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Mid America Buckskinners Info Page

The Care and Use of Ironware

Missouri Iowa Nebraska Kansas

No, it's not skinning bucks............ Developed and maintained by JP Finn

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by Florence "Mama" Seward

A Dutch oven is an indispensable tool for the camper. In these wonderful pots, you can boil, fry, braise, stew, or oven bake. Like an old friend, they are solid and dependable, and get better with age. With a little care they will last a lifetime.

Choosing the right Dutch oven for campfire cooking is important. They come in a range of sizes and are made in cast iron and aluminum. A 12-inch diameter pot will enable you to serve six to eight people. Unless you have weight limitations, buy the cast iron, because it provides more uniform heating, which is important when using an uneven heat source like coals.

Your Dutch oven should have three legs, which will help elevate the pot above the coals to avoid burning the food on the bottom. The lid should be flat and have a loop handle, with a vertical lip around the edge to help keep the coals on top in place. Inverted and placed on the coals, the lid also makes a handy griddle for eggs or pancakes. A heavy wire handle should be attached to the sides of the pot. Flat-bottomed Dutch ovens with rounded, self-basting lids and long handles on the side work great in the home kitchen, but are a poor choice for outdoor cooking.

A cast iron Dutch oven, or any other cast iron cook ware, will need a little care before its initial use and throughout its lifetime. An oven must be seasoned properly to seal the metal pores and prevent rusting. A new pot should be washed in soapy water to remove any protective coating applied by the manufacturer and allowed to air dry thoroughly. Season by applying a thin coating of cooking oil all over the pot and lid, inside and out. Pour a small amount of oil in the pot, and place, covered, in a 250 degree oven for two hours. Wipe off the surfaces. Always leave the lid off a hot oven to prevent moisture condensation inside.

Clean the oven as soon after cooking as possible by rinsing with water and wiping with clean towels. Don't use soap or metal scrubbers, as they will remove the protective coating of oil. If food sticks to the pot, fill it with water and bring to a boil, scraping off particles with a wood scraper or spoon. Never put cold water in a hot pot, cooling it too quickly may cause it to warp or crack. Let it air dry and cool, uncovered, then wipe the inside with a thin coating of oil.

For baking, most of the coals should go on top of the pot, which heats the air in the oven and browns the food. Too many coals below will burn the bottom of your baked goods. A good rule of thumb is: one-third of the coals below, and two-thirds above.. Be sure to preheat your oven with the lid on for a few minutes before placing the food in to bake. Another good baking practice is to put your food in a pie tin and raise it off the bottom of the oven with a few washers or a metal grate. You can bake directly on the bottom, but be careful to regulate the heat below. For stewing or boiling, two-thirds of the coals go below the oven, with one-third on top. For browning or frying, remove the lid.

If you have comments about this 2 Cents Worth for Florence "Mama" Seward, send them to me and I will pass them along. I will send any replies from her to you. (She is not on the net, I will just be the Post Carrier)


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