It’s one of the oldest and most versatile pieces of cookware around – and it can transform your campfire meals from simple hamburgers and hot dogs to gourmet dinners and desserts.
The Dutch oven.
While Dutch ovens come in aluminum and cast iron, the latter is typically the preferred material. While Dutch ovens vary in size, the key feature is to make sure it has a lid designed so that charcoal or coals can be placed on top.
So, what can you cook in a Dutch oven?
Roy Dalby, president of the Little Pine Friends of Daingerfield State Park, says the answer is nearly everything.
Little Pine Friends has a sub-group called Dutch Oven Gatherings that meets from 9 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month at Daingerfield State Park. Participants – new and old – learn techniques and recipes, and get to sample the food prepared at each event. The monthly gatherings are free with donations requested; the money collected helps support other events at the park.
Dalby said those who try Dutch oven cooking will find they can recreate their favorite stovetop recipes.
“There are many websites that you can go to that will give you endless recipes to choose from and even videos on how to prepare,” he said. “You can also cook your favorite recipes or have some fun and experiment with your own creations.”
Whatever recipe you decide to try, Dalby said the key to Dutch oven cooking is “controlling the fire and the heat.”
“Our group prefers to cook using charcoal because it gives a more consistent heat and is easy to manage and adjust your cooking,” he said.
The biggest problem most beginners have is burning the food on the bottom of the oven before the remainder gets done. The solution is having the correct amount of charcoal on the top and the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Other tips for Dutch oven cooking include using foil pan lines to simplify cleanup and cleaning the Dutch oven after each use. Additionally, first-time cooks are encouraged to season their Dutch oven upon its first use by placing it in the oven or on the grill and rubbing it down with vegetable oil while it is hot.
For more information about the Little Pine Dutch Oven Gatherings, find the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/littlepinedogs.
Dutch oven recipes from the Little Pine Logs Dutch Oven Gatherings Cookbook:
Peach Cobbler Supreme
1/4 cup butter, 1/2" cubes
From the cobbler:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
For the fruit layer:
3 1/2 cups sliced peaches
Preheat 12" Dutch oven to bake at 375: 18 coals on top, 8 on bottom.
In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add milk and stir well. Stir in the spices.
Pour mixture into the Dutch oven.
Layer the peaches on top. Do not stir in.
Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.
1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 14 oz can chicken broth
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can mushrooms
6 ounces spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces
Preheat 12" Dutch oven to fry at 400: NO coals on top, 29 on bottom.
Brown ground beef and onion until meat is browned and onion is translucent.
Stir in all remaining ingredients (except spaghetti) and bring to a boil.
Add spaghetti pieces.
Adjust coals to simmer: 7 coals on top, 15 on bottom.
Cook, stirring frequently until spaghetti is tender, about 20 minutes.