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Picking the right kind of oven A good quality Dutch oven, whether cast iron or enameled, is easily one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you can own and, if taken care of properly, can last a lifetime or longer. Cast iron has it’s own benefits and drawbacks; on the plus side, you can transfer a cast iron pot from stovetop to oven, use it indoors and out, and heat it to temperatures that would easily wreck aluminum or chemically treated pans. Cast iron conducts heat very evenly, so there’s no need to worry about hot spots, and properly seasoned, they’re as non-stick as any coated skillet. They’re also incredibly cheap, although you can pay much more if you opt for a fancy enameled oven. The main drawbacks are the weight, which can be considerable, especially once you’ve filled your pot with delicious stew. For this reason it’s a good idea to find a pot with handles on both sides; some manufacturers make Dutch ovens with two handled pots and lids, which can be nice if you want the lid to pull double duty as a skillet. Because the handles can get extremely hot, it’s a good idea to find nonconductive, thermally insulated cloth covers that can fit over them when you’re working over coals or a stovetop. The other downside to cast iron is that it needs to be seasoned before use. For many people this is the most intimidating aspect of cast iron, although the process, while time consuming, isn’t really difficult. It’s important to clean the pan first, rinse it thoroughly, then heat it enough to evaporate any surface moisture. Next the pan should be oiled lightly over the entire cooking surface including the inside of the lid. .Almost any oil can be used as long as it has a low smoke point; some cooks swear by animal fats like bacon grease, but canola, peanut or corn oil will do fine. Once the oil is applied, wipe off any excess with a paper towel or cloth. Be conservative with the amount of oil you use since any ‘pooling’ will slow the process down. Leave the pan in an oven heated to 250 degrees for two to three hours, then re-oil and repeat the process three more times. Once you’re done, the surface will be black and slick and will require nothing more than a good scrub with a pot brush to clean, or a quick rub down with some coarse salt and a cloth. Avoid using any detergents, as they destroy the coating and you’ll have to repeat the seasoning process all over again. Cooking indoors with cast iron allows you brown your ingredients on the stovetop, then move them into the oven to bake or roast, but it’s outdoors where your cast iron Dutch oven can really shine. First, choose the material you wish to use as your heat source: charcoal works best, but hard woods like mesquite and oak hold heat well and are preferable to softer woods like elm. It’s best to cook over hot coals instead of an open flame, as a roaring fire is generally too hot to cook with successfully, although it’s fine for boiling water or getting a quick start on a pot of rice or beans. If you’re preparing cooked dishes like stews, noodles, beans or chili, you can simply set the dutch oven in the hot coals and let the pot heat from the bottom. You can also use the oven to bake by piling the hot coals up around the sides and laying more coals on top of the lid to distribute the heat evenly. To adjust the temperature, you just vary the amount of hot coals, starting with four to six on the bottom and between 12-15 on top. You can make hearty bread this way easily. Remember to lightly coat the inside

of the oven with flour first; the coating will burn a little, but it should come off with a little water and scrubbing. One of the challenges of cooking outdoors is getting a precise temperature reading on your heat source, but a rule of thumb for gauging how hot your dutch oven is by holding your hand 6 inches above the lid and counting off ‘one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand’. If you have to move your hand after the one count, it’s high heat; after the two count it’s medium heat, and the three count will be low heat. If you can hold your hand over the pot longer than that, your oven is keeping your food warm but no longer cooking it. Because the cast iron will retain heat in the sides and lid as well as the bottom of the pot, you can use less energy to heat a meal by removing the pot from the heat source before it’s fully cooked and letting the reserved heat from the pot finish the job. You can also use the lid of your Dutch oven as a skillet to fry bacon and eggs or to brown bread for toast. You can also deep fry in cast iron using peanut or grapeseed oil filled halfway to the top of the pot, although the oil can become dangerously hot and caution should be used if attempting this outdoors. When you’re finished cooking, you should scrape as much food as possible from the pan’s surface, then heat some water in the pan to soften any hard cooked on bits. Afterward you can scrub the rest clean with a brush and some salt, and heat the pan enough to evaporate any excess moisture. Once you begin cooking with a Dutch oven, whether you’re a homebody or a veteran camper, you’ll appreciate the versatility of this long-lasting and utilitarian cookware. If you want to find out more information you can visit

What you should know about dutch ovens before you make the purchase  
What you should know about dutch ovens before you make the purchase  

A great quality Dutch range, whether cast iron or enameled, is easily probably the most adaptable types of cookware one can possess and, if...