In the last two decades Dutch Oven cooking has gained monumental acclaim. A lot of articles that I write I feel like I barely do them justice due to my limited space but on this topic, I’m really going to barely scratch the surface. 

When you think about Dutch ovens your mind automatically drifts back in time to the old trail drives and cowboy chuck wagons. It’s the crack of dawn.

As everyone is roping their horse for the day the Cook scoops a shovel full of hot coals out of the fire. He throws some on top of his old Dutch Oven and heats up a batch of sourdough biscuits. The cowboys line up single file as he serves them up a hot cup of coffee, biscuits, scrambled eggs and sausage. 

Let’s fast-forward 100 years. The modern day DO cooks are chefs that demand an exact heat level.  They strategically place a certain amount of coals on top and on bottom for the exact heat they want for that recipe.

I bought my first Dutch oven in 30 years ago and attended a DO Cooking class that Paul Loree taught. That’s where I really learned how to do it right.  

The first step is to scrub out your DO with hot soapy water and a brillo pad. This removes the wax, grease or whatever the heck it is they protect them with at the factory (Many manufacturers claim to preseason their DO’s but I still do it myself).

Dry it off. Grease it up and fire up your oven to 400 degrees. Throw it in the oven for an hour. Let it cool off. Grease it up and it’s ready to use. From now on you’ll never use soap on it again or it will remove the seasoning and you’ll have to re-season it. From now on to clean it, scrub out the old food and heat and grease. 

Here are a few good DO books. 

• Loving Dutch Oven by Joan S. Larso

• Outdoor Dutch Oven Cookbook by Sheila Mills

• Cast Iron Cuisine by Linda Cawley & Geri Munford-Good one for beginners.

Buy one of these books. Remember, every time you open the lid to peek in, it increases the cooking time by 5 minutes. 

Shortly after attending Paul’s class I took Doug Pageler bear hunting. I was preparing dinner and was worried that I didn’t have charcoal and was trying to carefully measure out some hot coals. Doug brushed me aside and said quit worrying about it. He grabbed the shovel and scooped a load and laid it on top. I told him we needed so and so many coals. He told me he’d been cooking DO for years and asked me if I really thought the old cowboys carried a bag of charcoal to cook with?

The best I remember we ate every bit of whatever it was I was cooking so I guess it wasn’t too bad. It’s just that the cooks nowadays have exact heat temps and know exactly how long to cook a meal. There’s no guesswork, for them, it’s just like using an oven. They know for each recipe exactly how many charcoal briquettes to lay on top and how many on bottom.

The most common is the 8-quart oven. Make sure to buy one with a lip on top and legs on bottom. This way you can put coals on top/bottom. Lodge is the best brand that I’ve found. Their walls have a more consistent thickness, the lid seats better and the handle works smoothly. 

The sky is the limit on what you can cook.

 In Paul’s first class he cooked a whole turkey, enchiladas, and lasagna for the main course. For dessert cherry cobbler and if you didn’t like cherries, he had peach cobbler. I was sold after that meal.  

Here’s a couple of easy recipes to get you started.

Doug Pageler’s Quiche:

4-5 eggs

1 to 1-1/2 cups Bisquick

1 can of mushrooms

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 large onion chopped

8 oz. Cheese

1 lb sausage 

Charlie’s Honey Buns:

1 cube butter 1-1/2 cups brown sugar and 2 tbls. Karo syrup

½ cup chopped nuts

2 cans Pillsbury Grands biscuits

Line 12” DO w/ aluminum foil

Place DO over 5-6 coals and melt butter

Stir in brown sugar and nuts gently

Slice biscuits in 1/2 or ¼ and drop all around on top of the brown sugar mixture.

Cover w/ lid and 12-14 coals on top

Bake until golden brown. About 15 min. Dump onto a large plate.

If your salivary glands aren’t salivating by now you’d better check into an Anorexic Center. You ought to buy a Dutch Oven this fall and try it out in hunting camp. It’ll add another dimension to your camping experience and will guarantee you a spot in any hunting/fishing camp!

Tom Claycomb is an outdoor enthusiast and writes a monthly column for the Humboldt Sun.