cast iron Dutch oven was an improvement in fireplace and campfire
cooking devised by early American settlers out of necessity. The iron
cook stove had not been invented and most of their cooking was done
outdoors or in a fireplace. They needed a pot which could do all the
things a stove could do –bake, boil, fry, stew and broil. Thus, the
first crude cast iron Dutch oven was created. It is said that several of
the ovens’ perfections were made by the skilled craftsmen Paul Revere.
This design is still used today.
the cast iron pot became popular in the colonies, it was produced in
large numbers by New England manufacturers. It was not uncommon for
Dutch traders to stop by the manufacturers to purchase large quantities
of the pot for trading with the settlers and Native Americans: thus,
according to some historians, the pot became known as the
the westward movement crossed the Appalachian Mountains and traveled
down the Ohio River, so did the Dutch oven. Almost all early longhunters,
mountainmen, explorers, military expeditions, and settlers depended upon
the muzzleloading rifle and the Dutch oven. The Lewis and Clark
Expedition depended upon the iron pot. The rifle supplied the game and
the Dutch oven turned the game into a meal.
mountainman John Colter died in 1813, the sales bill of his personal
property included "To John Simpson –one Dutch oven – $4.00."
The mountain man had kept his Dutch oven to the end.
cast iron Dutch ovens have become a very popular way of cooking at home,
on the patio, or in a hunting camp. These ovens and accessories needed
to cook with them can be purchased from hardware stores and camping
A Dutch Oven
purchasing a Dutch oven, one should make sure he is getting the real
thing. It is made of heavy cast iron with a flat bottom, with three
short legs protruding about two inches. These legs are to hold the pot
above hot coals. It will have a bail. The lid is made of the same heavy
cast iron, and will have a small handle in the center. The rim of the
lid is flanged so that hot coals will stay on the lid while cooking.
Dutch oven can be purchased in several sizes, usually from eight to 16
inches in diameter, and from three to five inches deep. The 12-inch
diameter size is the most popular size for hunting/fishing camp cooking.
The cost ranges from about $40.00 for an 8-inch oven to about $116.00
for a 16-inch oven. The weight ranges from 11 pounds to 30 pounds for
the large size. A word of caution: many modern flat-bottomed pots are
called Dutch ovens. They should be avoided as they are not designed for
cooking on an open fire. Insist on a high quality camp Dutch oven made
by a well known manufacturer such as Lodge Mfg. Co., www.lodgemfg.com,
or Camp Chef, www.campchef.com.
Is A Must
first step after purchasing a Dutch oven is the most important one –
seasoning the oven. Seasoning gives the oven a non-stick finish and
protects the cast iron from rust. The method most often used to season
an oven is to nearly fill the oven with good cooking oil and have a fish
fry. If you don’t want to do this you can season a new oven by
coating the inside and out, including the lid, with a thin coat of
Crisco and place in a charcoal or gas grill and heat for one hour.
Remove the oven and lid and wipe dry. It will have a black finish and
will be seasoned. From then on, wash with hot water and never scrub with
metal scrapers, pads or brushes. Thanks to the nonstick seasoning the
Dutch oven surprisingly will usually wipe clean without any strong
detergents or scrubbing.
From Even Heating
Dutch oven is probably the most versatile piece of cooking equipment
available to campers who enjoy cooking over an open fire or with
charcoal briquets. Due to its design and to the fact it’s made from
cast iron, it distributes and holds heat evenly for a long period of
time. It is ideal for shallow frying, deep fat frying, stewing, boiling,
baking, or roasting.
by a hook over a fire, the Dutch oven can be used for boiling. By
placing hot coals or charcoal briquets under the Dutch oven and on the
lid, it can be used for roasting and baking. Set the oven in the hot
coals of a campfire or over several charcoal briquets, and it can be
used for stewing and frying.
have learned to use charcoal briquets for baking in my Dutch oven. When
the proper number of briquets is used for a particular size Dutch oven,
the results are as good, or better, than coals from a campfire. Since
most dishes are cooked at 350 degrees here is the formula I’ve worked
out for using charcoal briquets: