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Brought to you by the Prairie Dog Chapter of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society
Introduction and Background Dutch ovens were the cooking ovens of our pioneer forefathers. They hung them over the fireplaces in their eastern colonials and their wilderness log cabins. They carried them in their covered wagons and push carts as they headed west over the Great Plains. They cooked with them over their wood and buffalo chip stoves in their dugouts and sod huts on the prairies. They carried them in their chuck wagons on the great cattle drives. And they used them in their ranch houses and adobe homesteads when they got to where they were going. Once the basic cooking utensil of the everyday pioneer kitchen, Dutch ovens were almost forgotten, except for a few die hard cowboy cooks. But over the past couple of decades, Dutch ovens have made a remarkable comeback thanks to a growing group of weekend pioneers and enthusiastic members of Dutch Oven Cooking Societies around the world. Almost any weekend of the year, in any part of the world, you can find Dutch oven cooks gathered attending local, regional or even national DOGs. So what’s a DOG? A DOG “Dutch Oven Gathering” is a group of Dutch oven cooks getting together to share recipes, cooking techniques, fellowship, education, and most of all enjoy the fruits of their labor by eating some really good food. Some of the DOGs, local, regional and national, involve competitive cooking. Although for the most part, DOGs are gatherings of good folks that like to cook in their Dutch Ovens. Why the growing interest in this throwback to the Iron Age? It’s fun, simple, entertaining and if you do it right, the results often taste better then anything you could produce in its modern equivalent. And it is known to stir up some repressed memories in our own collective consciousness. Dutch Ovens – Early European history
(Wikipedia contributors, "Dutch oven," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dutch_oven&oldid=261452695 (accessed January 2, 2009).)
During the late 1600s the Dutch system of producing these cast metal cooking vessels was more advanced than the English system. The Dutch used dry sand to make their molds, giving their pots a smoother surface. Consequently, metal cooking vessels
produced in the Netherlands were imported into Britain. In 1704, an Englishman named Abraham Darby decided to go to the Netherlands to observe the Dutch system for making the cooking vessels. Four years later, back in England, Darby patented a casting procedure similar to the Dutch process and began to produce cast metal cooking vessels for Britain and her new American Colonies. It is possible that because Darby’s patent was based upon his research into the Dutch foundry system that the cooking vessels he produced came to be referred to as “Dutch” ovens. Other researchers believe that this term may have come from the itinerant Dutch traders who sold cooking vessels out of their wagons as they traveled from town to town and door to door. Maybe both accounts are true. In any event, the term “Dutch oven” has endured for over 300 years. Dutch Ovens – American history Over time the Dutch oven used in the American Colonies began to change. The pot became shallower and legs were added to hold the oven above the coals. A flange was added to the lid to keep the coals on the lid and out of the food. The cast-iron cookware was loved by colonists and settlers because of its versatility and durability. It could be used for boiling, baking, stews, frying, roasting, and just about any other use. The ovens were so valuable that wills in the 18th and 19th centuries frequently spelled out the desired inheritor of the cast iron cookware. For example, Mary Washington (mother of President George Washington) specified in her will, dated 20 May 1788, that one-half of her "iron kitchen furniture" should go to her grandson, Fielding Lewis, and the other half to Betty Carter, a granddaughter. Several Dutch ovens were among Mary' "iron kitchen furniture." s When the young American country began to spread westward across the North American continent, so did the Dutch oven. A Dutch oven was among the gear Lewis and Clark carried when they explored the great American Northwest in 1804-1806. The pioneers who settled the American West also took along their Dutch ovens. In fact, a statue raised to honor the Mormon handcart companies who entered Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in the 1850s proudly displays a Dutch oven hanging from the front of the handcart. Mountain men exploring the great American frontier used Dutch ovens into the late 1800s. Dutch oven cooking was also prominent among those who took part in the western cattle drives that lasted from the mid-1800s into the early 1900s. You wouldn’t be able to find a chuck wagon without the cook’s prized cast iron cookware, including his Dutch ovens. Even state legislatures recognize the importance of cast iron Dutch ovens. The Dutch oven is the official state cooking pot of Utah. Arkansas designated the cast iron Dutch oven the official state historic cooking vessel in 2001. On June 28, 2005 our 79th Texas Legislature decreed in Resolution Nine the cast iron Dutch oven be the official Texas state cooking implement.
So how do you start? First you’re going to need to buy a Dutch oven. There are quite a few choices here; you can find them at stores like REI, Gander Mountain, Sportsman Warehouse, Bass Pro Shops, Wal-Mart, and Cabela’s. Lodge is one of the best known manufacturers of Dutch ovens, and makes a consistently good product. Another very good brand is Camp Chef. You are going to need, what we call, a “camp oven” which is different than the regular Dutch ovens that are used to cook in an indoor kitchen. When we talk about a Dutch oven, we’re specifically talking about a “camp oven.” Choosing the right oven: For outdoor cooking, you need to purchase a “camp” or “outdoor” Dutch oven that has three stubby legs on the bottom and a flanged lid. The legs create space for coals or charcoal briquettes under the oven, and the flanged lid is to keep the coals from rolling off of the domed lid, thus supplying the necessary heat to the inside of the oven. Camp ovens come in a variety of sizes and capacities from 8 inches up to a 24 inch. The 12 inch is probably the most popular and versatile. Dutch oven cooking accessories: You’re going to want to get some accessories to go with your Dutch oven. A charcoal chimney is a convenient and consistent way of starting your briquettes. You will also want a lid lifter to get that hot lid off the oven. In lieu of a lid lifter a good pair of channel locks can do the job. The lid lifter is also useful in moving the Dutch oven around. A commercial lid lifter such as a Mair Lid Lifter definitely has its advantages. It allows you to hold the lid in a position that allows for easy disposal of the ashes on the lid. You will also want a lid rack to keep the lid off the ground and clean. A set of long metal stainless steel tongs for moving and removing the coals is another very useful tool to have. (You can try to grab them and move them with your bare hands but I do not recommend it!) A pair of leather gloves (like the ones used for welding) is almost a necessity for moving coals and hot ovens around. A small whisk broom can help you clean the ashes off the lid before opening. Another nice accessory to have is one of the small pot-metal fireplace shovels to aid in the cleanup process. It helps clean off the ashes from the cooking surface. Speaking of cooking surfaces, if you’re going to do a lot of Dutch oven cooking a Dutch oven cooking table is “must” to have. It is a metal table that is heat resistant and allows you to place your ovens at a convenient height for cooking.
Let’s Cook Right off the bat, the number one question we’re always asked is “What can you cook in a Dutch oven?” The answer is very simple. You can cook anything in a Dutch oven that you can cook in a regular oven plus lots more. What’s the “more”? A Dutch oven is so versatile since you can bake, stew, simmer, fry and even flip the lid and you’ve got a griddle. Once you have chosen your recipe, you need to determine the right number of coals needed. You will have to allow for outside ambient temperature changes and even wind speed. You may have to adjust your heat up or down depending on the outside weather conditions. As a rule of thumb you can use the following formula for a 350° cooking temperature. If you are baking in a 12” diameter Dutch oven, for the bottom coals, you will subtract 2 from the number of inches in the diameter of the Dutch oven, and for the top coals, you will add 2. In other words, you would put a ring of 10 charcoals on the bottom and a ring of 14 charcoals on the top. If you are stewing or frying, you would put more charcoal on the bottom since that is where you want the heat source. So, logically, the first step to get cooking is to start up some hot briquettes to cook with. Ignite the briquettes in your charcoal chimney around 15-20 minutes before you need them. As the coals are getting hot, prepare your ingredients and ovens for cooking. Should your dish take a long time to cook, for example, over 30 minutes, additional coals will be necessary and can be started in the chimney with the coals that are already lit. The number of coals needed will vary depending on the temperature required by the recipe, the outdoor temperature and wind speed where you are cooking. When it comes to Charcoal, a name brand charcoal will usually burn easier and more consistently than a cheap brand. Kingsford seems to be the standard when it comes to Dutch oven cooks. Arrange the number of briquettes needed under the oven in a circular pattern at least ½ inch inside the edge. Arrange the briquettes on the lid in a checkerboard pattern. Do not bunch them together on either the top or the bottom as it will cause hot spots and burn the food or could even damage the Dutch oven. To prevent “hot spots” rotate the oven ¼ turn every 15-20 minutes and then rotate the lid ¼ turn in the opposite direction. Check your food occasionally to make sure it’s not cooking too fast or too slow. Be careful when removing the lid so as not to flavor the dish with ashes. However, resist the urge to keep opening up the oven during the cooking process, or you’ll lose valuable heat, extending the cooking time and possibly ending up with a failed recipe. How do you know it’s done? In Dutch oven cooking we go by the “smell test”. If it smells like it is done, it’s done, if it smells like it is burnt, it’s probably burnt.
Dutch Oven Temperature Chart and Capacities This chart, provided by Lodge Manufacturing, is a guide to use as an alternative to the method of determining the number of charcoal that was mentioned previously. Please remember the chart is only a guide, you’ll need to adjust the number of coals depending on outside cooking conditions.
Oven Size Top/Bottom 8” ***** 10” ***** 12” ***** 14” ***** 325° 15 10/5 19 13/6 23 16/7 30 20/10 350° 16 11/5 21 14/7 25 17/8 32 21/11 375° 17 11/6 23 16/7 27 18/9 34 22/12 400° 18 12/6 25 17/8 29 19/10 36 24/12 425° 19 13/6 27 18/9 31 21/10 38 25/13 450° 20 14/6 29 19/10 33 22/11 40 26/14 Servings 1-2 4-7 12-14 16-20 Capacity 2 quarts 4 quarts 6 quarts 8 quarts
Dutch oven, you would use 25 charcoals with 17 coals on the top and 8 coals on the bottom.
For example, with ideal outside cooking conditions, if you want to cook at 350° in a 12”
For additional information, please check the following websites: Lone Star Dutch Oven Society (LSDOS): http://www.lsdos.com Prairie Dog Chapter – LSDOS: http://www.lsdos.com/ntp/ International Dutch Oven Society: http://www.idos.com/ Lodge Manufacturing: http://www.lodgemfg.com/ Camp Chef Dutch Ovens: http://www.campchef.com/ Dutch Oven Doctor: http://www.dutchovendoctor.com/ Byron’s Dutch Oven Cooking Page: http://papadutch.home.comcast.net/~papadutch/ Cee Dub’s Dutch Oven Cooking and Camp Supplies: http://www.ceedubs.com/ Mair Dutch Oven Lifter: http://www.mairdutchovenlifter.com/ Cookbooks: There are several wonderful cookbooks available that are specifically for Dutch oven cooking. The Lone Star Dutch Oven Society has published its very own cookbook. You can order below from the following link or from Amazon. “Texas Treasury of Dutch Oven Cooking”: http://www.lsdos.com/merchandise.html
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