Dutch Oven Introduction & History


In my book the two greatest things in life are being outdoors and enjoying great food and a Dutch oven brings them both together. There's just something very special about preparing good food outdoors, I just love watching the reaction of friends and family when I lift the lid on a Dutch oven to take a look at what’s cooking inside then to get a wiff of the wonder full aroma rising up, it never fails to put a smile on there face and raise there spirits and believe me there is no better tasting food then that cooked in a Dutch oven. I hope buy sharing some of my knowledge you to will get the same enjoyment as I do.

Dutch oven cooking is a living skill that every one can easily learn and enjoy. As a society we have become so fast paced in our everyday lives we have forgotten many skills that not so long ago would have been second nature to us. If the electricity and gas were suddenly to go How many of us would know how to roast meat to perfection, bake breads or make soups and stews and after all food is our fuel so maybe we should know how to prepare them without the convenience of our modern kitchens. With a single Dutch oven I can and with the cooking skills I have learned I know that I can cook for my family a good hearty breakfast, lunch, dinner or desert at any time or place. So by the reading the following information I hope to take you through the basics to get you on the road to some of the finest dinning there is.

What is a Dutch Oven?

You will notice that a Dutch oven has some unique features it is these that give it its versatility so that anything you can cook in a oven or on a hob at home can successfully be cooked outdoors and with a little practice you will be able to use it for baking, frying making stews soups and the perfect roast with all the trimmings. You would have noticed that a Dutch oven has three legs this allows for airflow and to make it easy to add or take away hot coales from underneath . The lid has a raiesd lip which allows hot coals to sit on top which prevents them from falling into your food when you lift it off, the principle being that when you have heat from below and above and due to the very nature of cast iron the heat will distribute evenly around the pot and also retaine it for longer allowing you to cook in the same way as a conventional oven and with a little practice you can then start to regulate and control the heat by adding or taking away the coales to get a perfect result. Dutch ovens also have bail carry handle which can also be used for hanging it dircetly over the fire from a tri pod.

Dutch Oven History

During the late 1600s the Dutch system of producing cast iron cookware was more advanced than the English system and the cookware produced in the Netherlands was imported into Britain. In 1704 Abraham Darby went to the Netherlands to observe the Dutch system for making cookware. Darby then began to produce cookware for the home market and the new American Colonies. It is possible that because Darby’s cookware was based upon the Dutch foundry system that the cookware he produced came to be referred to as “Dutch” ovens. Other researchers believe that this term may have come from the itinerant Dutch traders who sold cookware out of their wagons as they traveled from town to town. Maybe both accounts are true. In any event, the term “Dutch oven” has endured for over 300 years.

A Dutch oven was also among the kit Lewis & Clark and many other mountain men and pioneers carried when they explored the great American Northwest in the early 1800. The cast-iron cookware was so loved by colonists and settlers because of its versatility and durability and the ovens were so valude that wills in the 18th and 19th centuries frequently spelled out the desired inheritor of the cast iron cookware.

Below I have listed the features to look for when buying a tradional cast iron Dutch oven.

Legs- Your oven must have three legs to keep it off the coals. This lets you set the oven on the ground and slide hot coals under it as needed. Make sure the legs are thick where they connect to the oven. Skinny legs may poke through the bottom of the oven if it gets too hot or when more ovens are stacked on top. Also, don't get legs that are just short 1/2 inch nubs. The legs should be at least over an inch high.

Bail- A wire loop attached on opposite sides of the Dutch oven. It should be heavy gage wire, not thin, easily bent wire that might melt. The spots where the bail is attached should be moulded parts of the pot, not riveted in place. The rivets can rust out, melt out, or break off. The bail should be easily raised and lowered, not catching on the lid. It should also stand on its own at about a 45 degree angle so it is up and away from the heat and easy to grab with a lifting tool.

Lid- The lid is an extremely important part of Dutch oven cooking. Keep these features in mind .The lid should have a rim this keeps coals and ash on the lid and prevents them from falling in the food when it is removed. The lid handle should moulded into the centre of the lid. It must have a space between the handle and lid so you can slide a lid lifter under it to lift. Check that the lid fits snugly on the pot. This is to keep steam inside and prevent food from drying out and burning the lid may need to be turned to find its correct seat. The inside of the lid should be concave so that it can be placed upside down on coals and used as a fry pan.

Pot- Check that the sides of the pot are an even thickness all around. Also check the quality of the cast. A rough surface on the cast is actually ok since it will hold the 'seasoning' better than a very smooth surface.

Size- Dutch ovens range from 8ltr up to 24 ltr capacity. The most practical & common size is 8ltr and is great for groups of 6 to 14, depending on the meal. As a rule of thumb for stews and soups if you allow 500ml per person which will be one very large serving then the guide below will help you to choice the right size Dutch oven.

4 ltr Dutch Oven feeds up to 7 adults
6 ltr Dutch Oven feeds up to 11 adults
8 ltr Dutch Oven feeds up to 14 adults
12 ltr Dutch Oven feeds up to 20 adults