I love cooking in my dutch oven. It’s so easy to take storage staples and combine them with some low heat and have a delicious dinner 4 hours later. We’re definitely coming up on my favorite season to dutch oven cook. It is of course possible to cook with a dutch oven during the summer, I’ve done cornbreads and beans and chicken dishes for close-home-camping excursions. But really, fall and winter are when I really LOVE to dutch oven dinner.
It’s no coincidence that this is harvest season for carrots and potatoes and onions and garlic. All of those are divine when cooked in a dutch oven with a nice chunk of cow or pig.
Judging heat in a Dutch Oven – I was taught the Count the Charcoals trick for maintaining a heat setpoint. Basically, you count each briquette as 10 degrees, so I would use 30 to get 300 degrees, and 35 to get 350 degrees. Most of the time, I’m doing roasts or stews, so I keep the coals on bottom equal to (or just a bit more than) the coals on top. But, I’ve just learned a great technique from Dutch Oven Dude that I can’t wait to try out.
Just remove the lid from the dutch oven and place your hand just above or just inside the oven. Count how many seconds you can keep your hand there before it gets too hot. It is about 50 degrees per second counting down from 550, so I just count – “550, and 500, and 450, and 400, and 350, and 300, …”. It is consistent and detects temperature instead of estimating the amount of fuel.
I think that will work a lot better for me, since I cook with wood more often than I cook with charcoal. (Charcoal is not on the bug-out pack list.)
Dutch Oven Method – I know I titled this post “Dutch oven recipes,” but the truth is, I rarely use recipes. I’ve learned that it’s more accurate to call what I do a method. Even more recently I’ve learned there’s a name for the method I use to start most of my dutch oven dishes the, Maillard reaction. It sounds french and fancy, but really, it’s just the name given to the process of browning a piece of meat in oil over heat. The amino acids in the meat have a reaction with the heat, and break down, in the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. My basic method is to take the meat I’m cooking with and brown it on all sides in the hot dutch oven with oil, then I add vegetables and some liquid and let it roast at 300 for 3-5 hours. I adjust the vegetables to what meat I have, and what outcome I’m looking for. (i.e. tomatoes are only added when I’m aiming for a stew. I use less garlic for pork than I use for beef. I rarely use kohlrabi or turnips in chicken dishes because I feel like the chicken can’t take on those strong flavors as well as beef or pork or lamb can.) I check in on things every 20 or 30 minutes, just to ensure everything is heating evenly.
But, for those of you who enjoy recipes, here are a couple of my family’s favorites.
Dutch Oven Monkey Bread (cheater style)
|Ingredients:||2 rolls of Pillsbury biscuits
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp cinnamon
1 stick butter
|Instructions:||Tear biscuits into quarters.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in plastic bag.
Drop each quarter into bag and shake to coat well.
Place in dutch oven.
Melt butter and pour over biscuits.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8.You may want to line oven with foil to catch the melted sugar.
Dutch Oven Pot Roast
|Ingredients:||3 lb rump roast or pot roast
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 potatoes, peeled and halved
4 carrots, cut into 2′ pieces
2 onions, quartered
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp (or sprig) of Rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup water
|Instructions:||Brown roast in oven on all sides in oil.
Place half of vegetables in bottom of oven.
Return meat to oven and season with salt and pepper.
Add remaining vegetables and water.
Cover and cook at 300 degrees for 3-5 hours depending on how well done you like it.Serves about 8.
So there you are, a couple ideas to get started with if you’ve never cooked in a dutch before.
I highly recommend it, it’s a fuel conservative way to cook, (as long as you have the lid) and you can easily cook up enough to feed a whole camp of hungry people. Do we have any Dutch Oven lovers amongst our readers? Shout out in the comments!
– Calamity Jane