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Dutch Oven Heresy

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  • Dutch Oven Heresy

    There's a great article in the recent edition of "Scouter" called Dutch Oven 101. It's a good primer on cooking with a Dutch Oven, and has the standard description of how to achieve and maintain temperatures by the number of charcoal briquettes placed under and on top of the oven.

    I'm wondering how many out there follow the briquette path versus the way our Troop does it... what we call Dutch Oven Heresy.

    We get a good hardwood fire going, let some good coals form, and put the DO either on the fire, or into the coals, and then with a shovel, put a few good scoops of coals on top. After what seems like about the right time, we pull it off the fire and set it next to the fire with nothing underneath, just the coals on top. A while longer, we'll open the DO, poke around a bit, and either put it back on the fire, or maybe put a fresh scoop of coals on top. We'll check it a couple more times until it looks done, and then eat it. Hopefully it's not burnt, and cooked all the way through.

    Each time it's an adventure in cooking, and always different. The adults have two DOs, and each of our 5 Patrols have 1 DO. We do 90% of our cooking on the DO, all jostling for space on the fire, and checking to see how done things are. When things are done and great smells are wafting through the camp site, we encourage tasting other Patrols creations, if anything is left.

    I've often thought of bringing briquettes and encouraging Scouts to actually follow the DO recipes, but they seem to having so much fun being heretics that I haven't.

    How do other folks do the DO? Any other heretics out there?

  • #2
    I'd have to say we're DO heretical traditionalists.

    Our DO cooking goes back and forth depending on what we're doing. We've followed recipes religiously (especially when baking or competing) but we also just pile food stuff in and coals on the DOs and see what happens. Now, there have been some mighty fine meals, and some mighty bad clean-ups come from both. One Scout cooks a family recipe for every DO demo we do - and it always fantastic. But I've never seen him prepare it the same way twice!

    Since our (family's) first DO experience, we've managed to see some mighty old ovens get cleaned and seasoned put back to use in a few Troops. Honestly, just seeing them used and the Scouts eating their "creations" is good enough for me.


    • #3
      I grew up DO cooking the way you describe, and if it's an option, still do. But with LNT and most campsites picked clean of decent hardwood, we generally use charcoal. Still, I never pay attention to the charts that count out briquettes. I just heap charcoal on until it looks right.

      One trick I've learned is to preheat the DO by just putting it on the fire or even on a camp stove. Saves a whole lot of cooking time.


      • #4
        We use charcoal primarily but tend to use more than the traditional instructions call for. We also have used a tripod to suspend a DO stack ovr the fire.

        But we are certainly not experts at DO cooking so we just kind of wing it.


        • #5
          I like being a "heretic"

          I have been told in training and read in books that a standard briquette is 25 and instant light 15. therefore to get 350 you needed 14 biquettes. Now I just saw a new chart stating to use 14 briquettes on top plus 10 below. Well even though I was pretty good at Math, non of this ever worked as described. Just give me a good fire with coals I'm happy. I have thrown a bag a briquettes into the fire to get more coals though.


          • #6
            Dutch oven cooking has been around for hundreds, some might say thousands of years. Charcoal briquettes have been around since Henry Ford (so it is said) invented it in 1920.

            That begs the question, who are the real heretics when it comes to Dutch Oven cooking? I would say that the folks who follow briquette recipes are the heretics. After all, aren't heretics the ones that defy tradition and isn't it tradition to use campfire coals or "lump" charcoal (which is just hardwood burned to the charcoal stage, then stopped before the wood burns completely to ash)?


            • #7
              I'd say we use charcoal about 90% of the time. I've been around long enough to know that there are troops that fire up the fire ring as soon as they get there on Friday night and the last thing they do before leaving on Sunday is put it out. We typically don't have a fire until the campfire program on Saturday night. But we have a fairly structured and scheduled program each outing. The boys are usually out all day doing whatever program they designed and get back to camp in time to cook dinner. We can't leave fires burning or wait for a fire to burn down enough for cooking coals. Add to that that we have 5 patrols and a usually large adult patrol that share up to 16 DO's and using fire coals just isn't very feasable for us. But occassionally in cold weather it does. I find both methods equally successful.


              • #8
                Is it heresy to say that I don't like cooking with dutch ovens?


                • #9


                  • #10
                    I saw this article in the current issue of Scouting


                    • #11
                      One Question for the original poster: Why are you jostling for space in the fire?

                      DO's can be stacked one on top of another while cooking, sharing the heat. The coals on top of the bottom oven act as the bottom coals of the oven above it.

                      The trick is figuring out what you're stacking where so everything cooks relatively evenly.

                      Me? I prefer charcoal when I use my DO as I don't have an easy supply of hardwood and most places our district camps doesn't allow ground fires. You don't need a ground fire for a DO if you use charcoal. A steel garage floor drip pan (can't recall the real name of this--it's this metal pan you can slip under your vehicle to keep it dripping fluids on the garage floor) from the auto parts store and 4 cinder blocks can do the trick.


                      • #12
                        I could be wrong (and my wife and son tell me that I usally am).

                        I beleive that Kingsford Charcoal is the most reliable to use, at about 35 degrees a coal, with no no wind present or with a wind block.

                        We had tried using wood found at a site, but temperature conditions would vary and lately finding wood at sites has become harder here as the fewer campgrounds are more heavily used.


                        • #13
                          We buy lump charcoal for most of grilling, chunk hardwood is used for some dishes, but Kingsford is the #1 choice for reliable, predictable DO cooking for me. When doing precise baking or competing its what I use every time.

                          Great idea for the drip pan; we've used a sheet of tin roofing and bricks at Expos for this as well. But I expect the drip pan has more rigidity. I also have a square Meco grill grill I use for a portable DO cooking stand. Much cheaper than the custom tables, prtoects from the wind, and can be used as a normal grill. This works great for demos, etc.


                          • #14
                            I forgot to mention and should provide a bit of a warning about the drip pan route:

                            They are thin and will only last a couple of expeditions. But they are under $10 each around here. So, it's a great way to start and see if your unit wants to get into the DO cooking way of camping without spending the big bucks on a heavy-duty stand.


                            • #15
                              Thanks for the comments!

                              Just back from a Troop campout, made chicken and potato curry for the adults. It turned out great, if I may say so myself! And yes, did it on the fire, checking frequently. No burning. Scouts made all kinds of things and ate everything before I could get a taste! Difficulty this time was cleaning them, as we didn't have water to spare (had to haul it all in).