Enjoy the delights of dutch oven cooking this fall

Published 11:47 am Friday, October 21, 2016

By Daniel Leathers
Outdoor Columnist

The smell of food wafts through the air and finds you nestled down in your sleeping bag early one fall morning. Your body doesn’t want to rise and shine. It wants to stay tucked away in your tent. However, your nose and stomach win out, and you roll out of your sleeping bag to slip on your shoes and find out what smells so good.
The fire is warming camp coffee, which always seems to be the best no matter the brand. The wonderful aroma of biscuits drifts from the Dutch oven enveloped in a small bed of coals.
Like the sound of it? Here’s how to experience this scenario every time you go camping.
Cooking should be highlight of your outdoor experience
Cooking is one of the highlights of spending time outdoors. With the rise of cast iron cooking shows on television, more and more people are being introduced to the joys of preparing meals this way. At one time, cooking in a Dutch oven was commonplace. This is not the case today. However, you can enjoy Dutch oven cooking anywhere. If it can be cooked in a conventional oven, it can be cooked in a Dutch oven.

I’m in, now what?
Perhaps the first thing to figure out is what cookware to purchase. We aren’t going to venture into this argument except to say American-made cast iron cookware tends to be the longest lasting and best made on the market.
Don’t be fooled by brand names, either. Even some of the most respected names in the industry produce lower quality wares in other countries while making the better items here in the U.S. Be sure to read the labels and know what you’re buying.
For the beginner, a number twelve Dutch oven is a good all-around piece. It should come with legs and a flat-top lid. This will allow better convection when placed on and under the coals. Plus, you can stack multiple ovens.
Once you obtain your wares, the best thing to do is find someone to show you how to use the Dutch oven, or just spend time playing with it. Purchase one of the thousands of Dutch oven cookbooks, peruse the pages, dog-ear the best, and start cooking some of the best food you’ll ever eat.
A good recipe book will chart the number of coals it takes to equal certain cooking temperatures. Most things cook well at 350 degrees as a rule of thumb. You can get this by using roughly seven coals evenly spaced under your oven and twenty on the lid.

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Here are a few other keys things to remember:
1. Purchase high-quality cookware.
If you properly maintain it, your cookware will last for generations.
2. Don’t be intimidated.
Anyone, anywhere can cook with a Dutch oven. However, I wouldn’t attach it to your backpack. I generally like to cook out on my front porch or in a campsite.
3. Experiment.
If you find a recipe you like for your conventional oven, try it in a Dutch oven.
4. Share your experiences.
Tell others about your experiences, and show them what you learn.
5. Use Dutch oven liners for easier cleanup.
These are available anywhere ovens are sold.
As you begin what will undoubtedly become a love affair with cast iron cooking, remember to have fun. You can take your oven on canoe treks, campouts, backyard gatherings, family reunions, and just about anywhere else you can build a fire.
Others will love to eat your delicious concoctions and be in awe of your amazing abilities! And always remember, no matter how you choose to spend your time this season, don’t leave the outdoors out. Make it a part of every season.
Daniel Leathers is a veteran of the US Army Special Operations Command and recognized authority in outdoor skills instruction, firearms, and etc. He is a devoted advocate for conservation, avid outdoorsman and co-founder of Longhunter Outfitters. He is also co-host of the radio show Hunt-Fish-Shoot Kentucky. You can contact Daniel at daniel@longhuntertoutfitters.com.