Dutch Oven Cooking

Dutch Oven Cooking is my favorite way to prepare meals outdoors!

Dutch Oven Cooking

Dutch Oven Cooking

Dutch Oven Cooking Basics

Almost anything can be cooked in a Dutch Oven. Dutch Ovens are commonly defined as any covered metal cooking pot. “Camp” or “Outdoor” Dutch Ovens are made of heavy cast-iron, have three short legs on the bottom, and a tight fitting lid with a rim to hold coals.

Maintained properly, it is the “Original Non-Stick Cooking Utensil” .

Heat is controlled by placing coals underneath and on top. It can be used to stew, sauté, boil, deep-fry, bake, or just about anything you can do on a stove-top or in an oven.

Dutch Ovens are also available in Aluminum but are not discussed here.

Care & Maintenance

The only way to successfully cook in a Dutch Oven is to properly season it. When you buy a new Dutch Oven it is usually coated with a waxy material to protect it.

To obtain the desirable non-stick properties of a well used pot takes a little time and effort.

Wash with mild soapy water, rinse, and dry completely. This is the only time soap should be used on a Dutch Oven.

Grease inside and out (pot, legs, and lid) lightly with a good grade of olive oil, vegetable oil or solid shortening e.g., Crisco. Do not use lard or other animal products as they will spoil and turn rancid! Do not use a spray-on coating (Pam), but rather use an oil soaked paper towel or new sponge.

Place it upside down on oven rack with lid separate and put aluminum foil underneath to catch any excess oil. Bake 300-350 degree oven for at least 1 hour. It will probably smoke and stink up the house! Seasoning outside on a gas grill keeps the smell and smoke out of your house. Cool it at room tempurature.

Re-grease and bake again while oven is hot. It will take more than this initial seasoning for the pot to obtain the desired uniform black patina (like a satin black bowling ball) that provides the non-stick qualities and protects the pot from rust.

If your Dutch Oven rusts or has a metallic taste this is a sign your seasoning has been removed. Repeat seasoning steps. This may also be required after storage or if it smells rancid.

For serious cases of abuse, steel wool, a “Brillo” pad or sand blasting may be required to get ovens ready to season again.

After cooking remove lid. Do not use as a food storage container.

Do not use detergents or a hard wire brush, unless you plan to completely re-season the oven. After scraping out all uneaten food, clean with hot water & natural fiber brush or nylon scrubby. If food is stuck to bottom or sides, boil water in it to loosen. Never scour or use your dishwasher.

Dry oven completely, then lightly oil the entire surface of the oven.

Store with lid off in warm dry place or place a paper towel inside and leave lid ajar.

The seasoning on your pot will improve with each use if it is properly oiled and cared for.

NEVER, REPEAT, NEVER! pour very cold water into an empty hot pot or you may cause permanent damage to the oven (cracking).

Dutch Oven Tools

There are a few almost essential tools for safe Dutch Oven cooking.

* One is a lid hook. These tools are available in many forms but even the simplest will prevent burns and dropped     food.
* Small Shovel or Trowel – This is used to distribute charcoal briquettes
* Oven mitt or heavy pot holders to protect the hands
* Whisk broom (small) to remove ashes from lids
* Paper towels
* Oil for the pots

Dutch Oven Size Selection

There are a few almost essential tools for safe Dutch Oven cooking.


Capacities of various popular oven sizes

Number of Coals to Use to Achieve the Desired Temperature

Coals must be used on both the top and the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Use only quality charcoal briquettes for consistent temperature control. The chart below shows you how many coals to use for a desired temperature.

Temperature 10″ Oven 12″ Oven 14″ Oven
Degrees F Top Bottom Top Bottom Top Bottom
300 12 5 14 7 15 9
325 13 6 15 7 17 9
350 14 6 16 8 18 10
375 15 6 17 9 19 11

Note: Adding one coal to the top and bottom will raise the temperature of the Dutch Oven approximately 25 degrees. Or conversely removing one set of briquettes will lower the temperature by 25 degrees.
The most popular size is a 12-inch standard oven

The 10-inch and 14-inch pots run a close second depending on the size of crowd you cook for!

The major difference between a 12″ Deep and a 14″ standard is the amount of surface area top and bottom. You can get more heat on the larger pot for the same volume! If your recipe requires a lot of heat then use the larger size pot. If the recipe requires an average amount of heat or you are cooking a tall item then the Deep oven would be best.

Temperature Guides

Heat control is the hardest thing to master when learning to cook with a Dutch Oven. Here are a few tips to start you on your way!

Remember to start with moderate temperatures. You can always add more heat if desired or necessary.

High quality briquettes are recommended. Briquettes provide a long lasting, even heat source and are easier to use than wood coals.

Briquettes will last for about an hour and will need to be replenished if longer cooking times are required. Group the smaller briquettes and add new (hot) as required to maintain the desired temperature.

If you use wood coals, remember that the flame will be much hotter than the coals! Avoid direct flames on the pot or turn frequently.
Each type of recipe will yield best results if you use the correct heat placement:

Stews, soups, chili, and other liquid dishes require more heat on the bottom than on the top.

General rule for stewing: Place 1/3 coals on top and 2/3 on bottom

Meat, poultry, potatoes, beans, vegetables, and cobblers require even distribution of heat on top and bottom

Cakes, breads, biscuits, and cookies require most of the heat on top and little heat on the bottom.

General rule for baking: Place 2/3 coals on top and 1/3 on bottom

Stacking of Dutch Ovens is a convenient way of saving space and sharing heat. This is best used for dishes that require even heating.

Stacked ovens can become a nightmare if the types of food do not have similar cooking requirements. The bottom pot seems to be the one that always needs attention and requires moving all others to get to it!

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