What Kind of Dutch Oven do You Need


Dutch ovens – These were widely used by the pioneers due to their versatility.  You can make anything from cooking stew to baking bread.  Dutch oven cooking is an art all by itself.  Before purchasing a Dutch oven, consider the following:

•    Dutch ovens range in size from eight to about sixteen inches in diameter.  The most common size is twelve inches which holds about eight quarts.  This size will serve six to eight people.

•    Buy only Dutch ovens with legs.  There should be three legs, firmly attached.

•    The lid should fit tight with no gaps around the rim and have a vertical lip around the top to hold hot coals.

•    The casting and thickness of the metal should be even, especially around the rim.  Large variations will create hot and cold spots during cooking.

•    Make sure the lid has a loop handle tightly attached to its center.

•    The bail or wire handle should be attached firmly to the pot.  The bail should be easily movable and strong enough to carry or support a heavy pot full of stew.

•    They come in both aluminum and cast iron.  The aluminum twelve inch weighs about seven pounds.  The cast iron twelve inch weighs approximately 18 pounds.

•    Aluminum reflects heat well and as a result requires more coals than the cast iron to produce the same amount of heat, The aluminum Dutch ovens allow more variation in temperature during windy or cold weather.  For backbacking or canoe trips, the aluminum may be your best choice.
•    The cast iron Dutch oven will rust and has to be kept oiled.  This type of oven maintains a constant even heat and retains heat well.  Unless weight is a critical factor, I prefer cast iron.

Dutch ovens can be used over an open fire.  They also work well in a solar oven during intermittent cloudy weather or with practically any other type of stove.  They can be hung over an open fire or placed in the hot coals.  You can then scoop up hot coals and place them on the lid.  This gives you even heat on the top and bottom, which permits you to bake bread, rolls and even cake.

Many new cast iron frying pans and Dutch ovens come from the manufacturer with a waxy coating.  This needs to be burned off prior to use.  The best way is to turn the oven upside down over an open fire or charcoal.  When they heat up, you will see the waxy coating bubble up.  Let this burn out and wipe with a clean rag.  You are now ready to season your pot.

To season a cast iron pot, coat the pot with lard, bacon grease or Crisco and bake at 250 degrees for 4 hours.  Do not use a liquid vegetable oil or the pan will be sticky and not properly seasoned.

After cooking, wash the pan while still warm in hot water and scrape the pan if needed.  Do not use scouring pads or soap; they will break down the pan’s seasoning.  If your pan rusts, it needs to be re-seasoned.

More information on Dutch ovens and recipes will be posted in the near future.


5 thoughts on “What Kind of Dutch Oven do You Need”

  1. Howard;

    First thanks for the very informative site. I have been a reader for a number of months now and agree with and learn from most of your posts.

    I will slightly disagree with your statement “Buy only Dutch ovens with legs”. I have 5 ovens from 14 to 8. Three are legged (camp ovens) and 2 are standard (smooth bottom) ovens. I use the legged ovens strictly for outdoor or fire place cooking. The standard ovens I use everywhere including in the house electric oven, in the cabin wood cookstove oven, over coals with strategically placed rocks and hung from a tripod over an open flame.

    The drawback for me to the camp oven is that when used in a conventional oven the legs drop through the grills and require that you lift the oven out as opposed to sliding it out. As you correctly stated these cast iron marvels are far from light even empty.

    The true advantage of the camp oven is that it is more versatile in the outback (bread, biscuits,cakes, pies).

    So with that I will agree that a dutch oven is a preparedness must have. I would also suggest that the person prepping needs to consider how they will be using the tool and select which comes first the leg or the smooth. Then after the first get the second. Because besides being an art Dutch oven cooking is fun.

    1. Greg
      You are right, I was only thinking about camping and should have made that clear. I have flat bottomed Dutch ovens for indoor use.

  2. your advice on cleaning cast iron cookware is correct.. however, here are two good tips that i use…cast iron tends to have a burned grease buildup-when this happens i just throw the pot/skillet in a good outdoor fire and usually by the time the fire is out and cool i just dig the skillet out of the ashes and wipe off..clean as a whistle. also, after washing in hot sudsy water, rinse real well then place on warm burner to dry. been doing this for years and years and i have a few skillets that are over one hundred yrs. old.

  3. Another handy tip that will save on charcoal is to stack your dutch ovens. That way, the coals from the lid of your bottom one are heating the bottom of the oven(s) stacked on top. You can stack three or four ovens and cook a complete meal (including dessert) this way.

  4. Robert Bolman

    Having worked in foundries in my youth, what I notice today is that most newly manufactured cast iron cook ware comes with the grainy texture of the sand casting process still present on the interior of the cooking pot or skillet. Older cast iron cook ware was manufactured to a higher degree of quality whereby the interior of the pot or skillet was ground smooth. It’s a classic example of “They don’t make them like they used to.”

    I’ve improved upon a couple of newer cast iron pieces by using a 4 1/2 inch angle grinder with a flexible sanding disk to grind the sand cast texture off.


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