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    Dutch Oven Buyer's Guide

    Dutch oven cooking is one of the staples of camp cooking and very convenient and easy way to cook your meals in the outdoors. Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years and all throughout American history. Early pioneers used the ovens when traveling west as a durable and convenient way to cook their food. You can make all sorts of meals and desserts in a Dutch oven though generally they are used for slow cooking meals such as stews, roasts and casseroles. Read More ...

    Choosing a Dutch Oven

    The first question you need to ask yourself is how big of a Dutch oven will you need and what do you want to cook with it? Dutch ovens come in sizes ranging from eight inches or smaller to over sixteen inches in diameter, so anywhere between the sizes of a personal pan pizza to a family size pizza for reference. The bigger the Dutch oven the more it will hold so if you're just looking at making small roasts, side dishes or desserts generally a twelve inch oven will suit your needs. If you're looking to cook larger roasts, stews, bread or larger quantities then a fourteen or sixteen inch oven will work best. You'll also want to take note of the depth of the oven if you plan on cooking rib roasts, hams or whole chickens.

    Next, if you're looking for a good Dutch oven for camp cooking, be sure the oven has tall enough legs to clear the coals you'll be putting it on. You don't want the oven to be resting on the coals; there should be a small gap between the oven and the coals to allow air to move through. The lid should have a lip to hold the coals you place on top as well.

    Caring for Your Dutch Oven

    This is where things get real important. Dutch ovens are made out of cast iron, which means you'll have to do a little extra to take care them. First, you'll want to know how to properly season the oven to improve the taste and protect the metal. This will bake on a layer of oil to prevent rust or corrosion and it will create a non stick surface to cook on. Check to see if your Dutch oven came pre-seasoned from the factory, if not give yourself a good hour or more to get the job done.

    To season your new Dutch oven, you'll want to first wash the Dutch oven. This should be the first and only time you ever use soap to wash your Dutch oven, doing so will strip the seasoning and could leave your oven without a protective barrier. Next, coat the entire oven with an oil of your choice, the one you choose is up to you but generally Dutch ovens are coated in vegetable oil however you can use lard, vegetable shortening, olive oil or even some grease drippings to season the cast iron. After coating the oven inside and out with the oil or whichever grease you choose turn your oven up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the dutch oven in upside down so the oil or grease will coat the surface rather than collecting in the bottom. It's a smart idea to lay down a cookie sheet under the oven to catch any excess oil or grease. You can also use a grill if you can maintain the right temperature. You'll want it to bake for about an hour in order to have the oil bake onto the cast iron. Although this is generally a smoky process you'll want to keep an eye on things so it doesn’t get out of hand. Once the oven has baked between forty five minutes to an hour you'll want to turn off the oven or grill and allow the Dutch oven to sit for another fifteen to twenty minutes. When you take the Dutch oven off the grill or out of the oven it will be very hot, it’s a good idea to let it cool down to some before you rub off any excess oil or grease. Once you've finished your oven should have a nice dark shine. If your oven feels sticky to the touch that's okay, you just have some excess oil or grease that didn't bake in all the way; you can bake it for longer, try gently rubbing it off, or leave it as is.

    Once you've seasoned and cooked with your Dutch oven you'll need to know how to clean it. Once all the extra food has been removed pour some water in the oven then heat it up a bit wit the lid on. Next use a sponge or plastic food scraper to knock out any bits of food that are stuck to the sides. Be sure not to use a grill scrubber, steel wool or an abrasive pad, these can strip your oven of its seasoning. Once you've cleared the food, rinse out the water and allow it to dry. When the oven is dry use a paper towel and apply a thin coat of vegetable oil or which ever grease you choose so the oven has an extra bit of protection from moisture until next time you use it. Remember, you should never use soap on your Dutch oven after you've seasoned it.

    To store your Dutch oven just be sure it has a nice light coating of oil to protect the metal from moisture and potential rust. You'll want to keep it in a dry place and keep the lid propped up with some paper towel to allow air to flow in the oven. Also be sure to keep it protected with a case or covering, even if it's just a paper bag. Covering the oven will help keep any dust or dirt out of the oven and adds extra protection.

    Cooking with Your Dutch Oven

    If you're out camping, about all you'll need is some charcoal, lighter fluid and a match. Most Dutch oven cooking is done around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the easiest way to estimate how much charcoal you'll need is to just double the diameter of your Dutch oven and that's how many briquettes you'll need. Another easy way to get your oven to around 350 degrees is to make a ring of charcoal on the lid and a ring below; generally it should be pretty close to double the diameter of your oven, easy right? If you plan on using your Dutch oven for baking place a few extra coals on top, if you want to make some stew or soup take a few from the top and put them on the bottom. Don't forget to maintain even heat by rotating the oven or the coals. Optionally you can use a camp stove, grill or campfire to cook using your Dutch oven. If you're at home you can easily pop it in the oven.

    Now you're ready to choose, care for and cook with a Dutch oven. These ovens have been used for hundreds of years to help people make delicious food. You can cook just about anything in a Dutch oven, it truly is a must-have item for any camping trip, whether you're tapping into your inner pioneer and using it out on the open range, high up in the mountains or even in your own back yard you're sure to find a great way to cook up some amazing food.