Those who have enjoyed the fruits of open fire cooking can attest to the efficiency in which cast iron Dutch ovens get the job done. Camp style cast iron Dutch Ovens possess many great characteristics even though they are fairly minimal in design. For starters they pack a good bit of weight. This allows for the outdoor cooking stoves to perform at peak capacity no matter what the conditions present. The overall versatility of cast iron allows for gourmet level results whether you’re using the Dutch oven in your backyard, at the park or in your kitchen.
Some of the earliest historical reference to cast iron Dutch ovens dates all the way back to the 1700s in Holland. Once introduced to the American settlers the Dutch oven quickly gained in popularity due to it’s extreme versatility and durability. As far as we know Paul Revere is credited with the modern design of the cast iron Dutch oven with the flanged lid. There are historical references to the use of cast iron Dutch ovens in both the American Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War.
Prior to the Civil War, Lewis and Clark detailed great usage of cast iron Dutch ovens as they explored the great American Northwest between 1804 and 1806. As westward expansion continued so did the use and popularity of cast iron Dutch ovens. The dutch oven was of great use during cattle drives as well as the great gold rush in San Francisco, California during the mid 1800s.
In 1896 Joseph Lodge built his first cast iron foundry in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee. The most popular product offered by Lodge was the cast iron Dutch oven. Lodge continues to produce the most popular cast iron Dutch ovens on the market.
After extended usage in work camps during World War I the popularity of cast iron Dutch ovens began to wane. Thanks to various cooking contests in the 1970s and 80s cast iron Dutch ovens began to regain popularity in the United States. This was evidenced by the formation of the International Dutch Oven Society in 1984 as well as Utah designating the Dutch oven as the official cook pot of the state in 1997.
The first thing you’ll want to do is shop around for a suitable size cast iron Dutch oven. The size of the dutch oven you’ll need will mostly depend on the number of people you intend on feeding as well as the frequency in which you will end up using it. There are several sizes of cast iron Dutch ovens to suit your needs including four, five, six, eight, ten, twelve and fourteen quarts.
The most widely available Dutch oven models are the six and eight quart variations. Each of them typically measure 12 inches in diameter with the difference in size coming in the height. Six quart dutch ovens are typically used for meals while the 8 quart variation is often associated with baking. If you need to use your cast iron Dutch oven for campaign purposes you’ll certainly want to opt for the eight quart model.
Lodge L12CO3 Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven
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Lodge L12DCO3 Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven
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The versatility of camp style Dutch ovens afford users the freedom to utilize them as stand-alone cooking stoves. While stand-alone cooking is a great luxury of camp style Dutch ovens there are a host of recommended tools and accessories that make cooking a much more efficient endeavor. Some tools are completely optional while others are absolutely necessary in order to maximize the culinary potential of your camp style Dutch oven.
Charcoal Chimney – The most efficient way to start charcoal is via a metal chimney starter. A load of charcoal, two sheets of newspaper and about twenty minutes are all you need to start a sustainable fire for your camp style Dutch oven.
Lid Lifter – Handling the lid of a piping hot Dutch oven without a lid lifter is highly ill-advised. Not only does a lid lifter protect ones hands from the direct heat of the Dutch oven, it also helps in discarding un-used charcoal once the cooking session has wrapped up.
Lid Stand – A lid stand offers an added layer of security against outdoor elements by giving users a safe place to set a hot lid while checking on the progress of food. The lid stand doubles as a cook surface extension in the event you need to use a cast iron skillet on top of the Dutch oven.
Leather Gloves – Depending on the method you use to heat your Dutch oven handling can be rather cumbersome without proper protection for your hands. Lodge’s leather gloves offer superb hand and arm protection when dealing with just about anything cast iron related.
Dutch Oven Stand – The elevated cooking capabilities that Dutch oven stands offer can be of great comfort during prolonged cooking periods.
Cooking Tripod – Open fire cooking can be made easier with the use of a cooking tripod. Your cast iron Dutch oven can simmer chillis and stews while hanging from an adjustable chain over an open wood fire.
Dutch Oven Storage Tote – Cast iron Dutch ovens have a tendency to be heavy and cumbersome. An insulated and zippable storage tote will make the task of transporting your Dutch oven a bit more manageable. This is especially useful for camping where walking more than a few hundred yards is required.
-Fire + Heat
Charcoal + Wood
When it comes to heating your cast iron Dutch oven there are pretty much two reliable options, charcoal and or wood. The most practical of the two for Dutch oven cooking is regular charcoal briquettes. Charcoal briquettes are renowned for their ability to maintain even heat for right at one hour. Wood comes in a close second, mainly due to its availability, especially in camping environments. Whenever wood is the heat source you’ll want to ensure that it has had a chance to burn down to glowing embers as this is the best time to take advantage of the highest level of heat.
The Heat Chart below stands as a guideline to the number of charcoal briquettes necessary to achieve the desired temperatures for Dutch oven cooking:
Bean Hole Cooking:
Bean hole cooking requires digging a moderately sized hole in the ground and surrounding the outer wall with stones. Next you build a fire in and above the hole making sure to keep it going until the stones are hot. Once the fire has burned down rake out the coals and ashes and place the Dutch oven inside, making sure the lid is tight and secure. Cover the Dutch oven with the leftover ashes and coals then cover with dirt. Lay a flat rock on top of the pile and allow the Dutch oven to cook for the appropriate time.
Another very popular technique for Dutch oven cooking is stack cooking. This is where you use the biggest cast iron Dutch oven that you have as the base and place one to five additional Dutch ovens on top of it. Extra heat energy is achieved due to the placing of coals beneath and on top of each of the Dutch ovens in the stack. This method is especially effective when cooking for any large number of individuals. Stack cooking allows for multiple entrees to be cooked at once as well as any desired sides or desserts.
Cast iron Dutch ovens are renowned due to their ability to cook one pot meals with little to no interference from the chef. Common cooking uses of cast iron Dutch ovens include baking, boiling, frying, braising, roasting and simmering of various types of foods. Cast iron Dutch ovens can be instituted as the cooking vessel for all four meals of the day whether its breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.
The ability to bake artisan style breads is one of the main advantages of cast iron Dutch ovens as they offer a simple alternative to in home convection ovens. More often than not there is no need to knead or shape the dough leaving little to no room for error when baking a variety of breads. The steam within the Dutch oven creates the highly sought after golden crackly crust as well as a perfect round shape of bread loaves.
-Cleanup + Care
As with all other cast iron cooking vessels camp style dutch ovens require the same approach to cleaning. The best resources to utilize while cleaning camp style dutch ovens are going to be warm water, medium bristle brushes, kosher salt and olive oil. Dutch ovens have a tendency to not require quite as much attention to the smaller detail while cleaning.
Mater of factly many people elect to use camp style Dutch ovens fresh out of the box without the recommended seasoning process.
Once you’ve finished using and cleaning your camp style Dutch oven you’ll need to wipe it down with oil and store it in a dry area. Be sure to leave the lid off for best results as this promotes positive air flow thus preventing the possibility of oxidation.