One of our passions at the Double M is Dutch Oven cooking. We love nothing more than sitting around a fire with family and friends cooking up a great meal. Many of those who ate with us kept saying "You should do this for a living!"
Combine that with our love for anything to do with the old west and you can see how we developed our chuckwagon catering.
So many people have asked "Is it hard to do?" , "How do you know when it's done?", "What kind of wood do you use?", "What kinds of things can you cook in those big pots?" and many more questions.
On this page we will try to answer some of those questions. For those who are experienced in Dutch Oven cooking, this may seem boring or over simplyfied. The idea here is to show those who have never cooked outdoors in a Dutch Oven just how easy and fun it can be.
Our meal will be "Texas style ribs", corn on the cob and scratch biscuits. We will cook them all in dutch ovens in the back yard. You can build a fire and use the coals to cook with, but for this demo we will use charcoal just to show that even someone in town that may not be able to build a fire can still cook a meal with their DO. When using wood it is best to use a hardwood like oak, you will get better coals. The type of wood or using charcoal will not affect the taste of the food as the coals are only for heat in Dutch Oven cooking.
OK, lets get started......
We use the broom to brush away any ashes from the edge of lids before opening a pot.The shovel and tongs are for handling hot coals and last is the lid lifter.
We start charcoal over to the side and keep adding more to the pile as we use it.Keeping a good pile of hot coals ready for use. Here we have placed some coals on a table to start our ribs.We do not count coals for top and bottom like some people do. I have found it works well for me if I place coals at about the size of the pot for the bottom as shown and then cover the top with coals. I guess this is because I usually am cooking with wood. Many cooks who use charcoal all the time, count the coals on the bottom and double the top coals. It's different for everyone and you just have to get a "feel for it". There is no right or wrong way, just whatever works for you. It is better to use too few coals on bottom than too many. Less chance of burning something. You can always add more if it is not hot enough or not cooking fast enough.
The ribs are in a 12" deep Dutch Oven and we will now let them brown with some onions for about 30 min. With both bottom and top coals.
Sauce is in and now we cover with lid and let it cook for about 2 hr. The heavy lid of a DO seals the pot and makes it almost like cooking in a pressure pot so those ribs will be "fall off the bone" tender the longer they cook.
It's been about an hour and we see the sauce has started to get thick. This is our homemade sauce. You can use your own or any bottle of BBQ sauce works well. We will replace the lid and add some fresh coals and "let er cook!"
It has been 1 hr. and a half so we will start the rest of our meal. The corn just needs to boil, so we place it in a 12" DO and to save space just set it on top of the rib pot. we will put lid on and in just a matter of min. it will be boiling.
Now for our biscuits. This is where the magic of Dutch Oven cooking really comes out. Baking something just as you would in a stove in your kitchen. A key to baking in a DO is about twice as much heat on top as on bottom. I have found that breads rise better if I preheat the DO. In first photo you see a 12" ,that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray, sitting over coals. We will add the lid with coals and let pot get hot. We then put our biscuits in (photo 2) and replace lid. We are cooking homemade scratch biscuits. If you don't know how, just use can biscuits. Now for the part many people have trouble with. It is easy to burn the bottom of bread in a DO. When cast iron gets hot, it stays hot for a long time. To keep my biscuits from burning on the bottom I take the pot off the bottom heat as soom as I put the lid on (photo 3). The top heat and left over bottom heat will cook them just right. Many people put their bread in a pan and set it on small rocks in the pot to keep it from burning on the bottom. Remember, their is no wrong way, just whatever way you find best for you.
We now move the corn over to where the biscuits were and let everything finish cooking. "How do you know when it's done?" The ribs can cook forever just dont let the sauce boil dry, the corn just has to get hot and the biscuits need to be brown on top. As a wise DO cook (C W Welch) once said "If it smells done it's done, if it smells burnt it's burnt and if you can't smell it, it ain't done."
Well, look at that, the biscuits are brown, the corn is steamy, the ribs are falling off the bone and the sauce is as thick as gravy. Mama has made some slaw in the house and it looks like we are ready to eat.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this quick and simple Dutch Oven cooking demo. I know it may seem too simple to some and I may have created more questions than I answered. The hope is that it will get some of you who have never tried Dutch Oven cooking to take the plunge. "What can you cook in a Dutch Oven?" Anything you can cook in the stove. "How do you care for a Dutch Oven?" Most of them now come preseasoned and with instructions on how to season.If you need to season them, just wipe them with veg. oil and put in an oven or outside grill at about 400 to 450 degrees.When they start to turn black, turn off the heat and let them cool in the oven. One of the best things to do with them is to use them, use them, use them. A good trick for new DO is to fry a sliced potato in about 1/4 inch of oil. When done dispose of the oil and potato. It will take out the "metal taste and smell" that some new DO have. I never use soap to clean any of my DO. Just wipe with a clean cloth. If anything is stuck to the pot I use a plastic putty knife to scrape clean. Remember you don't want to scrape off the "seasoning". Rinse with water, set over left over coals to dry and wipe with a cloth soaked in veg. oil. I store with lid on and a paper towel sticking out of lid. "Is it hard to do?" I'll let you be the judge of that.
Now ,I'm going to eat those ribs. As a matter of fact, that sauce looks so good I think I'll put on another DO and cook up some rice to put that sauce on.