How do you use a dutch oven? What about seasoning cast iron? 
Find out all you need to know about dutch oven baking and cooking here.

Here you’ll find everything you need to know about using a camp Dutch oven.  We’ll walk you through seasoning cast iron, controlling Dutch oven temperatures when cooking, purchasing the best Dutch oven and tools, and also cleaning and maintaining your camp Dutch oven.

What is a Dutch oven?

A Dutch oven is what separates a lousy camping meal from a mouthwatering savory meal.  It is indispensible to the outdoor and camping cook.  With a Dutch oven you can can bake, boil, stew, fry, roast or any other conceivable method of cooking.  It is the most versatile and durable cooking tool for outdoor camp cooking.  Take a peek at our Dutch oven recipes to see what we mean by a plethora of cooking options.  Nearly any cooked food that you can create at home, you can create with a Dutch oven.

Because of the design of a Dutch oven, food is cooked slowly and evenly.  A Dutch oven is a cooking pot made of thick cast iron, perfect for absorbing, retaining and distributing heat. Dutch ovens have a flat bottom with a special lipped, tight-fighting lid, three legs and a wire bail handle to lift and hang.  They are designed to cook complete meals over an open fire, which makes them a good camp companion.  Coals or briquettes are often used to cook with from both above and below for more uniform heat, which is why the lid has a flange and the body has legs.  This particular design is called a camping, cowboy or chuckwagon Dutch oven.

Cooking with a Dutch oven is considered great fun by those who use them.  There are some good reasons too.  By using a Dutch oven more time can be spent with friends and family as less time is required to watch and check cooking.  The food is prepared, placed in the oven and allowed to cook.  Since the oven is self-contained there is no ash to clean off and the burning of meals occurs less frequently than other methods.  There is something magical about lifting the lid, watching everyone’s face brighten with anticipation as some of the wafting smells whet the appetites of the campers.

There are designs other than the camping Dutch oven.  The French have their version, called cocettes,and the British have “casserole dishes”.  The Japanese have something similar in design, the tetsunabe.  There is also the Sac, a traditional Balkan cast-iron oven, which is related to the South African Potiie and the Australian Bedourie oven.  The original Dutch oven looked a little different as well, with a deeper pot, no legs and no flange on the lid.

History of the Dutch Oven

The term “Dutch oven” showed up around 300 years ago, around 1710.  Some researchers believe that the cast iron ovens got their name because of Dutch traders who sold cooking vessels out of their wagons as they visited towns in the American colonies.  What is known is that the Dutch system of producing cast iron cooking vessels was more advanced than the English.  The Dutch used sand casting to make their molds which provided a much smoother surface.  Because of the higher quality, the ovens were imported into Britain.  In 1704, Abraham Darby of England visited Netherlands to learn the Dutch system of casting iron ovens.  When he came back to England, Darby patented a casting process modeled after the Dutch process and began making ovens that were sold in England and the fledgling American Colonies.

The Dutch oven has a special tie to the American West.  It is the State Cooking Implement of Texas, the State Cooking Pot of Utah and the State Cooking Vessel of Arkansas.  The American colonies and settlers loved the cast-iron cookware and when the country began to spread westward across North America, so did the Dutch oven.  The ovens were so valuable that wills in the 18th and 19th century often dictated that the desired inheritor of the cast iron cookware.  Notable is the will of Mary Ball Washington, the mother of President George Washington.  In her will, dated May 20th of 1788, she stated that one-half of her “iron kitchen furniture” should go to her grandson, Fielding Lewis, and the remaining half to Betty Carter, a granddaughter.  Of her “iron kitchen furniture”, there were several Dutch ovens.  Other famous American figures such as Lewis and Clark brought Dutch ovens as they explored the great American Northwest in 1804-1806. [1]

Settlers who moved West often had Dutch oven at the top of their list of essentials, this included groups of people-powered handcart companies of Mormon pioneers that lugged these heavy cooking pots across North America.  In fact, there is a statue which honors the Mormon handcart companies who entered Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in the 1850s that proudly displays a Dutch oven hanging from the front of the handcart.  Explorers like Jim Bridger and Peter Skene Ogden used the kettle versions on the trail but appreciated the standard three-legged, flat top with a rim version together with its breads, tasty cobblers and savory stews when they wintered in.  There were various Utah mountain men who used them and in a journal of the Trapper, Osborne Russell, he wrote about how much he appreciated having some greasy, grizzly bear meat to cook because it helped re-season the cast iron after boiling roots for meals during the previous eleven days.  The mining era in Utah saw heavy Dutch oven use as well as the western cattle drives that lasted from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century.  It is no wonder that the International Dutch Oven Society is located in Logan, Utah.  Utah is not only the headquarters of the Society but the site of the World Championship Dutch Oven Cook-off – a major event to the Festival of the American West.[2]

Now that you know what a Dutch oven is, find out the best Dutch oven to buy, how to season cast iron and finally how to cook with a Dutch oven.

1. Dutch oven. (2011, August 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-09-03

2.“Utah Symbols – Dutch Oven”. Pioneer.utah.gov. Retrived 2011-09-03