Have you ever used a dutch oven? Over a camp fire these pot-pan combos can be great for making a pot of beans, soup or chili, but did you know you can also bake in them?
This spring my husband and I attended a dutch oven cooking class where we learning to make everything from a rolled pork loin to pineapple upside down cake and yeast rolls. It was a lot of fun, very educational and tasty! We had a good sized class and everyone made a dish or two, so in the end we had a huge feast.
Dutch Ovens Are Great for Controlled Cooking
A dutch oven is very heavy cast iron and if used right, can provide a very regulated heat. This makes it the perfect setup for baking outdoors. It may surprise you, but a dutch oven is not to be used over an open fire, and actually requires very little fuel! Our class used charcoal because it’s the easiest to calculate and regulate, but wood works too! This chart is very helpful in figuring out how many charcoal biscuits are needed to achieve the desired temperature for your oven size! And yes, you can double-stack dutch ovens!
Getting Started Cooking in a Dutch Oven
Once you know how big your Dutch Oven is, and how many charcoal biscuits you need to maintain the correct temperature for your recipe, get some charcoal ready. Make sure to ready at least twice as many as your pan says to use, cause you’ll end up needing to replace some partway through the cooking process as they cool down or burn out. Just like you would if you were grilling, light the charcoal and wait for the biscuits to get nice and gray. They will be oh-so-hot. Us very long handled tongs to place them under and on top of your dutch oven. You will want to do all this before putting your batter in the pan if your recipes calls for preheating the oven. If no preheat is necessary, load the pan up with food first, then add the charcoal.
Note: For yeast breads, you can let your dough do its last rise right in the pan. Put the loaves or rolls in the cool dutch oven, then load up with the charcoal. The dough will rise as the oven warms up!
Keep an Eye on Your Temperature!
Be sure to set your timer for about 10 minutes. When it dings, use a heavy-duty pot holder to pick up the whole oven by the handle and give it a quarter turn, to the right. Next do the same with the lid, but turn it to the left. This helps to shift the heat so you don’t have some parts getting over cooked while others remain undone. Do this every 10-15 minutes during your cook time. Replace coals that have burnt to ash (dump ash off the lid if possible… ash insulates, and will keep the heat of the coals from warming the oven) or turned cold.
Wind can really affect your temperature. If it’s breezy outdoors, try to set up a wind block behind your cooking area. Some people use these heavy iron cooking tables, but most people cook right down on the ground, so you may want to stretch a tarp between two sticks, or set a large cooler behind your cooking area to keep the wind from blowing all your heat away. Remember, this isn’t an open flame. Your heat is concentrated right on the oven so you won’t be keeping warm by this ‘fire’ or melting things that are nearby. Do that, er, the keeping warm part anyway, over where you’re getting the charcoal or wood ready.
When Your Food is Ready…
To spur you on, I’m including some pictures of things we made in our class. I can’t wait to hear what kinds of things you make in your dutch oven!