You can cook almost anything in a Dutch oven!

Don't be afraid to give it a try.

Dutch OvenCredit:

A Dutch oven is a cast-iron pot or pan that is so versatile for cooking.   When it's too hot to cook indoors and you are tired of barbequing, fix a Dutch oven dinner all in one pot out on the patio or in the back yard!

Many people have heard how hard it is to care of a Dutch oven and so they won't even give it a try. 

Let's start with some basics:

You can use almost anything for a heat source for Dutch oven cooking.  Charcoal, wood coals, gas grills with a burner, and wood stoves are the most common heat sources.  Charcoal is by far the best for controlling the heat though because you are cooking from the bottom and the top.  You do this by placing the Dutch oven on a bed of coals and then place coals on top of the lid.  Charcoal will hold an even heat for about one hour of cooking.  If your dish takes longer than than an hour to cook then change coals after about an hour to keep a fresh, hot heat source going.   You can even stack your Dutch ovens when using charcoal.

Gas grill burners and wood stoves work great for most main dishes cooked in a Dutch oven, but work poorly for baking.

Most Dutch oven cooking takes time and patience and you have to pay close attention to what you are cooking.  Many people love this because they can sit around a campfire or in the back yard and talk while they are "watching the pot!"

While cooking, you will need to rotate the lid 1/4 turn every 7 - 10 minutes.   Rotate the oven on the coals also, but separately from the lid.  This will even the heat distribution in the oven.  Don't be afraid to check and peek on things often!

Cooking in direct sunlight on a hot day will make up to a 20 degree difference in the oven.  It's better to cook a little too cool than too warm.  Your food may take a little longer to get done, but it won't burn as easily.

Coals on top of Dutch ovenCredit:

Placing the right amount of charcoal briquets on the bottom and the top of the Dutch oven is important.  A general rule is 2/3 of the coals go on the top on the lid and about 1/3 will go underneath the oven.  If you place eight coals in a circle about 12 inches across and set the Dutch oven on them, you will have a heat of approximately 350 degrees in the oven. 

Rule of Thumb for Using Briquets

Size of Dutch Oven                   On Top of the Lid                    Under the Oven

8"                                                                     6 - 8                                        4 - 6

10"                                                                  8 - 10                                      6 - 8

12"                                                                  10 - 12                                     8 - 10

14"                                                                  12 - 16                                     10 - 12

16"                                                                  16 - 18                                     12 - 16

It is better if you start the coals and place them on the lid and allow them to heat the lid before you place the lid on top of the oven.  This allows even cooking and browing.  Make sure you save a lot of headaches by using a good brand of charcoal!

You can cook almost anywhere with a Dutch oven.  Any flat, non-combustible surface will do.  A few layers of heavy aluminum foil placed on the ground prepares most areas for cooking.  This will also protect concrete and asphalt surfaces.  If you are using a pit or have a dirt surface you don't need to use the aluminum foil unless the ground is wet as this will keep the charcoal dry.  You can have your own Dutch oven "pit" in the back yard just by making a round circle about 2 feet in diameter on the ground.  Surround the area with rocks and put the charcoals on the exposed dirt.  The heat will kill the grass so don't do this in the neighborhood park!

After using the dutch oven, clean by scraping out the food as best as you can and wipe out with paper towels.  Heat again on a fire with the lid ajar.  Scrape out with a spatula and wipe the oven with a paper towel soaked in a little cooking oil.  Wipe on the inside and outside and make sure you do both the pot and the lid.  Contrary to popular belief, you can use water in your Dutch oven.  Just make sure it isn't cold and NEVER use soap.  Store in a dry place with several pages of wadded up newspaper in the oven and lid ajar to circulate the air.  When you open it there might be a little rust.  Just heat and wipe out with a paper towel.  Remember, a little rust won't hurt you!  It is a good source of iron.

To "season" a Dutch oven or any cast iron pan just wipe with cooking oil and place in a hot oven (about 350 degrees) for about a half and hour.  Wipe with a clean paper towel and it's ready to use.  This should be done with a new Dutch oven and every so often with an old one.

Line your Dutch oven with tin foil whenever possible to save on clean up.  This won't work for stews or food that has to be stirred but works well for cobblers and baked food. 

Here's a couple of simple recipes to get you started:

Chicken Broccoli Vegetable Saute

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 pound)
  • 2 Tbls butter
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup chopped brocolli
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can Cream of Broccoli soup
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/8 teas pepper

Cut up chicken, brown in 1 Tbls of butter for 10 minutes.  Remove and keep warm.  In same oven, add remaining butter, cook brocolli, carrots, and mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in soup, milk and pepper.  Heat to boiling, add chicken and reduce heat.  Simmer until vegetable are soft.  Serve over rice or noodles.  May add onion to vegetables.

Easy Dutch Oven Cobbler

  • 2 cans pie filling (any flavor, cherry and peach are delicious)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 box white or yellow cake mix
  • milk or water

Line the Dutch oven completely with two layers of aluminium foil.  Grease the foil with butter.  Pour in pie filling.  Mix the cake mix with the eggs and enough milk or water to make a cake batter consistency.  Pour on top of the pie filling.  Bake 30 to 40 minutes with 6 to 8 coals on the bottom and 16 to 20 coals on the lid.   Serve with ice cream or whipped cream!  YUM!