Campground Cooking With A Dutch Oven
An Article by Nicholas Filonovich
After a full day of camping excursions, fishing, hunting, etc., is there anything better than coming back to camp with a hot meal waiting for you?
Well this is done easily with a Dutch oven. A Dutch oven is a large cast iron pot with a lid that seconds as a skillet for your breakfast eggs or bacon, and can give your outdoor experience a wonderful meal at the end of the day.
The basic idea of cooking with a Dutch oven is slow, slow, and slow! After your morning campfire for your breakfast and coffee and you are ready to hit the trails or stream, you bury your Dutch oven in the coals with a great meal inside that will be waiting for you when you get back! But we’ll get back to that shortly!
let’s start with the basics. First off, you will need to purchase a true campfire cast iron Dutch oven. A “true” campfire Dutch oven is made of cast iron, big and heavy with sloping sides and three legs to stand on. The lid seals the pot tightly has a rim around it to hold coals and earth. The lid is also an excellent skillet when flipped over to cook your eggs and bacon in the morning. There are “modern” Dutch ovens that are made of Aluminum, though these are definitely NOT desired for camp cooking. They easily overheat and tend to warp, and when you are cooking an all day meal to come back to, the last thing you want is a pot full of coals and dirt. So after you have purchased your new cast iron Dutch oven, the first thing you need to do is to give it a very good washing in hot water and soap. This washing will prepare it for seasoning. Many manufactures coat the cast iron with wax or other sealers to preserve the appearance of the utensil. After a good cleaning it is ready for seasoning. Seasoning is when you coat your new cast iron oven with oil or grease and “cook” it in your oven or campfire for several hours. Generally a couple to four hours is fine. The more the better. This process can get smoky in your oven so make sure you have your vent on. Basically this lets the oil or grease prepare the metal for even cooking and adds that special touch to cast iron cooking. Once seasoned, you will not have to do it again, as long as you do not excessively scrub the oven. Warm water and soap will do just fine for cleaning. Never use a “Brillo” pad or harsh abrasives. All Right, back to the cooking. A Dutch oven is designed for cooking over or in an open fire. Being heavily made with very thick metal, it distributes the heat more evenly. So when it is in a campfire either covered with coals or on a hook over a direct fire, it cooks very evenly. It also works great withcampfires as they tend to very in the amount of heat they give out due to flare-ups, burn downs, hot coals, etc. One of the best uses and one of my favorites of using a Dutch oven is burying the oven with your favorite stew in a bed of coals and earth after your morning meal. Let your meal slowly cook all daylong while you are away enjoying your day outdoors. Later in the article we have included some “recipes” for all day stews. Dutch oven cooking is like any type of outdoors cooking, i.e. grilling, smoking, or even cooking a hotdog over a campfire, it is almost an art of trial and error. There is no exact science of how long to cook, what to add, how much to spice it up. Every campfire will give different results, though a Dutch oven does compensate for many. As a general rule, as with a home Slowcooker/Crockpot, the longer the better. Long, slow cooked meals tend to be very tender and delicious. The same goes for Dutch oven meals covered with coals and earth. Tender meats, tasty vegetables and seasoning all blended after hours of cooking, what more can one ask after a long day outdoors!
Well, I did say that I would give recipes at the end and here is a very basic recipe for your enjoyment!
2 pounds of Stew Beef in 1-inch cubes
Sliced 1 Onion,
Diced 3 Potatoes,
Diced 2/3 Stalks of Celery,
Sliced 1 28 oz. Can Tomatoes
2 Bay Leaves
2 Cups Beef Broth
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
One of the great aspects of a Dutch oven is that you can combine just about anything to create a great outdoors meal. You can add any type of meat, vegetable and spice to create a wonderful dinner. Some helpful hints; -Brown whatever meat you are using by adding a little oil or grease to the oven when it is hot. Once browned, drain fat and return to heat. -Add whatever vegetables and spices you wish to the meat and cover with water. -Being that it will be simmering all day, the meal should take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, all depending on the amount of heat, coals, wind, rain, etc.. Cooking with a Dutch oven is most definitely not an exact science, which is why I love it so much. You never know what to expect, and that is part of the enjoyment behind it. But after you come back to your campsite after a day outdoors and you smell that wonderful stew cooking, you will know another one of the great outdoor secrets!
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