Cowboy Cooking Anyone ?
Recently received a gift of a fantastic Lodge 12" Cast Iron Dutch Oven with flat top lid and legs. It is a real beauty....
I do fire pit cooking often, including an amazing open pan Paella, but I've never used a Dutch Oven on a fire before. I'd appreciate any recipe ideas and tips on cooking method to help get started.
Any suggestions on how I might break this little baby in ?
A few principles of Dutch oven cooking:
- Learn to cook with real wood coals that come from your campfire rather than charcoal briquettes so that you won't be dependent on always making sure you buy and bring briquettes.
- Turn the Dutch oven a quarter of a turn and the lid (if using coals on top of the lid) a quarter of a turn in the opposite direction. This is to ensure even heating and, therefore, even cooking.
- Create a ring of coals under your Dutch oven. Do not use coals directly under the center of the oven. This will cause your food to burn because a ring will radiate heat in all directions, thereby heating the center as well. There's no need to heat the center with extra coals under it. In fact, again, it will burn overcook and, possibly, burn your food.
- Evenly cover the top of your Dutch oven if your cooking method calls for an oven environment. Actually, since the handle is in the middle of the lid, don't be overly concerned about making some design on the lid out of coals (like a checkerboard that you might read about when you study Dutch oven cooking). Just make sure the lid is evenly covered as best you can. How much of the lid should be covered? Your desired cooking temperature will dictate it.
- To achieve different temperatures, refer to the manual that came with your oven or any of the guides you'll find online to get you started. However, you'll find that after only a few cooking sessions with your oven, that you'll just be able to eyeball how many coals you need where (under and/or on top) to achieve the temperature and method (baking vs. frying vs. stewing or braising vs. etc.) you'd like.
- When you're done cooking and cleaning it, make sure it is completely dry. Any bit of moisture will cause it to rust in no time. If it's outside and it begins to rain, bring it in immediately and dry it off completely. I was camping once and it began to rain. The Dutch oven got wet and I didn't bring it in immediately. I thought it would be OK for a while. I walked over to the Dutch oven and could almost stand there and watch it rust right before my eyes. It was very superficial rust and was very easy to clean, but it was a valuable lesson.
- Keep the Dutch oven seasoned and it will treat you well by turning out wonderful food for you.
Concerning a tripod, I camp quite a bit and always use my Dutch oven, but I do not use a tripod and don't think I'll ever get one. I can accomplish everything I need to without a tripod. Not to mention, it's just more money spent and it takes up quite a bit of space and is heavy - which are important when camping. Some people really like using a tripod though. I'd cook in your new Dutch oven for a little bit and get some real world experience with it and then see if you want a tripod or not.
Another accessory that I got as a gift, but I don't find myself using is the lid lifter. Again, while camping (or really anytime), it's just one more thing to bring and keep up with and always have by the fire. I just use a glove or a pair of tongs or, heck, a stick. I'd skip the lid lifter too.
Now for some things to cook in your new Dutch oven!
- Chicken and potatoes with rosemary stew
- Sausage gravy
- Fruit cobbler
- Braised barbecue chicken
- Salt-baked potatoes
- Orange marmalade braised chicken or pork
- The sky's the limit
The Dutch oven can be used to cook an extremely wide variety of foods. What are some of your favorite foods? Do you have any foods that you'd like to try and cook in your Dutch oven?
Wow ! Thanks 1P21GW !
Thanks for all the info. I only cook with wood coals and the folding metal grate that I got at Bass Pro gets heavy duty use ! Love the 1/4 turn and ring of coals tips. The lid lifter came as part of my gift, and it looks invaluable.
I have a number of stew / slow cooker / braised dishes that I make at home. My recent favorite is thick Tri Tip strips slowly braised with onions and hot peppers in a scratch tomato BBQ sauce - out of this world. I'm sure any would work, but what are your favorite DO Camp Fire dishes ?
There is Wild Turkey, Vension, and Moose meat in the freezer, PLUS there is a Bison ranch not far away the sells meat, so options are endless...
Thank you for the kind words!
Really quickly, in the rotate the oven and lid part, I forgot to mention that you should do that every 15 - 30 minutes, depending on what you're cooking and the temperature you're cooking it at (higher temperature = more frequent rotations). I would have simply edited my original post, but this antiquated forum platform won't allow me to.
Some of my favorite things to cook in the oven are what I mentioned earlier, but I'll post up some more of my favorites as soon as I get more of an opportunity later.
The meats available to you sound fantastic! I'm guessing you're in the mid-west - beautiful part of the country.
Beginner instructions usually specify briquettes, largely because it is the easiest way to get consistent results. I use them because I don't normally make a campfire, and thus don't have a supply of coals. Coals also require a shovel, where as I can handle briquettes with tongs. My DO gear, using a 10" footless aluminum oven, fits in an 8gal box, including a few days worth of charcoal.
I've noticed in documentaries of chuckwagon competitions such as a Ruidoso, that competitors dig a fire pit, and maintain that as a ready source of coals.
Back when I was volunteering with scouts we almost always used briquettes even though we also had coals from the burning hardwood - the briquettes do give more consistent results.
We used a lot of heavy duty aluminum foil. Start by putting a few sheets on the ground as a vapor barrier to set your bottom coals on. We often would line the D.O. with foil for a much quicker cleanup.
I like the lid-lifter. A pair of channel-lock piers is also a very good tool to use.
After cobblers, my favorite D.O. dish is jambalaya.
If you can find them, Marlboro (yeah, the deadly cigarette people) put out a couple of maybe 15 page paperback cookbooks of 'cowboy cooking." I've used mine (even for in-kitchen cooking) till they're falling apart (I asked the store if I could just get the booklets, since no way was I buying cigarettes). Great recipes, from beans to beef, sourdough and even desserts. One of my favorite chili reicipes in there (which I now make in a crockpot). Good luck finding them--published maybe in the 80s/90s/