This is the second of a series of articles about how to cook in a dutch oven, dutch oven recipes, and how to season cast iron and dutch ovens by Gary House, of Cooking-Outdoors.com. A big thank-you to Gary for contributing this.
Last time we talked about the different types and sizes of Dutch ovens available to cook meals outdoors in. By now, you should have a solid idea of where to start in purchasing a Dutch oven for you and your family or perhaps you have resurrected that dusty black pot that’s been sitting in the corner since you brought it home.
Dutch oven cooking can become somewhat addictive, so I must warn you early, you can’ just own one! They seem to grow magically as time goes by, first a 12” then a 10”, maybe I need a 12” deep and really, a 14” is not as big as Gary says, etc. I have a collection of 10 active Dutch ovens, those that I keep handy to use on a weekly basis, but hidden away in the garage are another dozen “collectables” that need to be seasoned or I have to remove the rust, etc. This collection just seems to grow and grow and grow, consider yourselves warned.
For those of you with the will power to minimize and control those urges (un-like myself), there are a few accessories that you will want to add to your Dutch oven cooking arsenal.
Undoubtedly, the most important item you can start to add to your collection is a cooking platform; you need something to place your hot coals on when you cook with your Dutch oven. The bare ground is not a good option, as it will suck the life out of your coals in record time (a campground fire pit would be an exception as the ground there has baked into a hard heat-reflecting surface and will give you a solid cooking base). Those 45 minutes to an hour cooking time that you planned will reduce to 30 minutes or less if you just place your coals and Dutch oven directly on the dirt.
I started out with a simple 32-gallon garbage can lid. Just pop the handle off, stomp it flat and it will last for years (I still have my 5 year old model). If you are looking for a Dutch oven dedicated cooking table to use at home and when you go camping you have a few options:
Lodge, Camp Chef and several other manufactures offer nice models that will run you $100 or more. Think about these things before you buy yours:
How many Dutch ovens do you plan to cook with at one time?
• 2 to 4 pots at one time then stick with a Lodge http://lodgemfg.com or Camp Chef www.CampChef.com Dutch oven cooking table.
• Six plus Dutch ovens get yourself a custom table from a reputable source.
My big Dutch oven cooking table comes from www.chuckwagonsupply.com, it holds 9 Dutch ovens at a time plus room to hang my tools.
Folding legs or stationary?
• Folding legs means you can travel with it.
• This should come with the table but sometimes it’s extra and it is quite necessary. The wind can cause all kinds of havoc with your cooking times, so a screen is very important.
• This is usually extra and worth every penny in my opinion
• Important! The higher the table the higher you have to lift those pots and if you decide to stack your Dutch ovens (cooking one on top of the other), you will want a low platform that reaches to just above your knees.
• Bigger = heavier, longer lasting and more difficult to transport but I think the positives far outweigh the weight issue.
Just the basics to get started, if you’re like me, you will add so much more stuff as time goes by that you shake your head in wonder – why didn’t I buy a bigger truck!
Gloves – leather welder’s gloves that cover the lower half of your arm
Lid lifter – indispensable tool that has multiple uses in addition to acting as a solid place to set your lid when you have to stir the pot or add additional food to your recipe
Charcoal tongs – Goes without saying that charcoal burns, so you will need a tool to move those hot coals around the Dutch oven as you cook
Charcoal chimney – used to light your charcoal briquettes with a single sheet of newspaper
Wisk broom – helps to dust the ashes of the Dutch oven lid and table
Lighter – or matches, your choice. Some people use flame throwers!
Never leave home without them!
Shovel – a small shovel to move the spent briquettes from the cooking table to the bucket
Ash bucket – use a galvanized pail with a lid for safe transportation and storage
First aid/burn kit
Dutch oven cooking can be as simple as you want or need it to be, do not obsess over all of the accessories available, what you should or should not have, etc. Remember, it only takes one pot and a recipe to produce a fantastic meal. Cooking outdoors in a Dutch oven is a rewarding adventure that can keep your taste buds delighted for many years to come.
Next time we will discuss how to take care of all that cast iron I have talked you into buying!
Part Two of our Dutch Oven Cooking Series by Gary House, creator of www.Cooking-Outdoors.com; an excellent source for all things about outdoor cooking, including Grill & Smoker reviews, recipes, and videos.
Gary is also the host of a new DVD, Taking Your Dutch Oven To The Max, using the dutch oven to smoke, grill, and even make ice cream.