This is the first of a two-part series on how to choose, prepare, and use your own dutch oven.
We are huge fans of the dutch oven here at SunnyScope, for the amazing versatility they offer when it comes to camp meals. While some may be content to nosh hot dogs on a stick, a dutch oven gives you the ability to bake a cake, roast a chicken, or make just about any meal you would make at home with just one pot, anywhere you choose. But you’ll need a little more than your favorite recipes and some charcoal — there are some things to take into consideration before you make your first masterpiece.
Dutch Oven Selection
When shopping for a dutch oven, you’ll be given the option of aluminum or cast iron. Cast iron is what the very first dutch ovens were made of, made by none other than the Dutch people of the late 17th century. Dutch oven enthusiasts will generally insist on a cast iron model for its durability, but aluminum models have the advantage of being more lightweight, thus more appealing to backpackers and others who like to travel light. The choice is ultimately yours, and both have produced excellent results. You will also be offered a range of sizes, and which size you pick will be determined on the feeding capacity:
Seasoning the Pot
There are dutch ovens on the market that come preseasoned, but we think it’s better if you season your own right from the beginning, so you know what is involved in the care of your dutch oven. Seasoning is a colloquial term for a molecular compound of tightly bonded carbon atoms from cooking oils and animal fats that are cooked in the dutch oven, creating a nice non-stick coating that protects the oven from wear. The first seasoning is an easy but time-consuming process, and you may want to pick a day where you can have the door or windows open, as the seasoning process does get a bit smoky.
- When you get your brand new dutch oven home, take it out of the box and wash it with warm soapy water. This is the only time you will wash your dutch oven with soap. This will remove the waxy coating that is placed there by the manufacturer. If your dutch oven manual has different instructions for washing it, follow those instead.
- Thoroughly dry your dutch oven. After wiping it down with an absorbent towel, place it in the oven at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes to ensure all the moisture has dried up.
- Take the dutch oven out of the oven, and begin to apply canola oil to the entire surface, inside and out. People use other substances for seasoning, like shortening, lard, and other oils, which are all perfectly fine to use, but we recommend canola oil because of its high smoke point — 440 degrees Fahrenheit! Canola oil has less hydrogen atoms than any other substance, making it superior for use in seasoning dutch ovens and other cast iron cookware.
- Preheat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place in the bottom of the oven. When the oven is ready, place the dutch oven upside down on the lower rack and the lid on the upper rack. The cookie sheet will catch the residual oil as it drips out.
- Leave it in the oven for 30 minutes. It will be smoky, but this is normal. After 30 minutes, turn the oven off and allow the dutch oven and lid to cool in the oven overnight. The next day, give it a final wipedown with a paper towel, and store with the lid off in a cool, dry place. If you don’t want to leave the lid off, crumple some newspaper into the dutch oven before you put on the lid to absorb any moisture that leads to funky tastes and odors.
Now that it’s seasoned and ready to go, check back for the next installment of Cooking With a Dutch Oven 101 to learn more about using and maintaining your dutch oven!