The new year is now upon us. With many 4WD folks setting New Year’s resolutions, I decided to add one of my own. Unlike those involving diet and exercise, this resolution is sure to stick. If you’re not already using a Dutch oven, I encourage you to start. They aren’t expensive or difficult to work with. You’ll enjoy learning a new skill—and savoring your dishes at the camp site.
What kind of Dutch oven to buyDutch ovens come in many sizes, as measured by base diameter. Start with a 10” or 12”. Make sure it’s made of cast iron—aluminum ones are harder to control the heat —and labeled a camp Dutch oven. A camp-style stove comes with feet and a lid with a rim around the edge. These features are crucial when using charcoal or wood coals. Camp-style ovens generally are bare metal; enameled ovens are designed for home use.
I like Lodge and Camp Chef brands for their fit and smooth finish. You can find camp-style Dutch ovens wherever sporting goods are sold. Another source is your buddy down the street. You know, the chap who got one for Christmas and tried it once. You can score a Dutch oven for a really good price!
The 12” size will feed four to six people. For two people, a 10” pot would be better. Most camp ovens come pre-seasoned. Seasoning, a term that’s a bit confusing to newcomers, creates a nonstick surface on the inside. I discuss that process in the article referenced above. It’s a fairly simple process, and one that you will become familiar with the more you use your Dutch oven.
The charcoal, and how to use itDutch oven cooks prefer the briquette style of charcoal over wood coals. Briquettes burn evenly and provide a more consistent heat source. Kingsford is a very popular brand known for its consistency, though through trial and error, you might discover another that suits you fine.
Many dishes and baked goods take 45 minutes to an hour to cook. You’ll start with about 24 or 25 briquettes for a 12-inch diameter pot or 21 for a 10-inch pot. (The rule is 2 times the diameter of the pot for 325 degrees plus one to get to 350.) After the coals are started (don't wait for full grey color), place them according to the “plus-3/minus-3” rule. This refers to the number of briquettes on the lid and below the pot, based upon the size of the oven. For a 12” pot, you’d start with 15 briquettes on top (12 plus 3), and place nine underneath. Put that 25th coal on the top! Some of the finesse is knowing when to remove coals from under the pot based on needs of your dish and whether you add them to the top or discard them. Extra coal on top forces heat downward (contrary to what you might think—just trust me!) and might be just what you need to put a golden crust on the top.
Rotate the Dutch oven every 15 minutes to even out the heat in the event of a hot spot. Rotate the pot in one direction and the lid the opposite direction. Each is about ¼ turn; it doesn’t matter whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise, as long as you are consistent.
Useful accessories for your Dutch ovenTwo really important accessories are the lid lifter and lid stand. Remember that the pot is super-hot during and after cooking. A lid lifter allows you to safely grab the lid. Several styles are available. The Mair brand, featuring what’s called a pistol grip, is my favorite. I thought long would be better for a lid lifter, but in fact, the 15" - 17" length is just perfect.
Oven stands also come in a variety of styles. Their primary function is allowing you to set the lit down, without putting it in the dirt, if you need both hands. Choose one that offers a steady platform and is well made. One thing to note about lifting the lid: Avoid tipping it. You might end up with some extra seasoning in your meal!
Select recipes for the Dutch ovenNow that we have the basics out of the way, it’s time for the fun to begin. You have many options to choose from when using a Dutch oven. In fact, just about anything you can cook or bake at home can be offered at the camp site. These three dishes are fairly easy to prepare and are sure to please everyone at your campsite.
Happy camping—and eating!
Dutch Oven LasagnaThis is a good starting dish for a beginner since it has a lot of liquid.
Your greatest risk is burning the noodles on the bottom. No big deal - just don't eat them!
Add the Broccoli right on top of the Lasagna for the last 15 minutes to steam it.
Triple Chocolate CakeRecipe from Tim Augustine
Start with a 12" Dutch Oven, cold.
Hash Brown Breakfast PizzaRecipe from Daryl Hill (with a few mods!)
This is a good example of converting a normal recipe to Dutch Oven. Substitute Dutch Oven everywhere it says iron skillet. If you cook the bacon in your Dutch oven there is no need to spray it with cooking spray. Just pour out the excess bacon fat.
The hash browns are going to be the bottom crust. Pack them down. We want them crisp and brown. Therefore use a lot of coals on top to push heat down to brown them. (Use the normal 9 coals underneath).
Once the eggs are added remove all coals underneath and use the normal number on top (about 15 briquettes).
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Did you miss the previous article?
Some Upcoming Events
January is the perfect time to visit the Mojave Desert in Southern California and get out of the cold & snow. But don't expect swim suit weather!
Check with us for special events in the first quarter. In February, we have a Women Only class and a Sand & Dunes Class. In March Death Valley, Rocks, and winching are on the schedule. Later this month as you plan 2017 reserve time for one or more of these events.
In March, we also are introducing a our Self-Recovery Clinic. Check it out with the link below.
Summary of upcoming events.
Yellow is sold out
The Orange and Red went fast last time with blue not far behind so if you want a specific color order now while we have them all available.
The Bandana layout follows the “Vehicle Recovery Plan” with pathways to more detail. A unique section of the Bandana, gives the steps for a “Winch Rigging Check: Walk through” so that you verify every element of the rigging before you commit to the pull.
Stuff this in your recovery kit and you will always be ready.
Warning – the Bandana is not a substitute for proper training and use of quality equipment used within the bounds of their safe working load. We advise you to use the information provided in the Winching Recovery Bandana at your own risk. We cannot control the quality and specifications of the equipment used and the methods actually employed.
The original press release with larger graphics is on the website
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