I have a guests from Texas coming to stay with me this week. Their first request was could we cook in Dutch ovens?  About year ago I gave them a Dutch over and since they are in tornado and hurricane country it could be a means of survival. Since I live in Utah for me, Dutch oven cooking is and opportunity to gather family and friends around and have a delicious meal. Yes, because of my skills in that area I would be ready to go if we had an unexpected emergency here.

I feel that if you cook in a Dutch oven for fun or pleasure in an emergency you would be ready to turn out delicious meals with all the self-confidence in the world. In fact, having a Dutch oven and some briquettes put away makes you one step closer to being prepared for that unexpected emergency.

I thought that it would be a good idea to share with you what I am going to share with them.

The Dutch oven is the most versatile utensil for outdoor cooking. No other piece of equipment brings the outdoors into my everyday city life like the Dutch oven. It works as a combination oven/range, and can be used for meats or main courses, side dishes, breads, and—best of all—desserts.

I share my outdoor life with friends and family by delivering a steaming, delicious Pineapple Upside-Down “Birthday” Cake . Requests for my Pistol Rock Chicken and Enchilada Pie are numerous. As one of the World Dutch Oven Cooking Contest judges for several years, I have tasted succulent shrimp, standing rib roasts, mouth-watering breads and even perfect pies baked inside Dutch ovens. There’s virtually no limit to the uses for the creative outdoor cook. I have included purchasing information, seasoning and re-seasoning instructions, temperature adjustments, safety instructions and some of my all-time favorite recipes for you and your guests to enjoy elegant and easy.

Dutch ovens, one of the oldest cooking implements, are cast-iron pots of varying sizes, from 5 to 16 inches in diameter. They hold heat well for long periods of time. Dutch ovens have been a staple of American cooking since the early history of the United States. They continue to be used today as an easy way to cook delicious meals. An added bonus is that their use increases the iron nutrient in your diet. Modern Dutch ovens began as black ironware, which was used throughout Europe for many years. England was a primary exporter of cast-iron pots, skillets and kettles through its worldwide fleet. In early America, Dutch traders traveled from door to door selling household goods such as the baking ovens.

Legend dictates they were named “Dutch ovens” after the nationality of the peddlers who sold them. Family journals from early America tell of many people who relied on their cast-iron kettles and Dutch ovens for everyday cooking. Paul Revere is often credited with developing the flat-topped, three-legged Dutch oven.

A Dutch oven is the most versatile pot for outdoor cooking. It uses either dry or moist heat in a variety of cooking techniques such as baking, stewing, braising and frying.

Outdoor Dutch Ovens

The outdoor Dutch oven has three legs and a flat lid. It is designed so that hot coals can be placed underneath and on top. A heavy metal handle is attached at two sides and curves over the top of the pot so that it is easy to hang or to carry The lid is flat with a raised rim so that coals or briquettes can be placed on top to add additional heat for baking.

The outdoor Dutch oven can be adapted for indoor use by setting it on a cookie sheet or on its lid and then placing it into the oven. The outdoor Dutch oven can be suspended over coals, placed on the ground over coals or buried underground in coals.

Today, cast-iron Dutch ovens are used by hunters, campers, river runners, Scouts and family groups for outdoor cooking in the mountains, in the woods, at the beach, on patios, and in backyards.

Outdoor Dutch ovens are carried by hardware stores, outdoor recreational stores, and other general retailers and can be ordered from mail-order vendors or www.lodgemfg.com on the Web.

Indoor Dutch Ovens

The indoor Dutch oven is flat bottomed, has a dome-shaped lid and can be purchased at department and cooking stores. It is designed for use indoors in a home oven, on a range or outside on a camp stove. The indoor Dutch oven can be adapted for outdoor use by elevating it above hot coals with three rocks or bricks so hot coals can be set underneath.

To adapt the lid of an indoor Dutch oven to hold coals, create a foil ring, slightly smaller in circumference than the lid of the oven. Place the foil ring onto the lid and arrange the coals.

inside the ring. The lid of the indoor Dutch oven also can be turned upside down to hold hot coals on top.

The versatile Dutch oven can be used indoors or outdoors.

Purchasing a Dutch Oven

Select your Dutch oven according to when, where, and how often you will use it, and the kinds of foods you’ll want to prepare in it. The more you plan to use your Dutch oven (and you’ll want to use it often after you taste the mouth-watering dishes), the more you’ll want to invest in a quality Dutch oven.

If you plan on doing most of your cooking outside, purchase one with legs. If you plan on cooking a variety of recipes at once, buy several with legs for easy stacking. Whatever material, size or design you choose, it’s always a good idea to experiment with several borrowed from family and friends before you make your final purchase.

Now that you know the basics, here is the recipe that I will prepare for them. Try it this week. You will love it.

Pistol Rock Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, skinned and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained

Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. In a 1-gallon plastic self-sealing bag, add salt, pepper, garlic salt and flour. Add chicken, close the bag and shake well to coat.

Camp Stove and At Home

In a large skillet, heat oil and brown chicken well on all sides. Pour off excess oil and add tomato sauce and mushrooms. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook 15 minutes, until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Serves 4

Dutch Oven

Place a 12-inch Dutch oven over 12 to 15 hot coals. Add oil to hot Dutch oven and brown chicken well on all sides. Pour off excess oil and add tomato sauce and mushrooms. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook 15 minutes, until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Serves 4.

Don’t miss my column next week as I will share more about Dutch oven and a couple more of my favorite recipes.