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Old 09-10-2008, 11:42 AM
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Default Cooking With Dutch Ovens

Dutch ovens are made of either cast iron or aluminum. Cast iron ovens need to be "seasoned" with cooking oil. Each time you use a cast iron oven, you must start by wiping the inside with cooking oil. Never wash a cast iron oven with soap, the "seasoning" will break down. Aluminum dutch ovens can be washed and never need to be seasoned or oiled. Both cook equally well, the only difference is matenience.

A few tools are essential for dutch oven cooking:

  • Heavy duty gloves
    - Wear these to keep from burning your hands
  • Tongs
    - Lift the hot coals with these
  • Dutch oven lid lifter
    - Helps with taking off the lid
  • A charcoal starter or "chimney"
    - Start the charcoal with this
  • Aluminum foil
    - Put this on the ground and put the coals and dutch oven on top, keeps from leaving a mess on the ground and accomplishes "Leave No Trace" camping
  • Matches
    - Obviously used to start the coals
Starting the Charcoal
"Instant" charcoal briquettes are more expensive but worth it. They take less time and are easier to get started. One 4-lb bag fills a chimney with some left over. One chimney of briquettes is sufficient for every menu item listed on this site. Put just one sheet of loosely crumpled newspaper (more suffocates the fire) under the chimney filled with briquettes, and light the newspaper. Be sure the newspaper catches on fire. It takes about 15 minutes to heat the briquettes. They are ready to use when the bricks on top are starting to turn red. If you "cook" the briquettes for too long they will burn out, leaving insufficient heat to finish the baking.

Cooking the Meal
While the coals are starting you should be preparing the meal in the dutch oven. Before starting to cook, make sure the baking area is flat and horizontal. Put down a sheet of foil to keep the earth from getting scortched. Place five red hot coals in a circle with a circumference just smaller than the bottom of the oven. Place a sixth briquette in the center of the ring. Put the oven (with the lid on) over the coals, well centered. Now place between 20 and 30 coals on the top of the oven, spread evenly.

During the Cooking
Be careful when you are pulling the lid off to check the contents. Sometimes the lid is stuck. If you are pulling the lid too hard the hot briquettes can fly off, burning you and the surroundings. If the lid is stuck, try twisting it while pulling it off, or prying it open with a knife. Be sure to use gloves and a lid lifter when removing the lid. Two lifters are better - one to lift the lid and one to steady it. When you take the lid off watch where you put it. It's hot; so be sure its not somewhere a fellow scout can step on it. Furthermore, don't put the lid on the ground; it will pick up dirt and add an interesting natural flavor to your meal when you put the lid back on.

Cleaning Up
As stated before, never wash cast iron ovens with soap; this removes the oil seasoning that has built up over the years. Just wipe the ovens out. If food is stuck inside, scrape it out with a spatula and soak the oven in water.
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