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Dutch Oven Heresy

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  • #16
    People use charcoal for the Dutch Ovens? I've never seen that.

    I've never even thought of that, lol.

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    • #17
      not all areas have hardwoods, and so have to use briquettes.
      What I'm really curious about: do you campers on the Plains cook with buffalo chips? Aren't they too large for the DO?

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      • #18
        Nostalgia...
        Or in cooking, Nosh-talgia...

        Back in pre LNT, the Troop of of my youth camped in a woods owned by the brother of the SMs uncle's cousin, or something. This area had been thick in American Chestnut, and even in the late fifties and sixties, the dead Chestnut logs and stumps were our prime source for good firewood. Blue flames and thick coals for all cooking. DO when someone remembered to bring it. Reflector oven biscuits when we were adventurous. Ah me...

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        • #19
          Re boomer:

          Ah, hadn't thought about the lack of hardwood. Living in an area with many trees, I tend to forget that some places are not so lucky in that regard.

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          • #20
            The first time I used a DO, was when I was an ADL at our family pack campout.

            I mixed all the ingredients, and closed the lid. I was sifting through some coals I had already put into the fire to get the right amount ( per recipe) of coals on top and bottom.

            Well, the ACM was just looking at me with this sly smile and trying not to laugh. I can't help but smile when I ask him: " What's so funny?"

            He asks me :" You want me to teach you a GREAT DO lesson?"

            I say sure, and he takes a shovel, makes a "gravy hole" in the oak coals,and sets the DO right in the middle of it. He then puts a scoop....a BIG scoop of coals on top of the DO.

            As time goes by, he says " You think it should be done by now?" I say probably,
            and he says:
            " Give it another 20 minutes!"

            That was the best tasting peach cobbler I ever had!

            It's only heresay if it doesn't come out right!

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            • #21
              You can't go wrong with a DO if you know what you are doing, I have a new one and a 50+ year old one. Sad to say the old one cooks better and more evenly than the new one. Took the DO Cooking Experience class in our council years back, and some DO classes at the UofS, it was the most fun and best scout training I ever received. I use coal and/or wood on mine, depends what you are cooking.

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              • #22
                I guess maybe I'm an agnostic when it comes to DO cooking. I use both charcoal and wood, which ever is handy.

                However, I do use equivalency when it comes to use of coals. I figure charcoal heats evenly for about a hour but wood heats evenly for only about half that time (oak) and about 15 minutes for softwoods (pine) It just means I have to change out coals 2-4 times as often depending on the type of wood is available.

                Where one puts the DO is important.

                Putting in the middle of the fire is one option, putting on tin foil is another, using a DO table is still another and burying it and building a fire over it is still another option.

                I find that the ground is notorious for draining away heat from off the bottom layer of heat. Those that stack know this and adjust for it by putting more on the bottom of the bottom DO. Using a DO table is like having another DO below.

                My rule of thumb for coals is the 3-up, 3-down rule (#12 DO means 9 briquettes or equivalent wood coals on bottom and 15 briquettes/equivalent on top) which gives me about a 350-degree oven. If I'm doing pot roast or stew I could care less, but if I'm baking, it gets real important really quick. If I'm on the ground I'm a bit more generous on the bottom, if I'm on the DO table, I don't adjust. I've done this for both aluminum as well as cast iron DO's. One must take care not to ever overheat a dry aluminum DO (baking) but all you'll do is burn your food in cast iron if you overheat.

                The only thing I have never tried is burying the DO after breakfast with dinner in it and then kept a fire going over the top. That is reserved more for the stews and pot roasts. It is like a slow cooker, not ever to be used for baking.

                One also has to consider there are two depths to DO's That means the top of the DO is farther away from the hot cover (Stewing DO) and won't brown as nicely as in the shorter one (Baking DO).

                Unless one knows what piece of equipment (sizes, depths, materials) one uses and the differences between charcoal/wood and pine/oak, it's just a major crap-shoot as to what you're going to get in the end.

                I cook all the way from #8 through #14 using exclusively the shorter bakers. I have one #12 aluminum which I use canoeing. And yes I have a personal aluminum DO I use as well, it's my mess kit and makes a nice blueberry muffin in the morning. 3 briquettes on the bottom, 4 on top. Make sure your mess kit isn't damaged and forms a nice tight seal.

                Stosh

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                • #23
                  I'll go with Shortridge...my DO experiences to date (few as they are) have lead me straight to Rol-aids or the latrine, or better yet, alternate food sources.

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                  • #24
                    There is nothing wrong with avoiding DO cooking if you haven't figured out how.

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                    • #25
                      When I was a Scout in New England, we NEVER used charcoal; there was so much wood around, we didn't need to spend the money for charcoal. For estimating the amount of coals to put under and on top, we used the TLAR method (TLAR = "That Looks About Right")

                      Of course, thirty-five years ago, we didn't have tables that indicated how many charcoal briquettes equals how much in temperature.

                      Once I got back into Scouting, in Idaho, firewood is so scarce here that you can never rely on having enough, so we always pack charcoal.

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                      • #26
                        I try new DO recipes at home first. I use the DO, but use it in the stove. Really seems to help shaking down a new recipe

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                        • #27
                          At my Woodbadge final night, I brought my DO to make a simple cobbler. In the fire circle, I made a big pile of charcoal, and when the fixings were in the DO I put a good pile of the charcoal on top and set the DO on top of a good pile of hot coals as well. Thirty minutes later, just as we finished dinner, the cobbler was ready and perfect. I even had a leftover piece in a plastic container that ended up in the cooler and taken home that my wife ate and loved - now she's demanding I make them at home!!

                          One of the other patrols was sharing the fire ring, and they were also attempting a DO cobbler. They were using these newfangled rules about so many pieces of charcoal on top and bottom, etc. They had started their charcoal before I even went over there, even had put on their DO. As I opened my finished product, ready to serve, I saw these other guys drooling, jealous-like, considering how little effort overall I had put into the whole process. They ended up asking if they could have the charcoal I had just finished cooking on, and since I was about to poor water on it, they got it. I don't know if they ever got the food done, since we had already moved onto other things.

                          Some basics, I like the liners, I use plenty of heat, but not too much to burn, and while camping I like to prepare well and make it simple.

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                          • #28
                            I have three Dutch Ovens--

                            10" aluminum I've had thirty years
                            12" deep cast iron I've had several years
                            14" Cast iron I bought on Ebay several years ago


                            The best secret about Dutch Oven cooking is to cook and experiment while at home, using charcoal or wood coals in your yard or driveway.

                            Experience counts, and that's the quick and easy way to gain experience --- in my experience, anyway.

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                            • #29
                              I am a beginner but I love dutch oven cooking. I have three dutch oven cook books and always try to cook based on the recipes, but I find it frustrating when the charcoal brickets, burn down and I loose heat, so I break out the shovel and dig into that sweet fire coal bed to get r done, last campout I found the tripod, awesome.

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