rusted.

There are
several ways to treat this, but my method was to get a plastic pan
large enough to put the oven in. Then I filled the oven with Classic
Coca-Cola. In about two days it was totally clean. I washed it in
hot water, dried it well and treated it as a new raw oven.

Storage

Storage is
particularly important, especially in a humid environment. Always
make sure the oven is clean, dry and oiled. Store with the lid askew
or separate from the oven. Storage bags are helpful.

I take 3-4
pieces of electrical wire about four inches long. I bend them first
in a “U” shape. Then I take one leg of the U and make
a second bend about halfway down, at 90 degrees out. I place these
over the rim of the oven with the straight part inside. Then I place
the lid on, place in the bag and store. This keeps the lid from
settling in and making a seal, trapping moisture.

I also will
place a folded paper towel in the oven to absorb moisture and/or
excess oil.

Aluminum
Dutch Ovens

I have not
mentioned anything up till now about aluminum Dutch Ovens. Some
people do not care for them, but I feel that they have a place in
Dutch oven cooking.

There are
several manufacturers who make aluminum ovens, including GSI and
Camp Chef.

Warning! Do
not
preheat an empty aluminum Dutch oven with the lid on. It
can weld shut, destroying your oven.

Some advantages
to aluminum ovens are the lesser weight, faster heat-up, and ease
of cleaning.

Just wash
your aluminum oven like any pan, in hot soapy water.

Also you do
not need to season your aluminum oven although you may if you wish.
If you do then treat it like cast iron and do not use soap in it.

I have taken
one of my aluminum Dutch ovens backpacking…try that with a
cast iron oven!

Read
the rest of the article

October
27, 2012

Copyright
© 2012 Survival
Blog