Have you ever cooked in a dutch oven? If you look for instructions on it you’ll get what looks like a manual for operating a Los Angeles Class Nuclear Submarine. What a world we live in when you seek instructions for one of the most self evident cooking devices on the most complex and technological platform that has ever existed, the internet. You then find instructions for the primitive device that requires a college degree to understand.
Let me simply for you: A dutch oven is a big buff pot with a heavy lid. You put stuff in it and throw it into a big fire and delicious food comes out. Pretty much anything you would cook in a crock pot you can cook in a dutch oven. There is something wonderful about cooking outside and even more wonderful about the functionality of the dutch oven.
One thing to be aware of,..there is a whole magilla around “Seasoning” your dutch oven. Initially this means getting the factory coating off it, …it’s just a little wax. Secondarily it means coating the whole pot with bacon fat or vegetable shortening to protect the coating of the pot. There are also what are called “Enameled” dutch ovens that do NOT need to be seasoned before use. Here is the problem with these, the enamel coating can’t withstand high heat, so it is best suited for water based cooking. This severely limits the dutch oven. An advantage to these is that they can be cleaned like any other pot or pan in your sink, you can also throw them in the dishwasher.
I think that if you decide on embracing and experimenting with a dutch oven you might as well get the real thing.
Anyhow, seasoning is not that hard and very boring to talk about, so google it if your serious about embracing the dutch oven.
Despite the use of numerous varieties of dutch ovens over time and among different peoples, South Africans call theirs the (potpie), Australians the (bedourie), and the Japanese (tensunabe)…to me, I argue that the dutch oven is intimately linked to our cultural identity as americans. Dutch ovens embody to me, the best aspects of the pioneering spirit of adventure and self-sufficiency. Did you know that Lewis and Clark carried a dutch oven with them when they explored the northwest in the early 1800′s? Yep, they did. The utility of the dutch oven is so great in fact that it remained prominent during the western cattle drives from the mid 19th to the early 20th century and we continue to use them today!
The last time I went Dutch was in Yosemite. I made chili and cornbread with a friend and felt like I belonged in a Cormac McCarthy novel (not hiding from cannibals, think All the Pretty Horses.) …pretty awesome.
Last note, when you finish cooking something in a dutch oven or if someone inquires about what is inside your dutch oven when you are cooking, your response should always be the same. ”Manifest Destiny Sucka!” Or if this is too irreverent for you, “Enjoy your meal”