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What to do with a giant cast iron Dutch oven?

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My wonderful boyfriend got me a huge cast iron Dutch oven for my birthday... In may. I haven't really used it yet, mostly because it's kind of dauntingly large and heavy. What should I make in it? How do you use your Dutch ovens?

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  1. Any idea what the capacity is, starburn? The are generally measured in quarts.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Terrie H.

      Giant isn't a precise enough measurement? :)
      I think 9 quarts.

      1. re: starburn

        Well damn, that IS giant!! ;p

        Will be great for pot roasts, briskets, whole chickens, etc. Probably not too useful for weeknight dinners for 2, but making some weekend meals with good leftovers for freezing.

        Again, wow - that must weigh a whole lot!

        1. re: Terrie H.

          Yeah, it weighs a ton and I've got no upper body strength to speak of so it's a little daunting

          1. re: starburn

            My suggestion is to do a little searching on this board and your favorite other cooking sites for braising, pot roast, short ribs, braised and/or roasted chicken - anything that comes to mind that could be browned then braised in the same pot. That's the beauty of the cast iron. If lifting it in and put of the oven when it's full, rethink your cooking method so you can cook in top of the stove. And make sure the BF is around to help with the heavy lifting should you need it!

        2. re: starburn

          9 quarts. Nine.

          Good lord, if you haven't used it yet, can you exchange it?

          6 - 8 quart works great for soup, stews and the lovely no knead bread recipe. But 9 quarts? It does show your guys complete love for you -- "Bigger is better, and she deserves the best!"

          And he must think you are small but mighty. Yow!

          1. re: happybaker

            You hit the nail on the head, it was a totally sweet gesture that he ordered a full month before my birthday because he heard me mention that I wanted one. I'd love to get another smaller, preferably coated one (sometimes it's hard when people give you thoughtful gifts and you aren't able to specify the one you want, isn't it?) once it won't seem like I'm replacing his gift. In the meantime, I'd like to get some use out of this one, but will probably need him to lift it

          2. re: starburn

            That is a really big dutch oven. I would have returned it. I mean how often am I making a braised dish for 18 people? But, you do own this lovely thing, so I suspect you want ideas more than my sympathy.

            Do you have any freezer space? What do the two of you love to eat during the winter? I would concentrate on these types of things.... make really large batches of a beef stew, traditional chili, duck ragu, bolognaise... anything with a saucy component will freeze beautifully.

            1. re: starburn

              Basically everything I make in my 7 quart except I have a little more room, baked beans, chili, soups, gumbo, étouffée, goulash act

              ok I was thinking it was enameled cast iron. If it's plain iron then remove the ones with tomatoes.

          3. Mine gets used for long braised of roasts, stews, etc. (so not so much use over the summer!) But lately its been getting called into action to make dog food. But that's another story!

            1. The giant cast pot that I have is round with a sloping bottom, so it's more of a cauldron...really that's what my guy calls it. it's easy 9 qrts, I leave it on the stove and use it for just about anything that isn't tomato based. Soup, stew, stir fry, some deep frying. I blanched all my winter veg in it, and lots of fruit/jam type stuff.

              It is one heavy mother to lift tho.

              1. Cassoulet! Lots and lots of cassoulet. I accept leftovers, just sayin'.

                1. Can you return it and get something smaller?

                  1. This hits near and dear to my heart. After a few years of dating, I asked my then boyfriend (now DH) for a cast iron dutch oven. I was expecting a le creuset or similar enameled knockoff. He bought me a MASSIVE camping dutch oven(10-12 qts - much larger than my 7.5qt le creuset), complete with legs, a lid with a lip to hold coals, and a special tool to remove the VERY HEAVY lid. I use it to make pork butt in the oven once a year or so (I have to remove the second oven rack because they don't both fit in there with the DO) A couple years ago I built a fire pit sized perfectly for the dutch oven but I haven't had the guts to spend an afternoon cooking something in the DO over a fire.

                    I've always thought it would bake pretty amazing bread over the coals (massively hot) but once again, I haven't gotten around to it.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: LaureltQ

                      I've been oogling those for scout camping trips but, yeah, not too useful around the house. I think I'd go with a return/exchange, done as lovingly as possible of course.

                      1. re: tcamp

                        We tried that. The company he bought it from required a $50 restocking fee which was almost the cost of the DO. I just nicely said "I'm sure I'll use it" and tucked it away in a closet for a few years.

                      2. re: LaureltQ

                        You can cook in the coals of a fireplace with it, indoors.

                        1. re: LaureltQ

                          Those camp dutch ovens are a whole different world from the ones usually discussed on this forum. They are never enamel coated (OP - is your's coated?). Size is usually measured in diameters. A 10" if shallow is only 3qt, but more likely 4 or 5, 12" is the most common, but they are made even larger. The amount of coals that you use depends on the diameter.

                          There are web sites and books dedicated to this type of cooking, with names like ... Dutch Oven Society, chuck wagon cooking, etc.

                          Ones with legs can be used in the oven, if they aren't too heavy or large. The legs usually fit between the bars of the oven rack. But if you haven't seasoned the pot, you probably don't want to braise something in it.

                          I have an anodized aluminum 10" camp dutch oven that is quite useful at home. But this size does not have legs; instead it sits on a low tripod when using coals.

                          1. re: paulj

                            Mine came pre-seasoned but is probably at least 6-8" deep. It's massive.

                            The legs fit between the bars of the oven rack. I'd love to be able to use it on the stovetop (I'm not too concerned with acidic things in seasoned cast iron) but the legs would scratch up my stupid smooth top stove.

                          2. re: LaureltQ

                            One of the easiest things to do in a DO like that is biscuits. Use a regular dough, even from a mix or fridge can. Start briquettes in a chimney starter, about 2xdiameter in inches (e.g. 24 for a 12"). When they are all lit and mostly white, put about 1/3 on a fireproof surface, set the DO over those, and put the rest of briquettes on the lid.

                            I'm not sure if it is better to put the dough in a cold over or a hot one. They'll take longer in the cold, but it will also be easier to load when cold. Count on about about 20 minutes baking time.

                            Another easy one is a dump cake cobbler, though it is messier.

                            There are plenty of sites that talk about using this type of DO.

                            1. re: paulj

                              are there upsides to doing it the "hard way" over just using a traditional oven and a cast iron dutch oven?

                              1. re: LaureltQ

                                The dutch oven and coals can be used when camping.

                                I have tested some recipes in my smaller DO in the home oven, but I've used coals at home only a few times.

                                http://www.camp-cook.com/forum/viewfo...
                                is a camp cooking forum

                                http://cowboyshowcase.com/dutch_oven_...
                                has some nice photos
                                a video
                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmijvC...

                          3. Flowers ... preferabbly dried so you don't have to change the water. Or a planter.

                            Listen, you aren't going to be using this often,and it is going to take up shelf space. Turn it into a decorative item between dishes.

                            It really is a sweet thought and sees like it would be cool to have it on display.

                            1. Starburn, here is a recipe I use my cast iron Dutch oven for, although I have no idea the size of mine. You could always double the recipe as this recipe just serves 4.

                              Braised Loin of Pork
                              1.25 lbs boneless pork loin
                              2 c chopped onions
                              1 cub diced carrots
                              12 oz beer
                              1 clove garlic, minced
                              2 bay leaves
                              salt/pepper to taste.

                              Brown pork in Dutch oven on all sides; remove to platter. Add onion &carrots to pan drippings and mix well. Saute 5 mintues or until brown. Stir in the beer, bay leaves, salt/pepper. Return pork to Dutch oven and cover. Baked at 350 for 2 hours or til pork is tender. Discard bay leaves. Slice pork in to 1/4 inches. Place on serving platter. Process veggies and drippings in food processor til pureed. Pour over pork and serve.

                              1. Whatever you do, don't heat it on the stovetop without some liquid in it. My le creuset that I've had for 3 years popped several pieces of enamel during the heating process - and it was only on medium. Otherwise, loved the pan and used it constantly.

                                1. Braise braise braise.

                                  1. Ina Garten's 4-hour leg of lamb would probably work great in that pot. I made a much smaller leg in my 5.5 quart DO. On her show, she made it with white beans that she cooked in the same pot towards the end of the lamb's cooking time. It was heavenly. I served with quinoa on the side.

                                    4-hour lamb recipe:
                                    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                    White bean recipe:
                                    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                    If you have some freezer space, you could also use it to make big batches of stock that you could then freeze in 1 quart jars. Then you don't have to buy boxed or can stock for recipes and you can make homemade soups in a snap. A batch of white chili you could freeze in smaller portions would probably be fantastic in there, too.

                                    1. This is good for breaking your wrist getting out of the oven, or even more likely; hurting your back and sending you to the chiropractor for 6 visits in two weeks...
                                      I find that large and heavy of a pot simply doesn't get used much, since it is so large/unwieldy.
                                      If you do use it, PLEASE have assistance on hand when you have to move it from top of stove to oven for braising, or to take it out! Back-up and spotting are not to be underrated in such situations.
                                      Have a big dinner party!

                                      1. Is it possible that you could find a rack to fit in it and use it for steaming tamales?
                                        My darling son bought me that humongus huge pasta put with a steam rack from W&S for Christmas one year. At first I didn't know what I was going to do with it. But the I've made tamales in it, perfect for corn on the cob and artichokes- for parties, used it as a hot water bath for jams, etc. I mean I do use it. I recently saw where they made a pork butt in one of those large dutch ovens. You know how pork butts are, they are really large when they're raw and then after cooked end up not so large, so I'm thinking you could make pulled pork too.
                                        I'd keep it.

                                        oh and I just thought about:lobsters, mussels and clams, or a New England boiled dinner!

                                        1. I'd give a turkey a try...even when you roast it it can be dry in some spots. You could roast a rockin' bird or at least a couple of chickens. Or have a ginormous chili party with 40 friends. He's such a nice guy to get you this...hope you cook huge amounts in it for people you like.

                                          1. What kind of DO is it? Does it have legs, or is it a flat bottom, and a no lip top? Can you post a picture of it?

                                            We used a DO on Scout outings all the time. Our DO's have the legs, and the lid rim to hold coals. Where I live they have a DO cook-off every year. For recipes just Google DO cooking. A BSA service center will also have a DO cookbook.

                                            We made stews, cobblers, and any other meal that you could make at home in the field.

                                            I have several 12', and a couple of 10" ones here. They are fun for backyard bbq's , as they are not seen by a lot of folks.

                                            1. If Lodge it could be this 9 qt model
                                              https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefron...
                                              with a spiral bail handle
                                              13-1/4" dia., Depth: 4-3/4"

                                              https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefron...
                                              is camp dutch oven, 8qt, 14" diameter if shallow, 12" if deep.