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Dutch Oven Cooking for Beginners

How to choose a dutch oven, clean it and care for it

Have you ever heard about dutch oven cooking? Or wanted to learn?
Do you know what to look for as you choose one, what size you need, what it means to season it or how to clean and care for it after you cook in it?
Dutch Oven Cooking for Beginners is all about answering these questions and more!
I will explain it all, and share my scrumptious recipes with you at the end of this post. 
Cooking with a dutch oven is a practical, tasty way of being more self reliant.
If you are beginner dutch oven user, let’s address a few concerns first:

Did you know that dutch ovens have been around for hundreds of years?
And it is STILL considered one of the MOST functional ways to cook with that you will find.

You can use it to cook with if you are camping, or on a day trip or at your home.

Cooking in a dutch oven gives food a wonderful flavor like nothing else does!
Along with being a terrific way to cook anytime, it’s a perfect alternative resource if the power goes out.
You don’t need electricity when using a dutch oven to boil, bake, fry and saute. You are still able to feed your family a wonderful meal, which is so comforting when other things are out of sorts.

NOW LET’S HAVE FUN! In this post we learn about dutch oven basics and in part two, we cook with fire! HERE 
A little nervous about it are you? No need to be.
I agree that it can be a little intimidating, with all the fuss about what size to use, how much charcoal, and such.
However, I have an easy guide to walk you through from start to finish.
This will be a terrific refresher for those who have been cooking with a dutch oven awhile too:)
It’s SO easy to cook with a dutch oven if you will think of it this way:  Anything you can do in your kitchen, you can do in the dutch oven; it just takes a bit of practice, and a some know-how.

So come on along and I’ll help beginner dutch oven users learn, and seasoned experts refresh. as we talk about:

  • Useful Tools and Equipment 
  • The importance of dutch ovens 
  • How to purchase a dutch oven: what to look for when buying used
  • How to season a dutch oven – and it’s nothing to do with the weather
  • Cleaning and how to care for a dutch oven


Be Sure to Get Your Helpful and very Useful 2-page Dutch-Oven Cheat Sheet 


    What, How & Why In Dutch Oven Cooking – All About Dutch Oven Cooking: 101

    Let’s talk about what really IS helpful and needed in dutch oven cooking.
    There’s a ton of ‘stuff’ out there, but these are the tools that we enjoy and actually use.

    Useful tools and equipment
    To make it easy for you, if you click on any of the titles of the suggested items, you will go directly to that source to easily check it out.

    TOP 10 ITEMS
    1- Heat Resistant Cooking Gloves to protect your hands

    2-  Dutch Oven Lid Stand is really nice to have a place to set the lid of the dutch oven so you don’t have to set it on the ground when you take if off of the dutch oven to check on the food, to hold a clean plate or serving bowl as you serve up your scrumptious delight!       

    3- Dutch Oven Lid Lifter is a MUST in handling those dutch oven lids – seriously, it’s the only way to mange it without burning yourself, or accidentally dropping ash into your food.

    4- Charcoal Chimney Starter makes getting those charcoal briquettes going a breeze

    5- Kingsford Original Charcoal Briquets

    6- Barbecue / Grill Tongs – Mr Grill to put the charcoal in to the chimney, also to place the hot briquettes where needed

    7- Galvanized Charcoal and Ash Can with Lid to put your hot coals in if you are BBQ on your patio, or where small children or pets can get to them, this is really helpful

    8- Camp Dutch Oven Cooking Table is really nice and just down-right handy so you don’t have to cook on the ground and it gives your coals shelter from any wind; which means you have much more control as you cook outdoors for fantastic food. Of course you can also use a fire pit OR heavy flat piece of metal like we show in our pictures. You can use anything that is heat proof way and make sure to elevate it off the ground such as the cement tree round forms we used here in our pictures.           

    9- For your cooking this extra long BBQ Set will work great

    10- Rounding out our list with this Rimmed Ladle  which will come in handy any times over too for soups, chili’s, and so much more.


    Dutch ovens
    As a beginner starting out to cook in a dutch oven, you may wonder?
    What Size Dutch Oven Do I Need or Will I Use?

    • Multiple Dutch Ovens aren’t necessary; however a set of varying sized pots can be helpful.
    • We suggest various sizes so you can easily stack them.
    • You may want to check these out to start with

    10″ Lodge Camp Dutch Oven, 4 Qt
    12″ Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven, 8-Quart

    • For our family, we generally use: 10″2 – 12″, But see what is going to suit your needs best

    This chart will help in calculating servings as you cook, along with what size pots you might want to purchase.

    Chart 4

    All the Basics You Need in Dutch Oven Cooking For Beginners: 101

    The many reasons to have Dutch ovens and know how to use them:

    • Food cooked in a dutch oven tastes fabulous.
    • If the power is out, a dutch oven is another source of cooking. Just make sure that you cook with them outside. NEVER light charcoal in an enclosed area, such as a garage or inside your house as carbon monoxide gas quickly rises to dangerous levels that can be fatal.
    • By stacking your dutch ovens you can cook multiple foods at the same time.
    • With practice, anything that can be prepared in a regular oven can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
    • Dutch ovens are terrific for camping, picnics and outdoor entertaining.


    What to look for when buying a Dutch Oven
    A new cast iron Dutch oven can be very costly, however, garage sales,  junk shops, and thrift stores are often a great source for used ones. Even a rusty old oven can be easily restored. You can save a lot of money and get a good quality dutch oven pretty easily if you watch.


    A few things to look out for when buying a used dutch oven:

    • Cracks, chips, casting imperfections and rust spots – these are all things you do not want
    • Examine the pot and lid both inside and out for problems that would affect cooking or safety
    • Make sure the lid fits properly, this is very important, such as no rocking motion, and that it fits snug.
    • When looking for a Dutch oven you want to take it out of the box and look for even casting and as smooth of a surface you can find.
    • If looking for a camping pot, then only buy a dutch oven with legs and determine that these are in good condition. The reason here is because of the legs. It allows for the coals to be easily placed under the pot and for easy stacking also.
    •  Check the thickness of the metal – irregularities will mean inconsistency when cooking, not good
    • Make sure there is a loop handle which makes it easier to pick up with a hook and that it is strong. Make sure that it is centered well so when you pick up the pot it is not lop-sided.
    • Avoid Dutch Ovens with riveted tabs; it should be completely smooth, not indents


    If you have purchased a ready to use Dutch oven follow these steps:

    • Before using for the first time rinse with hot water but no soap, and towel dry
    • Before each time cooking, prepare the cooking surface by wiping it down with vegetable oil
    • After each time cooking, clean with a scrubber like this one HERE under hot water with no soap and towel dry
    • After it is dry and while still warm, wipe all surfaces down with oil
    • Allow the oven to cool and then store in a cool dry place, do not store with the lid on top                                                                                                                                                                                  

    *Note:  A Dutch oven is formed as one piece, then the lid sliced off of the top. Meaning the lid is unique to that oven. Make sure the lid fits properly and snug, otherwise your food won’t cook properly and it will get full of ash.


    Caring for a Dutch Oven

    Seasoning a Dutch Oven
    Most Dutch ovens come pre-seasoned and only need to be washed with a little bit of soap (just this one time) and hot water.

    • After washing set it on a heat source (like your stove top or camp stove) and let it dry completely.
    • You can wipe it with a little shortening or Cast Iron Conditioner at this time and then let it cool and put away.
    • You do not have to put oil or grease it every time you use and wash it, just when it looks like it needs it.
    • If you have a pot that is not pre-seasoned, it has a wax coating that needs to come off.

    1-Wash the pot and lid with hot soapy water, rinse well and dry off with paper towels.
    2-Coat the entire pot and lid with a thin layer of shortening and place them in a 450-500 degree bar-B –Q grill upside down (so the shortening will not pool) on the rack, shut lid and leave in there for one hour.
    3- Turn off heat and leave in grill till cool. This should create a nice black patina on the cast iron.
    4- If you are not satisfied with the results, repeat the process over.
    5- You can do this procedure in your home oven but it smells and smokes up the house, but be sure to open a few windows!


    Now that you have used your dutch oven to cook in here’s how to clean and care for it:

    Cleaning and caring for a Dutch Oven
    After you are done with your meal and ready to clean up, put some hot water in your pot and use a scraper to loosen all the food.

    • Dump out water and put more hot water in the pot.
    • Use a plastic scrubber like THIS to clean it out well.
    • Dump out the dirty water again and then rinse completely with hot water.
    • Place the pot on a heat source and let it dry out completely.
    • Now you can give it a thin coat of shortening or Cast Iron Conditioner applied with a paper towel.
    • Let it cool.
    • If you do not have a cover for your Dutch oven, place a folded paper towel – half in and half out in the pot -and place the lid on top and cock it. You will want a bit of air to circulate while stored.
    • If you have a cover for you Dutch oven, place the lid right side up in the bottom of cover and then sit the pot on top of the lid.
    • Always store your dutch ovens in a dry area.

    I hope you’ve found this information on the basics of dutch ovens helpful. It’s time to learn how to light the coals and regulate the temperature so you can get cookin some fabulously scrumptious food! It’s EASY PEASY! Click HERE for that post


    Be Sure to Get Your Helpful and very Useful 2-page Dutch-Oven Cheat Sheet 



      Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2015, 2017
      My huge thanks to Nancy Rappleye for allowing me to include a portion of her presentation on dutch ovening in this post.
      Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today
      For More Posts On This Topic:

      How Do I Use The Coals & Temperature – All About Dutch Oven Cooking: 101
      Dutch Oven Cooking for Beginners
      Stan’s Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler

      Dutch Oven Cooking for Beginners

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      Dutch Oven Fried Chicken









      Dutch Oven Dorito Enchilada Casserole









      Dutch Oven Scalloped Potatoes









      Dutch Oven Hearty Corn Bread









      DutchOven Beef Roast with Vegetables










      • This is such a great resource and admit I don’t own a Dutch oven at all and have been wondering and curious about them. So I can’t thank you enough for educating us here today on this now 😉

      • Tasha says:

        I’ve never used a dutch oven for cooking before but it looks really similar to grilling….just without the grill lol. Does the food have a “smoked” taste to it cook this way? Do you use this method of cooking often?

        • Hello Tasha, cooking in a dutch oven is terrific! It gives food a smokey – campfire taste. You can bake, fry, saute and even boil in a dutch oven. Just like an indoor stoveoven set up.

      • Girl,
        You amaze me. I have a dutch oven I use all the time but I had no clue how to use it outside. I guess it really is a lost art. I would not know how to start without reading your instructions. I had no idea the temperature depends on the number of coals you have.
        Thanks for sharing!

        • I’m so glad this was helpful Diane. Dutch oven cooking outside gives food a completely different taste and serves as a portable oven, stove, and many forms of cooking. Let me know if you give it a try!

      • My dad gave me his cast iron dutch oven pot last year. I really didn’t know how I could use it so thank you for this great post…please consider sharing it at this week’s Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop, I think some of my readers would love it as well!

      • Sandra says:

        Thanks for sharing at Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop!
        Great post!
        I love our dutch oven, we use it every time we go camping, makes the best tasting food.

      • Linda says:

        Just found your site thru Clearwater Farm. I love cooking with cast iron. Food always taste better in it. Great information on the Dutch oven.

      • Jess says:

        Oh wow…this is so interesting!
        Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

      • Rebecca says:

        This is a great resource. Thanks. We use our dutch oven for camping a lot. I even made bread in it last time. The tip about adding and subtracting 3 coals from the size of the oven is awesome. We always find ourselves out camping with no way to look up how many coals to put on, so we just guess. But that rule, I can remember. Thanks!

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