Getting Started with Dutch Ovens December 10, 2008Posted by thetrainerscorner in Uncategorized.
Tags: Boy Scouts, Campouts, Cub Scouts, Dutch Ovens, Outdoor Cooking, Outdoors, Scout Leaders, Training, Webelos
Hello fellow Scouters,
Whether through Scouting or personal camping, dutch oven cooking is a great way to prepare meals in the outdoors. But many don’t know how to get started cooking. It can be intimidating at first. If you are interested in cooking with dutch ovens, but don’t know how to start, I have one thing to say to you – don’t be afraid! Cooking with dutch ovens is easy to learn and makes your campout meals so much better! To get started, here are a couple of things to consider.
What you can cook – anything! I used to comb through dutch oven cook books looking for fun and new recipes, but anymore I just cook what we cook at home. Although it’s fun to get new recipe ideas, there’s nothing wrong with cooking your favorite casserole or roast on your campout. Anything you can cook in your oven at home you can cook in your dutch oven. (Please check out MacScouter’s dutch oven section for good recipes and info.)
What you need to get started – first you need a dutch oven. A good one to start with is a cast iron 12″ (6 quart), with feet. I would highly recommend buying pre-seasoned for your first one. Lodge makes great ovens, and a good place to buy your first one. Next, you need something to cook on, to keep heat off the ground and to contain your coals. You can buy a dutch oven cooking stand, but I use galvanized steel car oil drain pans (which can be ordered from a car parts store if they no longer stock them). I use dual pans when cooking, to help protect the ground from scorching. And I use heat pans to prepare the coals in, and separate heat pans to cook in. You should also have a charcoal chimney, to start the coals. I used to wad up newspaper and start the coals that way, but I’ve gotten lazy and now I just put the coal chimney on my stove and use that to get the coals going. Your dutch oven supplies should also include: a lid lifter, a lid stand, long tongs for handling coals, and leather heat-resistant gloves.
Practice – I started cooking in my back yard. I made mistakes and burnt a few things (but actually not that many). It’s the perfect place to practice and not go hungry.
Coals – each coal heats up to around 15 degrees, so if you need to cook something at 350 degrees, you will need around 23 coals. You split the coals between underneath the dutch oven and on the lid (I usually put a few more on the lid than underneath). And you want to avoid the self-lighting coals. They have lighter fluid in the coals and will keep flaming up. I let the coals heat up until the edges are white.
Cooking – while cooking, you should rotate the dutch oven 1/4 turn every 15 minutes, to keep the hot spots moving, and separately rotate the lid 1/4 turn every 15 minutes. Also, you should bring in fresh coals while cooking. Coals loose their heat, so your temperature will drop throughout your cooking time. New coals help maintain your ideal temperature.
A note on desserts – I line my dutch oven with heavy duty aluminum foil before cooking anything with sugar. Sugar can burn into a dutch oven, and it’s hard to get out. I doubt this would be a problem on a well-seasoned dutch oven, but I don’t want to find out. If you use aluminum foil, make sure you lay it down in one section, not two pieces folded together (which can leak – I found that out the hard way). I use the widest foil you can buy. Also, you should spray the dutch oven with Pam non-stick cooking spray before putting in the foil, so it doesn’t stick (old sugar on the dutch oven can heat up and get sticky). Without Pam, you could be scraping tin foil out of the dutch oven.
After camping – when I get home, one of the first things I clean up is the dutch oven. You don’t want to let moisture linger, or you could get rust. So I clean them with boiling water in my kitchen, then let them dry out. I then put a light coat of cooking oil on them for storage (you don’t want too much oil, as it can turn rancid. Some people don’t even coat their ovens with oil for storage). I put a section of paper towl in the oven when I store to help absorb moisture. Then store it in a dry place.
I am by no means a dutch oven expert, but I love cooking outdoors with them. If you have any tips you want to share, please leave them in the comments.
-Scouter Jeff <><