Cooking With A Dutch Oven

Sarah Sandori

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Dutch oven cooking is making a comeback. This staple campfire utensil, perhaps the most valuable tool a camp cook can own, is rich in American pioneer tradition. You can plug in to that heritage by using a Dutch oven to cook with on your next campout. Dutch ovens are also finding their way into the modern cook's kitchen; there is no better tool to use when you want to slow-cook something.

A Dutch oven for outdoor use is made of cast iron (and is therefore quite heavy!), having a smooth bottom, a tight fitting lid and three short legs for raising it above the campfire coals or other heat source. A cast iron Dutch oven is cookware that will truly last a lifetime.

Today, several manufacturers offer Dutch ovens made of aluminum or other materials than cast iron. For my money, though-and for authenticity-I prefer cast iron, especially for outdoor usage.

Before you cook your first meal in a new Dutch oven, you must properly season it. Don't skip this step or you will likely end up ruining the oven; at the very least, your food will not cook as well as it should.

Seasoning involves coating the entire surface of the oven with cooking oil and then baking the oil into the iron. If you have a new oven, it will probably come with manufacturer's instructions for doing this. Some Dutch ovens come preseasoned, but don't assume that this is the case. Once seasoned, whether by the manufacturer or by you, your Dutch Oven may never need to be seasoned again.

Dutch ovens are intended for long, slow cooking-in fact, it's the original slow cooker. A Dutch oven will give a temperature of approximately 300 degrees, with the heat even distributed throughout its interior. You can cook many familiar home-style recipes in this utensil, and it is particularly suited to stews, roasts, soups and other one-pot meals. One of the things that makes it great for camping is that you can start a meal cooking and then go about enjoying the rest of the camping experience without having to constantly peek at how the food is coming. Just give it time.

Recipes for Dutch oven cooking are available on the Web, and entire books of "DO" recipes have been published. The word is getting out: Dutch oven cooking is fun and easy. The Dutch oven has even been proclaimed the official cookware of Texas, Arkansas and Utah. But you don't have to live in one of those states to make this versatile utensil a part of your cooking repertoire. Why not plan to take one along on your next outdoor adventure?

Sarah Sandori is the food and entertaining columnist for the Solid Gold Info Writers Consortium . Have you ever wanted to be able to exactly duplicate a favorite dish from a favorite restaurant? Check out Sarah's article where she reveals her source for the most mouth-watering secret restaurant recipes in America:


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