What makes a cast iron oven Dutch?
No one knows for sure, but here are three theories you can choose from:
1. In the early 1700’s Abraham Darby traveled to Holland to learn about a Dutch casting process for making brass vessels in dry sand molds. Darby experimented with the process and finally patented it. The idea came from the original Dutch process for casting metal pots, so why not call it a Dutch oven
2. Dutch traders in America peddled cast iron pots which might have given rise to caling those pots “Dutch Ovens.”
3. Dutch settlers iliving in Pennsylvania used similar cast iron ware for cooking.
So there are three choices, what one do you choose? Personally I just say come and get it.
I hope selecting your Dutch oven will be the first step in a long series of interesting and pleasant times on your camping adventures. A good source is the local Boy Scouts of America equipment distributor who will have a stock of Dutch ovens or can readily obtain one from his supply source. Many of the better sporting goods stores may be alternate sources of an oven. The size of a Dutch oven may range from 8 inches to about 16 inches in diameter, but the most common size is 12 inches in diameter and is the size I would suggest for your purchase. This size is usually ample for use in serving six to eight people, is a satisfactory size for storing and transporting on your outings, and is most readily available.
You may select a Dutch oven that is either cast iron or aluminum, each material providing some advantages. The aluminum type weighs only seven pounds and, by nature of the metal, is not susceptible to rust. The aluminum oven also reflects heat very well and consequently requires more coals than the cast iron oven to provide the same degree of heat inside the oven. You may notice the heat variation in times of high wind or low temperatures. For backpacking, canoeing trips or weight problems, this may be your best choice.
The cast iron Dutch oven is heavier weighing 18 pounds and will rust unless it is properly oiled in usage and storage. This type of oven, however, retains heat very well and provides a more constant, even temperature. I have used a cast iron oven for a number of years and prefer it, although I enjoy the aluminum ovens too.
The best Dutch oven for your use will have three legs, which will serve to keep the oven above the ground a sufficient height to allow placing coals under the bottom of the oven. Do not make the mistake of choosing a flat bottom, indoor type of oven that works well in your kitchen, but is not the type for your outdoor cooking. These legs are essential for the best use of the oven, and you should use care not to break them in handling the oven.
Also, the best ovens have a vertical lip around the edge of the lid, and this lip is most important in retaining coals on the top of your oven. The rounded, self-basting top works well in your kitchen at home but is not the type you need on your camping trip. This lip also can serve as a place to grasp to remove the lid during cooking.
Another item to look for is the closed (looped) handle on the center of the top of the lid to lift the lid during cooking. When the top is covered with coals, you can hook the handle with a lifter to remove the lid.
A heavy wire bail should be connected to two brackets on the sides of the oven. This bail is useful in rotating or moving the oven when cooking is in progress and of course, is used to carry the cool oven in the usual loading and transportation. Better ovens are arranged so the bail is lowered to one side of the oven for storage and can be flipped to the other side position and remain at a 45° angle away from the hot side and top of the oven during cooking. You will discover the value of this bail when lifting the hot oven during the cooking.
RESOURCES & REFERENCES: COOKING
Camping, Cooking, and Wilderness Survival merit badge pamphlets; Boy Scout Handbook; Fieldbook; Camp Cookery for Small Groups: Recipes for Groups of Eight
Bittman, Mark. How to Cook Everything: The Basics—All You Need to Make Great Food. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
Conners, Christine, and Tim Conners. The Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook. Falcon Guides, 2008.
Herod, Lori. Foil Cookery: Cooking Without Pots and Pans. Paradise Cay Publications, 2007.
Jacobson, Cliff. Basic Illustrated Cooking in the Outdoors. Falcon Guides, 2008.
Jacobson, Don. One-Pan Gourmet Fresh Food on the Trail. International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2005.
Mills, Sheila. The Outdoor Dutch Oven Cookbook. International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2008.
National Museum of Forest Service History. Camp Cooking: 100 Years. Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2004.
Woodruff, Woody. Cooking the Dutch Oven Way. Falcon Guides, 2013.
Organizations and Websites
VoiceOfScouting: Scout Cooking
Boy’s Life: 17 tasty Dutch oven recipes
Dutch Oven Recipes
Cooking Without Utensils
International Dutch Oven Society
The Recipe Link
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Related Program Features
Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Fitness and Nutrition, Hiking, Project Planning, Sustainability, Winter Camping