Dutch Oven Care and Use
Welcome to the Troop 780 Dutch Oven Cooking Page. Troop 780 consistently wins dutch oven cook offs at Klondike events, camp-o-rees and other events. Any time the troop is at an outing, someone always asks the adults or the boys "What are you guys cooking tonight?, Mind if I stop by?". Well we've taught the boys many recipes most of which you won't find here. The page is really dedicated on how to cook in a dutch oven, not what to cook. We do have some recipe links at the bottom of the page. Whatever recipe you decide to cook, knowing how to cook it properly is probably the most important thing you can learn. Personally I never look for "Dutch Oven" recipes, I simply look for "recipes", because what ever you can cook in your house, you can cook in a Dutch Oven, and for some unknown reason it tastes better.
OK Lets get started. There are two basic kinds of Dutch Ovens; Cast Iron and Cast Aluminum. This page will focus solely on Cast Iron. You need to pick a quality Dutch Oven, there are hundreds of brands out there but only two I'd recommend; either Lodge or Maca. Buying cast Iron can last a life time. I have 3 pieces that I use regularly which were my great grandmothers from the early 1900's, still as good as the day she bought them.
This is what you need to look for no matter what brand you decide on:
- The walls of the oven should be the same thickness all the way around.
- There should only be three pieces in your Dutch Oven; The Body, The Lid and The Bail
- The Bail should be thick and sturdy and should not be attached to a riveted tang. The Tang should be molded into the body of the oven.
- The lid should fit securely in the body but able to come off without resistance.
- The Bail should extend beyond the rim you you can get lid lifter on it easily.
- The Lid Loop should be welded to the lid on both sides.
- For outdoor Dutch Oven cooking (Is there any other kind?) the Body should have legs on it, normally there will be three legs.
- The roughness of the Dutch is often controversial, I like my new ovens to be rough, it gives the seasoning something to stick to. If your oven is too smooth, then you might experience a peeling of the seasoning under some cooking conditions. Also you'll find if the ovens don't have that roughness, sometimes the seasoning will never completely stick to it and you'll be left with a grayish spot where its smooth.
- Don't get ovens with really short legs (No issue for Lodge or Maca) this makes it real hard to get coals underneath them and makes it harder to do stacked cooking.
Putting Aluminum Foil in a Dutch Oven is about as close to Blasphemy as you can get.
Selecting a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens come in all sizes and shapes; round oval, deep, shallow, skillets, deep fryers, specialty ovens for bread, corn bread, fish, etc. Remember you cook on the top and the bottom in allot of cases, so the shorter the oven the more heat will penetrate the middle of the oven and the taller it is will be the opposite.
Taller ovens are good for large stews, casseroles, bread and other dishes where the heat needs to be more controlled. Dutch ovens are typically measured by their circumference and depth. Typically Lodge Dutch Ovens are the most common you'll find, but when you need to feed ALOT of people, nothing touches a MACA.
I recommend a 12" Lodge Dutch oven for anyone just starting out. If you're a Boy Scout Troop, 12" Lodge's are a really good size for patrols. (Follow the patrol method !) It is a very versatile oven and one that is not overly large. Also, most Dutch oven recipes are written for a 12" or 14" oven. A 12" Deep or 14" Deep Lodge or 13"; MACA Dutch oven would be my next choices.
|Lodge Dutch Ovens|
|8"||2 qt||3"||11 lbs||Side dishes, vegetables, desserts, and sauces. Ideal when cooking for 2 or 3 people.|
|10"||4 qt||3 ½"||15 lbs||Side dishes, vegetables, beans, small roasts, desserts, and sauces.|
|12"||6 qt||3 ¾"||20 lbs||Roasts, poultry, fish, stews, potatoes, beans, rolls, breads, and desserts.|
|12" (deep)||8 qt||5"||23 lbs||Standing rib roasts, hams, whole chickens, stews, potatoes, beans, rolls, and breads.|
|14"||8 qt||3 ¾"||26 lbs||Larger roasts, poultry, stews, potatoes, rolls, breads, and desserts.|
|14" (deep)||10 qt||5"||28 lbs||Standing rib roasts, hams, hens, stews, potatoes, rolls, and breads.|
|16"||12 qt||4 ¼"||32 lbs||Large quantities of meat, stews, potatoes, rolls, breads, and desserts.|
|Maca Dutch Ovens|
|9"||5 qt||6"||18 lbs||Perfect for cooking a main dish for a small group or a Side Dish for a large group.|
|11"||9 qt||6½"||26 lbs||Small Enough for a side dish, Large enough for a meal. Just right for cobblers, upside down cakes and other deserts. Good size for medium sized groups or Family Gatherings, BBQ Chicken or Cheese Potatoes|
|13"||12 qt||6½"||40 lbs||Perfect for cooking a main dish for a small group or a Side Dish for a large group.|
|15"||18 qt||7½"||46 lbs||Large enough for 12-15 lb. turkeys, Family Reunions or Scout Camp-o-rees. Wonderful size because it is big enough to feed large groups yet small enough that it is still easy to use for Tailgate Camping or to bring with you to a Backyard BBQ.|
|17"||29 qt||9"||67 lbs||This one cooks it all, and a lot of it. The oven for catering, large family reunions and scouting retreats. This oven makes the impossible, possible.|
|22"||45 qt||9½"||160 lbs||In charge of cooking at the Klondike for all 45 troops of Scouts or the Big Family Reunion Dinner that reaches well past your family tree? This oven is for you. The leading ooh and ahh getter at Dutch Oven Shows. Can cook 50 pounds of Turkey side by side, two 18 pound roasts with room for more potatoes, carrots and onions than you would ever need, or a stew to literally feed the masses.|
My favorite Dutch Oven, Hands down is a Lodge 14" Deep; Stews, breads, roasts, chili for the masses. Very versatile for top cooking when the coals don't need to be so close to the food.
Seasoning a Dutch Oven
There are almost as many techniques for seasoning your new Dutch Oven as there are owners of Dutch Ovens. Practically every book on Dutch Ovens includes a section on seasoning your Oven. Also, Lodge and Maca includes directions on this subject with their Ovens. I tend to listen to my grandmother. I have dutch ovens that her mother had from 1910 and I still use them every day. I've adapted their techniques to my own because I have more technology available to me than they did.
- Wash your new Dutch Oven thoroughly with soap and a sponge or plastic scrubber. DO NOT use a Brillo pad or other metal scraper, this will smooth the finish on your oven and make it hard for the seasoning to properly stick to it. As a matter of fact (opinion) the rougher the better. There is a protective coating on new Dutch Ovens that must be removed. The coating is there to prevent them from rusting. Dutch Ovens are cast iron. Rust will appear in a matter of minutes if water is left on them. The coating stops that while they are in shipment. But it must come off before use. This is the absolutely only time you will ever use soap on your dutch oven.
- If your oven comes pre-seasoned you may not need this step, but I do it anyway. I like to know what's been in my pots before I use them. Pre-seasoned isn't really that good anyway.
- Don't wash your pot unless you are ready to season it. Even the slightest bit of moisture can rust a naked pot.
- After washing, dry the Oven with lintless clean white rags. Don't use paper towels, they are horrible and leave remnants all over your pot. I tend to head out to Lowes™ and buy "Rags in a Box". I used these for all my cleaning methods.
- If you have a gas range turn on a burner and place the lid on the burner for about a minute or two. This will complete the drying process. Do this separately for both sides of the lid and both sides of the "pot." If you have an electric range turn the oven on "warm" and place the lid and pot in the oven, with the door open. This is a routine you should get into for every time you rinse your Dutch Oven. The heat will pretty much insure no moisture is left on the Dutch Oven.
- My grandmother always seasoned her cast iron in the house. This is where I differ from her, you can if you want but the house will stink and chances are you'll set off the smoke detector. I use my outdoor propane grill. I happened to own a full sized stainless steel Duncane™ with a full hood. Depending on the size of the cast iron you trying to seasoning it should fit under the hood and the hood should completely close.
- We are ready. Before starting you'll need the following
- Start your oven or grill preheating. Crank it up as hot as it will go with the lid down.
- Oven Mitts
- Dutch Oven, Cast iron, pot, etc
- SOLID shortening, I use Crisco (The white kind) or even better, pure lard.
- A Sturdy Lid/Pot lifter or two
- A lid/pot Rack for placement between seasoning steps
- Resting bars. I use to 1/4' stainless steel pipes to keep my cast iron OFF the grill surface. You want as little of the cast iron touching your grill as you can. This makes for a better finish and better circulation.
- Take a cloth rag and some Crisco and coat the inside and outside of the lid and the pot or the pan. Put the thinnest coat you can get on and still get full coverage. Most others will tell you to really put it on thick, but you'll end up with problems if you do. If you put it on really thick the grease will bubble potentially creating hard black pockets instead of a completely smooth finish. These pockets, if poked will break and you'll end up with a divot that will only collect food and make what you're cooking stick.
- Place the cast iron on the metal resting bars in your grill and close the lid. There is no real set time for how long it should remain there, but here is what to look for. As the cast iron gets really hot, the grease will start to burn leaving a hard carbon based finish. As it burns smoke will begin to appear just above the surfaces. Wait until ALL the smoke has stopped, this will let you know that it is finished for this round. Carefully (Because it's really hot at this point) remove the pot/pan/lid using oven mitts and the lid lifter and place it on the Lid/Pot rack. Do not put it on the ground, even with legs, hitting the cold ground could crack your pot.
- When the pan is still warm but not hot. You should be able to touch it without getting burnt. Please don't try touching it while it is hot, you'll have a nasty burn. Once it is barely warm, re-coat the pan with Crisco, again (and always) with the thinnest coat you can and still get complete coverage.
- As a side note, every scouter should have a tube of toothpaste in their first aid kit. If you should burn yourself during this process, completely cover the burn with toothpaste and let it dry. It immediately takes away the pain, you won't blister and by the next day you won't be able to tell you've been burned. Over the years I've found that regular UltraBrite™ toothpaste works hands down better than any other.
- Repeat this process 4-5 times and don't think it looks good after three rounds, keep going. The more you do it the better the season will be. I've had pots for 10 years that have never had to be "re-seasoned" and the nothing sticks to them.
- Finally, when you are done let the pot get cold. Place another THIN, THIN, THIN layer of grease all over the surface (inside and out). Cover in a dutch oven case or cloth bag and store until ready to use.
Cleaning a Dutch Oven
- Spray Bottle
- White Vinegar
- Cloth Rags
- Heat Source
- Lid lifter
- Lid rack
I have read more "techniques" about cleaning dutch ovens than I care to share. Most of the time I get a pretty good laugh at the effort people put into cleaning Dutch Ovens. Nothing drives me more crazy than people who don't know how to care for cast iron and resort to lining it with aluminum foil. UHG. Please don't do this, nothing causes a dutch oven to cook worst than putting aluminum foil in it. It doesn't heat evenly, makes it hard to get the food out, sticks to the bottom and worst of all, it causes a reaction that will actually remove your seasoning. Simply put, don't do it. Cleaning a dutch oven is easy.
Vinegar and water is the only thing you need to clean ANY cast iron.
Vinegar is one of the items I always take with me when I leave for an outside adventure, natural regular white vinegar. I mix the vinegar in a spray bottle at a 3-to-1 mixture 3 water, 1 vinegar. When your Dutch Oven is still warm, spray it on the entire inside surface and put the lid back on for a few minutes. You will notice that all the stuff left in your Dutch Oven is now nice and soft. Just take a scraper of some sort and scrape off the excess. Then wipe with a cloth rag. Repeat this process a couple of times, and you should have one clean Dutch Oven.
Pour the resulting mixture directly into your grease pit. Animals hate the smell of vinegar and they'll never go near your grease pit once it has vinegar in it. So you don't have to put your grease pit 2 miles from camp or dig until you hit water to keep the animals away.
Vinegar serves as a tenderizer and a disinfectant. As you know, anything tender cooks faster. Spraying the vinegar solution on meats and vegetable will kill all the bacteria that forms at room temperature. Spraying it on your pots will disinfect them and make them easier to clean. So spraying vinegar on your hands and on the cooking surface you use is also a safe way to go. Remember to heat your Dutch Oven after every cleaning and use to evaporate the moisture from the pours of the Dutch Oven.
After cleaning put back on a heat source until all the moisture is out of your Dutch Oven. Remember Dutch Ovens can get hot fast! Use a lid rack! Remember to coat it with a ultra thin layer of Crisco once it's cool if you plan on cooking in it again in the near future. If you don't plan on cooking in it again for a couple of weeks, don't put the Crisco on it, it will go rancid after a while. Cover the pot with a cloth rag with the edges hanging out and put the lid on it to store it. This lets some air get back inside.
If you had an "oops" and burned the bottom or have some real heavy caked on food in your Dutch Oven, fill it with water, heat it up real hot and put in a cup or so of vinegar. Put on the lid, within 10-15 minutes all the food will have disintegrated to the point that it'll almost wipe out with a rag.
Last cleaning tip. I don't usually advertise for products, but get yourself about 20 of the "Lil' Chizler". This is hands down the best non-marring Dutch Oven scrapper on the market today and the only cost about $.75 - $1.00 apiece! The best ones I've found come from A Happy Camper
Restoring Old or Rusty Dutch Ovens
This is kinda tricky... You can almost recover any cast iron cookware no matter how bad of shape its in, but there are many do's and don'ts.
It is a multi-stage project to get the job done correctly. Since there is no way of gauging how bad each oven is at the time of restoration, you kind of have to try a few different things to get positive results. Here is what has worked for me in the past. Any time you need to "start over" you can follow these steps.
Electrolysis is the best way to clean one, but since this web site is dealing primarily with scouting I won't approach that method, it can be hazardous.
- On your next camp out, when the fire is blazing, place your dutch oven upside down in the fire and let it get red hot. By red hot I mean glowing red hot. This will burn off any food, grease, oil and even bad layers of metal which may remove allot of the rust if there is any. After doing this your cookware is naked, ANY water or moisture that gets on it will rust it immediately so take extreme caution. Also be really careful, when cast iron gets this hot it is dangerous and any sudden temperature changes will crack it.
- After the fire treatment you may use COURSE steel wool, a wire brush or a drill with a very course cup base steel brush. Make sure it is very course. Remember is previous discussion we pointed out that the last thing you want to do is make the metal really smooth. When it is really smooth, the seasoning or curing process will tend to NOT stick very well. If using a wire brush or course steel wool, use an erratic pattern when removing the rust, this will help prevent the metal from becoming smooth.
- After successfully removing the rust, immediately go into seasoning mode which is explained in detail in the Seasoning section of this document.
Regulating Temperature in Dutch Ovens
Keep in mind the briquettes must be applied to both the top and the bottom. Use only quality charcoal briquettes for consistent temperature control. (We recommend Kingsford but not match light, they burn too fast, maybe use some match light to get the fire going) The chart below tells how many briquettes to use for a desired temperature. As a rule of thumb to achieve 325° use the following method. Take the size of the oven and take that number of briquettes less three for the bottom and that number plus three for the top. For example with 12" oven you would place 9 briquettes on the bottom (12-3) and 15 briquettes on the top (12+3). This works for Lodge™ Dutch ovens and GSI™ Aluminum ovens.
|Temperature in Dutch Ovens|
|Temperature||8" Oven||10" Oven||12" Oven||14" Oven||16" Oven|
Note: Adding one set of briquettes (one on top and one on bottom) will raise the temperature of the Dutch Oven approximately 25°. Or conversely removing one set of briquettes will lower the temperature by 25°.
For the MACA Dutch ovens more briquettes are needed to compensate for the depth and thickness of the ovens. Take the diameter of the MACA Dutch oven and add three briquettes for the bottom heat. Then add six to the diameter of the Dutch oven to get the number of briquettes for your top heat. This gives you a temperature of about 325° F. For example with a 15" Dutch oven your will need 18 charcoal briquettes for the bottom heat and 21 charcoal briquettes for the top heat to achieve a temperature of 325° F.
I recommend Volcano Outdoors Cook Stoves as a means to cook on Dutch Ovens. The temperature regulation is quite different than described above, but once you get used to cooking on one, they are the best dutch oven cookers I've used and it's safe for your scouts!!!!!!. It doubles as a grill and small fire ring. We use it to cook everything in Troop 780. Nothing makes better deserts than this tool! However, often we don't use briquettes to heat up our stoves, we use hot hardwood coals from the fire.
Tools You'll need Cooking in Dutch Ovens
Here is a small list of Dutch Oven necessities and accessories.
|Dutch Oven Lid Lifter||Great for taking the lids off those hot dutch ovens. I'd recommend at least a 9" lifter|
|Dutch Oven Locking Long Tongs||Heavy-duty stainless steel tongs are ideal for handling hot coals or briquettes while cooking in Lodge camp Dutch Ovens. 16" ones are great.|
|Lid Rest or Rack||Ever wonder where to put your lid? Now all you need to do is place it on top of the nice stand. Also great to use for serving. Just put your lid upside down and then put the leg of your Dutch Oven on top of that and you have a nice looking way to sever your food. If your Dutch Oven is missing legs all you need to do is place this under it and you have it.|
|"Lil' Chizler"||If you hate cleaning out that Dutch Oven this little tool will make your life easy. You will notice that it is rounded on the one side and that fits in the rounded part of your Dutch Oven so now all you have to do is scrape and it peels all that left over stuff of the sides of your Dutch Oven. Just a little warning you will love them so much you will want to put one in each of your Dutch Ovens. I have also used it on car windows, wall paper, and a ton of other things.|
|Vinegar||They ultimate cleaning solution!|
|Stainless Steel or wood Utensils||Nice solid handles you wont bend these babies. Stainless Steel never hurts a good seasoned Dutch Oven.|
|Oven Mitts||I know everyone uses welding gloves, but they get hot real quick. Get yourself a pair of Oven Mitts that will handle 750° you'll be happier for it.|
|Hot Handle Holders||For the ultimate in cooking comfort we recommend our two piece set silicone lined Handle Holders.|
|Dutch Oven Trivet||Great for not letting your meat sit in the oils. Also allows the heat to circulate better inside the Dutch Oven. Just spray with a little bit of Pam before you use it. That way it cleans up easier.|
|Dutch Oven Name Tags||Stainless Steel Dutch Oven Tags are a must for every dutch oven. Remember you want to put one on the lid and on the bail of the dutch oven. Tired of not getting your own dutch ovens back you have now just solved the problem with these dutch oven tags. Have them engraved if you like or just scratch it in with a nail or punch it in with an awl. Now you get your nice dutch ovens back and you keep that smile! You can even number them if you like keeping your lids with the same dutch ovens.|
|Charcoal Lighter Basket||Light your charcoal quickly and easily with a Charcoal Lighter Basket, plus you can have the next batch of charcoal ready to go for those meals with a long cooking time.|
|Dutch Oven Camp Table||Compact table will hold two 14" dutch ovens and provides extra preparation and serving space to keep your food up off the ground. Safe for use with charcoal.|
|Dutch Oven Tote Bag||They are durable, lightweight, dry quickly, and have exceptional resistance to abrasions and tears. They have double bottoms with 1 1/2" nylon straps. A must for every Dutch Oven Cook who likes to take there Dutch Ovens everywhere. Get ones made of Cordura.|
|Max Temp Handle Mitt||Heavy-duty Pyrotex outer fabric resists scorching and burning. Steam barrier, heavy cotton batting, and thick terry lining all combine to provide ultimate heat protection.
Protection to 650° F
Cooking tips using Dutch Ovens
When cooking with cast iron, heat the piece slowly. Cast iron works best when there is an even heat source spanning the piece's bottom. Old-fashioned wood- and coal-burning stoves are ideal for this, but very rarely does a modern gas or electric range provide this type of heat. The solution is to set your burner on very low and allow the cast iron to gradually warm up. You can then turn up the heat to medium or medium-high, as necessary. There is no reason ever to use the highest settings with cast iron, as it collects and conducts heat so readily.
Alternatively, you can evenly heat your ironware by popping it into an oven set on low. Once it's heated, simply transfer it to the range top and cook as usual
Be particularly careful when cooking with an electric range, because the burners create hot spots that can warp cast iron or even cause it to crack. Be sure to preheat the iron very slowly when using an electric range and keep the settings to medium or even medium-low.
Preheating is not a problem when baking or oven roasting, since the iron will heat evenly in the oven. However, you may find that you do not have to cook the food quite as long as the recipe calls for, because of iron's heat-retaining property.
Finally, be sure to use the appropriate iron for the task at hand. A three-legged Dutch oven is not the right choice for an indoor stove. Nor should a large baking dish be used on top of the range, unless you can perfectly balance the heat from the two burners it sits across.
Pick the right iron, treat it to the proper cure, dig out your favorite recipes and soon you'll understand why grandma spent so much time in the kitchen.
Recipes and Recipe Links
- International Dutch Oven Society
- Byron's Dutch Oven Recipes
- Macscouter Dutch Oven Cooking
- Scout-o-Rama Camping Food & Dutch Oven Recipes
- About: Dutch Oven Cooking
- Dutch Oven Cookware
- Legends of America