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  • Dutch Oven Basics Part Two: Prepping and Cooking with Your Oven

    iStock_000004149794XSmall_Dutch Oven

    Now that you’ve learned how to pick a Dutch oven for outdoor cooking it’s time to learn how to prep it and cook with it! Dutch oven cooking has become almost an art for people like Byron Bills and also for Archie and Linda Dixon, authors of Don’t be Afraid of Your Food Storage . . . Just Dutch It! As converts to Dutch oven cooking, the Dixons are living proof that even a beginner can master Dutch oven cooking.

    Cooking without electricity is a very important skill to have for your emergency survival. Since Dutch oven cooking is a delicate process, let’s talk about how to prep your oven and how to cook with it, so you can become a Dutch oven cooking master!

     

    Prepping Your Oven: How to Season Your Oven

    You can buy pre-seasoned cast iron Dutch ovens, skillets, and griddles. If you choose to season your own, you can follow the steps below.

    Cast iron must be seasoned before use by having shortening, bacon grease, lard or certain vegetable oils rubbed into the inside and outside surfaces and baked on. Some vegetable oils become sticky, so choose a good oil. The best choices for seasoning cast iron are flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil. A good explanation of why can be found in this informative article by Sheryl Canter. She also includes great steps for getting a nice seasoning on your pan. It’s more involved than the steps below, but seems to give fantastic results.

    A cast iron oven that has been properly seasoned and cared for can last for generations. Seasoning is a much more intricate process than merely rubbing a couple of oils on and calling it good. Follow Sheryl's process or the Dixon’s tips for preparing your new oven:

    1. After washing out your oven with warm water, wipe the dry oven and the lid all over with a lightly oiled paper towel or cotton cloth while the oven is still warm. After oiling the Dutch oven, place it in your kitchen oven on the bottom rack at 350 degrees with lid ajar. Bake one hour.
    2. You may get strange smelling fumes so turn on your kitchen fan and open a few windows (This process should be done before there is an emergency, ie. No power). If you can’t use your kitchen oven and have a barbeque with a lid, you can use that instead.
    3. Once the Dutch oven has cooled down, remove it, oil it, and bake it again. Leave it in the kitchen oven until warm, remove it, then oil it lightly one more time. Your oven is ready to use.
    4. Your oven will turn a golden color, but after you use it several times it will have a black shine. If your oven rusts, scrape off the rust with steel wool, and repeat the oiling process again.

    Cooking Your Food with Charcoal

    1. Use good quality briquettes and place hot charcoal in a circle (rather than a pile) under the oven, so air can circulate. Place briquettes in a checkerboard pattern on the lid. Avoid bunching coals either under or on top of your oven, as this can cause hot spots and possibly burn food.
    2. To attain certain temperatures in your oven, add or remove hot coals to the lid and under the oven. For example, to achieve 350° F., use a ring of very hot coals under the oven (about 3-4 between each leg) and place briquettes in a checkerboard pattern on lid (about 15-16). Check out Prepping to Survive’s advice on how to heat a Dutch oven to 350 degrees. Since this is not as exact a gauge as your kitchen oven, you may need to learn by experimenting with the number of coals and checking your food as it is approaching the time when it should be done. Some experts have learned to test the temperature by counting how many seconds they can hold their hand over an open oven!
    1. To roast food, place an equal number of coals above and below the oven. To simmer soups and stews, place 1/3 of the coals on the lid and 2/3 below the oven. Several ovens may be stacked (largest on the bottom) with coals on top of each oven.

    Use this temperature guide can help you determine how many coals you will need to heat your Dutch oven to a specific temperature.

    Temperature Scale

     

    Using your Oven to Bake

    For baking, either obtain a baking rack for the bottom of your Dutch oven or make one very simply by tightly rolling an 8-inch sheet of aluminum foil like a snake, then shaping it into a ring or coil and flattening it slightly. If you are baking a pie, breads, or anything with that uses a dough, place the dough/crust in a loaf or pie pan and put the pan into the Dutch oven. Make sure that you either use the aluminum coil or a slightly flattened foil ball to place the loaf or pie pan on so that the bottom of your pan does not sit directly on the Dutch oven. If your pan does sit directly on the floor of your Dutch oven, the bottom of your baked goods will burn.

     

    Other Helpful Tips and Tricks

    1. Never pour cold liquid into a very hot oven—it will crack.
    1. Don’t allow cast iron ovens to soak in water—wash quickly in hot water (no soap) and dry with a cloth, then re-season. (Some suggest placing it over heat again for 10-20 minutes to dry out any remaining moisture before rubbing down with oil and storing).
    1. Don’t place an empty cast iron oven over a hot fire—use coals

    Now that you know how to prep and cook with your Dutch oven, check back tomorrow for the next installment in our Dutch oven mini-series, “Dutch Oven Recipes—Breakfast.”

    Check out the rest of our series:

    Dutch oven Basics Part One: Picking Your Oven

    Dutch oven Basics Part Three: Breakfast Recipes

    Dutch oven Basics Part Four: Sides and Main Dishes

    Dutch oven Basics Part Five: Desserts

     

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    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: emergency cooking, mini series, outdoor cooking, cooking, Dutch oven, recipes

  • Dutch Oven Basics Part One: Picking Your Oven

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    Summer is a great time to experiment with alternative cooking methods, so we’re highlighting Dutch ovens in a week-long series of posts.

    Dutch ovens produce some of the tastiest meals by using a constant heat maintained over a longer duration. This series will take you from getting your first Dutch oven to creating a magnum opus. Enjoy!

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    Dutch Oven Basics—Picking Your Oven

    “How many of us would know how to cook for our families if electricity and natural gas were suddenly gone? With the Dutch oven skills I’ve learned over the years, I have confidence that I can cook my family a good hot meal at any time, regardless of our ‘current’ circumstances!” ~ Byron Bills, Expert Dutch oven chef

    Dutch oven cooking may intimidate you, but the basics are fairly easy to master even if you are a beginner. Here are some tips for picking a Dutch oven.

    Indoor or Outdoor: What’s the Difference?

    The first rule for picking a Dutch oven is deciding whether you want to use your oven for indoor or outdoor cooking. Indoor ovens have flat bottoms and are meant to sit on the rack in conventional ovens. Outdoor ovens have three legs that sit over hot coals, and a lid with a lip. This lip is meant to keep the coals from sliding off.

    You can use indoor Dutch ovens outdoors, but you’ll need to make a few adjustments. For this series we’ll be focusing on outdoor ovens.

    Types of Ovens: Cast Iron and Cast Aluminum

    Dutch ovens are made from either cast iron or cast aluminum; each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.

    Aluminum ovens can be washed with soapy water. Aluminum is also better used for foods that need to cool quickly once they’re cooked, but cooking temperatures can vary based on wind or atmospheric temperature changes.

    Cast iron is preferred by many Dutch oven professionals because it keeps a more even cooking temperature and keeps food warm longer. Also, cast iron ovens like the Volcano are very durable and can last for generations.

    Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for washing, drying, and seasoning a new Dutch oven before using it. In general, cast iron ovens should NOT be washed with soapy water (unless you have just taken it out of the package for the first time). Putting soap in a cast iron oven will destroy the ‘seasoning’ and will seep into the pores, where it can leach out into your next meal.

    Seasoning refers to the vegetable oil or butters that you coat the Dutch oven with before each use. Seasoning stays within the walls of a Dutch oven during each use, building up over time. It prevents rust and corrosion and creates a non-stick cooking surface. Don’t get rid of the seasoning!

    Oven Sizes

    Dutch ovens come in sizes from 8 to 22 inches in diameter. The depths vary too, giving you a wide range of choices.

    The smallest ovens are good for vegetables, sauces, side dishes and desserts; the largest will accommodate a good-sized turkey with vegetables. Don’t forget that the bigger your Dutch oven, the more it will weigh. Byron has a 49 quart Dutch oven that weighs 158 pounds—empty!

    Because of the weight and size of Dutch ovens, you want to choose an oven with three sturdy legs; skinny legs might break.

    If you’re only purchasing one oven, the 12-inch size, that holds about 6 quarts, is probably the most useful. A 10-inch and a 14-inch would also be very handy to have, especially if you’re cooking several foods at the same time.

    Keep in mind that when you’re cooking you can stack several ovens (smallest on top) and conserve coals by placing them between ovens, as they will heat both upward and downward.

     

    Oven Accessories (You’re Going to Need These!!)

    • You will want a shovel, a selection of tongs and hooks, and good insulated leather gloves to help you handle your hot, heavy ovens. A whisk broom is handy to brush ashes off lids before you open the oven.
    • Charcoal chimney starter
    • Consider keeping your charcoal in a large bucket or garbage can topped with a tight-fitting lid.

    Now that you’ve learned how to pick a Dutch oven, you can learn how to cook with it!

    Check out the next installment of our Dutch Oven Mini Series, “Dutch Oven Basics—Prepping and Cooking with your Oven.”

    Check out the rest of our Dutch oven series:

    Dutch oven Basics Part Two: Prepping and Cooking with Your Oven

    Dutch oven Basics Part Three: Breakfast Recipes

    Dutch oven Basics Part Four: Sides and Main Dishes

    Dutch oven Basics Part Five: Desserts

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: emergency cooking, mini series, outdoor cooking, cooking, Dutch oven, recipes