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Camping Cooking Equipment -- Dutch Ovens Your camping cooking equipment will not be complete without the 'ole standard of camping, the Dutch Oven. When you look at the market for them, there are plenty of choices for a new oven but I want to help you select an oven that will work well for you and will be something you pass down to your kids. I know of ovens that are over a hundred years old, passed from generation to generation. Take care of your oven and you can do that too. Selecting an Oven So, what is a Dutch Oven? A Dutch Oven is a round pot used for cooking. The pot holds in heat in to cook the food, much like a oven. Generally, there are two types, kitchen and camp. The kitchen model is made for placing in your oven at home and cooking. The metal is thinner and the bottom is flat. The camp version is heaver, thicker walled and has legs. These legs are used to lift the oven off the ground so you may place charcoal under it. With camp ovens, they come in two metals - aluminum and iron. Aluminum is lighter weight (710lb) and is easier to maintain since it does not rust. Alum ovens are good for canoeing or other camping where weight is an issue. But aluminum ovens do not hold heat as well and can cause inconsistent cooking. Iron ovens are heaver (15-20lbs) and require seasoning to protect the iron from rusting. Iron ovens are great for regular family camping because they hold heat well and cook more evenly. I recommend using the iron oven for family camping because most of the cook books will assume a iron oven and weight isn't an issue for drag and drop camping. Now that you know what metal to get, you need to select a size. Ovens come in standard and deep heights. Standard sized ovens heat up the center of your food faster than a deep oven. Use a standard oven for fast cooking and a deep for slower cooking like browning rolls. For starting out, I recommend getting the standard size as it is what your recipe will assume. The oven diameters vary also. Large ovens equal more food. For your first oven, I recommend a 14 inch oven. Your oven will need to have some other typical features for a camp Dutch Oven. First, the lid will have a raised lip to hold the coals on top. This allows you to heat the food from above. Next, a loop handle for the main pot and a small loop for the lid. Don't get lids with 'frying pan' handles. Seasoning First, read the instructions that came with your new Dutch Oven. Some Dutch Ovens come preseasoned and don't need you to do it. If your new oven is like this, follow the instructions that


came with it to prepare it for use. If you do need to season your new oven or re-season an old oven, start by washing the oven. Your new oven will have a protective coating to keep the Dutch Oven from rusting during transport. Old ovens with rust spots will need to have the rust removed with steel wool. Then, wash with warm water and steel wool. Rinse well. Hand dry your oven when done. Moisture is your oven's enemy. While you are cleaning the oven, pre-heat your kitchen oven to 350 degrees. Once the Dutch Oven is clean, place it in the kitchen oven for a few minutes, best way is upside down with the lid on a different shelf. This lets any water drain out of the oven. Head the Dutch Oven until it is almost too warm to touch with your hand. This warm up makes sure all the water is gone from the Dutch Oven and opens the pores of the metal for the next step. With your warm Dutch Oven, apply a coat of oil. Use salt free oil like olive oil or vegetable oil. Coat the entire oven with oil. Then, put t back in the kitchen oven to heat for an hour. You can leave the Dutch Oven upright, but leave the lid ajar so air can circulate. Remove the Dutch Oven and let cool slowly. Once it is only warm, place another coat on the Dutch Oven and put back in the kitchen stove again for 1 hour at 350. Remove it and let it cool down again and then add your third coat of oil. Now you have 2 coats of oil banked in and one final coat applied while warm. Your Dutch Oven is ready to use or store until your campout. The surface of your oven is non-stick and as yo use your Dutch Oven, the surface will improve. You will not have to do this long seasoning process again unless the Dutch Oven gets rust on it. Heating Dutch Oven cooking is done with coals. So first step is to set up an area for setting the Dutch Oven. You can use a fire pit, but I prefer using a metal oil drip pan on the ground. The nice metal ones are hard to find now, but check your auto parts store. Most auto parts store have oil drip pans, but they are plastic. However, I have seen a metal catch pan that is very shallow - almost like a large cookie sheet. Pet cage trays or garbage can lids will work also. It needs to be larger than your Dutch Oven and have some room to store extra coals. We want to use a pan to protect the ground and make clean up easy. Remember Leave No Trace! Set your pan in a good spot - away from foot traffic or where the kids are playing and get your Charcoal Chimney. This is a metal tube for starting charcoal and is the best way to start coals. Personally, I don't like the smell of quick -lighting charcoal and I think the fuel smell gets into the food. Once the coals are ready, dump them in your pan, but to the side. Leave room for your Dutch Oven. Here's a YouTube video showing how to use a chimney. I'm not going to cover food prep here, but now is time to put your meal in the oven. ALWAYS put your food in the oven before you start cooking. Never put food in a hot oven. The cold foot could cause your oven to crack. Think about lining the oven with foil for easy cleanup later. Dutch ovens need heat from above and below for baking. The formula for the number of briquettes is the diameter of your oven plus 3 on top bottom minus 3 on bottom. So, for a 14 inch oven put 17 briquettes on top, 11 on the bottom. This will provide 325 degrees of heat. Since one briquette


provides 10 to 15 degrees of heat, so add one on top and one on bottom for 350 degrees. Rotate your oven a quarter turn every 15 minutes and the lid a quarter turn the other direction at the same time. This prevents hot spots in the oven. Gloves and a lid hook are good tools for spinning. A small shovel will help move the coals. Clean up Clean up is easy, but you still need to take care. Plain hot water and a nylon brush is the best way to clean your oven. Don't use soap; it may leave a bad taste in your oven. Let the oven cool down some, but not down to cold. For problem stuck on food, use boiling water and a plastic or wood scrape - not metal. Towel dry your Dutch Oven, NEVER let it just air-dry. When dry, but still warm, rub some oil on your stove. Then store with a paper towel between oven and the lid to allow air flow.

DC Jones is the author of Camping Cooking Equipment and experienced Boy Scout leader with over 10 years of camping. Find out what camping equipment you need for cooking in the wilds at his blog.

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Getting started with dutch ovens