A Dutch oven is probably the most versatile piece of cooking equipment available, and it is a fantastic method of cooking camping food outdoors. Although these pots had been out of favor, they are now back and flourishing. This method of cooking is one of the oldest and now the most popular types of outdoor cooking.
Dutch oven recipes (receipes) make delicious, one pot meals. This is a wonderful way to prepare camping food, and anything that can be cooked in an oven at home can be prepared in this type of pot. If you think barbeques are exciting, wait until you take your first bite of camping food prepared from your camping recipes (receipes) in this type of oven.
A Dutch oven moved with Americans were heading West and the frontier was being settled, they cooked outdoors, right on a camping fire or in a lean-to behind the cabin. Large, heavy cast iron pots were made with lids and placed directly into the coals of an open fire. The cast iron pot was manufactured in the New England states, and these pots were purchased and used by Dutch traders for trading with Indians. This is how the cast iron pots became known as “Dutch ovens”.
As the exploration movement traveled west in America, so did this oven. It is recorded that one of the most important pieces of equipment in the Lewis and Clark expedition was a large Dutch oven. There have been no significant improvements on this cast iron pot.
Breads, vegetarian dishes, meat dishes, breakfasts, and even hors d’oeuvre and deserts can be cooked in this oven. These are perfect for each and every type of outdoor activity.
Even if you do not go camping, try preparing a Dutch oven recipe (receipe) in your own backyard or on the patio. You might find that it is a delightful change from barbecues.
Do not forget your other items for cooking and eating, such as stainless steel cutlery and assorted utensils, plates, bowls, etc. Here are some favorites and examples of the wide variety of camping recipes that can be prepared:
- Dutch Oven Bread – Corn or otherwise. Nothing like a hot loaf of bread with a meal to add a nice spin. Besides, you can wrap the bread in tinfoil and keep it warm while you follow with a main course.
- Dutch Oven Pizza – If you are too busy to build a pizza from scratch, a Boboli pizza shell fits nicely into the bottom of a 14″ Dutch oven. My husband and I still like to do it from scratch. It just always seems to taste better.
- Dutch Oven Cobblers – These deserts are a great way to acquaint a person with the Dutch oven.
- Dutch Oven Hashbrowns – Cooked either in the bottom of the pot or in the inverted lid of a Dutch oven, you cannot go wrong.
- Dutch Oven Stews – There is not a stew in the world that does not taste better out of a Dutch oven. Besides, if you are really busy, you prepare the stew in the morning, cover the pot in coals, buried in a hole, and go away until dinner time. Just scrumptuous. California Stew is particularly good this way.
- Dutch Oven Doughnuts – Hey … naughty, naughty, but we’re camping for relaxation and enjoyment, so why not! Everyone loves doughnuts fresh from the kettle … yum. There is something magic about dropping the dough into the oil, watching it sink to the bottom, then watching in amazement as it slowly rises to the top and expands right before your eyes. Every kid ought to get to experience that!
- Dutch Oven Pancakes – You cannot beat these for breakfast!
Whether you use charcoal briquettes, coal from the campfire, or a camping stove, Dutch oven cooking is an easy, practical and a great way to cook wonderful meals for the family.
Selecting a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens come in various sizes, but the 12″ pot is the most popular. The pot’s weight varies from roughly 7 to 30 pounds. Even though some Dutch ovens are now made out of aluminum, the cast iron is still the best for cooking whenever weight is not a problem as with car camping.
Dutch ovens have a flat bottom sitting on three short legs protruding about two inches. The lid is made of the same heavy cast iron material with a small handle in the center. The rim of the lid is flanged so that hot coals will stay on the lid while cooking.
When you purchase your first Dutch oven, always think quality first and select an oven that is well made. The Dutch oven lid should fit tight and lie flush with the lip of the oven all the way around. This prevents the steam created inside the oven from escaping. Make sure the lid handle is a loop attached to the lid on both ends with a hollow center so that it can be easily hooked by a lid lifter. Avoid ovens that have a molded solid tab on the lid for a handle because they are hard to lift and manage when they are loaded with coals on top.
Types of Dutch Oven
There are two basic types of Dutch ovens. The best ones are generally made of heavy cast iron, have three short legs on the bottom, and a tight fitting lid with a lip or ridge around the outer edge for holding coals and for keeping ash from falling into the food. The second type is generally made of heavy cast iron, has a flat bottom with no legs, and has a highly domed basting lid without an outer rim. Although they can be used with briquettes, they are better suited for use in your kitchen.
When selecting a camp or outdoor Dutch oven pay particular attention to the legs. Legs maintain the height of the oven above ground allowing air to flow around the coals beneath while cooking. Avoid ovens with short stubby legs or it may sit directly on top of the coals.
Something else to consider when selecting a Dutch oven is the roughness of the cast metal. A rougher surface works out better in the long run, and it offers more surface area for the oil to adhere to when seasoning the oven. We feel that a Lodge Dutch oven is just perfect.
Cleaning a Dutch Oven
Scrape the oven out and boil an inch or two of water in the oven to steam it out. You can enjoy your meal with the family while you do this. After the oven has steamed a while, scrub it with a green scrubby pad or a soft wire kitchen brush and pour out the water, then wipe it dry and coat it lightly with a high temperature vegetable oil while the oven is still hot.
Some individuals prefer not use use oil before storing. Instead, just oil slightly before each use. Place a couple of wadded up paper towels inside the oven so they hang out a little. Place the lid on the oven and put it away. The paper helps keep the lid slightly ajar for air movement. The towels collect moisture to keep the oven dry. Do not use soap to clean the pot as it will get into the seasoning and possibly be tasted in your next dish.