This weekend I had guests in from Texas. The first thing they asked me was, “How can we cook in the Dutch oven you sent us?” I used the delicious Pistol Rock Chicken recipe that I shared with you last week to start out. Their next question was, “Can I cook fish and make biscuits?”
I knew that is was time to go over the basics, now that their interest was really us. So Monday I cooked trout that a friend caught in a stream about four miles from my home — and then came the delicious golden brown biscuits.
Cooking in a Dutch oven is much like painting by number. Below I will go through the basics of Dutch oven cooking, and if you follow the basic rules you will turn out the most incredible dish time after time after time.
Virtually any method of cooking you encounter on a daily basis can be adapted for Dutch oven use — baking, braising, boiling, frying, stewing and roasting.
Most baking recipes require a temperature setting of 325ºF. An easy method to get a temperature of 325ºFahrenheit within your Dutch oven is to subtract or add the number 3 to the size of your Dutch oven to determine the number of charcoal briquettes to use underneath and on top. Find the size of the Dutch oven you use (see chart below) to know the correct number of briquettes.
Dutch Oven 325° Temperature — Briquette Quantities
Size of Oven Top Bottom
8-inch 11 5
10-inch 13 7
12-inch 15 9
14-inch 17 11
16-inch 19 13
The following example uses the formula for a 12-inch Dutch oven.
* Subtract 3 from 12, which equals 9 — the number of briquettes to place beneath the oven.
* Take the number 12 and add 3, which equals 15 — the number of briquettes to place on the lid of the oven.
With this formula, 9 briquettes go underneath and 15 briquettes are placed on the top of the lid of a 12-inch Dutch oven to cook at 325ºF. One-third of the heat will be underneath the Dutch oven, and two-thirds of the heat will be on top. Heat rises, so you do not need as many coals on the bottom of the oven.
Arrange briquettes so they are evenly spaced under the Dutch oven and on its lid. Also, you always need to rotate your Dutch oven a quarter turn every 15 minutes to avoid hot spots. Replace briquettes with new coals as they burn out.
Baking in a Dutch Oven
Most people would never dream of baking outdoors, but the most flavorful treats can be baked in a Dutch oven. Cake, pie, and biscuits cooked in your kitchen take about the same time in a Dutch oven. Baking can be done directly in the Dutch oven bottom, or by placing a pan in the oven elevated on rocks, canning jar rings, a Dutch oven rack, a round cookie cooling rack or small wads of foil. When elevating your food, temperature control is determined by charcoal briquette placement. In a Dutch oven, you create an oven like the one at home, which allows hot air to circulate around the pan. This is the easiest way to bake in a Dutch oven.
I suggest taking a prepared pie with you and cooking it at your camping site. In a 12-inch Dutch oven, place 12 hot coals on the bottom and 17 on top of the lid to create a 375ºFahrenheit oven, and bake 30 to 40 minutes.