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Cooking with Dutch Ovens

Many cookware sets come with what they call a "Dutch oven", the largest pot in the set. A true Dutch oven is made of cast iron, has three small legs and a tight fitting lid. It is intended to be used outdoors over a campfire or heated with coals from a fire. You can find flat-bottomed cast iron pots that can be used on top of the stove or in your existing traditional ovens, and while they work fine, they do not cook in the same way a true Dutch oven will.

Using Coals

The easiest way to heat a Dutch oven outdoors is using charcoal briquettes. In a charcoal starter, bring the coals to the grey ash stage and dump them on the ground in a safe area.

For Dutch oven cooking, the general rule of thumb is four up and four down when determining how many coals you will need. Your Dutch oven will be marked on the bottom with a size, such as "12". 

Place the food you want to cook in the Dutch oven and put the lid on top. Using a camp shovel, count out four less coals than the size of the oven and arrange them in a single layer beneath the oven.

Next, add an amount of coals equal to the size, plus four, to the top of the lid, scattering them evenly around the lid.

This will give you an oven of approximately 350 degrees. You may have to add coals during the cooking process if the recipe has an extended cooking time. You can cook everything from casseroles to bread in a Dutch oven this way.

Over the Fire

To do this, you will have to have some way to suspend or support the Dutch oven over the fire. One of the simplest ways is to surround the fire with four large flat rocks and place an old barbecue grate on the rocks. Set the Dutch oven on the grate and you're ready to cook. This method works well for anything you might want to cook in an open pot, such as chili, soups or scrambled eggs.