I learned how to care for cast iron cookware like dutch ovens from some old timers. Their methods are compatible with standard Boy Scout principles and more modern methods. Some of this may be considered “heretical” by the “authentic” dutch oven cooking folks. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Here’s some hints that have served me well:
- Use plenty of oil. Use oil even when browning meat, even ground chuck. Maybe not so much with ground beef.
- Lining the oven with foil is not necessary.
- Do not try to rush the cooking: use the suggested number of coals (here’s a rough guide to how many to use).
Here’s my cleaning regimen:
- When the meal is over remove all the food from the dutch oven, wipe it out with a paper towel, and rinse it with water.
- Fill the dutch oven about half way with water and place it on the fire to heat the water.
- When the water is hot take the dutch oven off of the fire, add a small amount of detergent and wash your forks, spoons plates and cups. Rinse the dishes with clean warm water.
- If food is stuck to the dutch oven we use the plastic scrubby pads. They are aggressive enough and have an open mesh that cleans easily.
- Pour out the dish water and rinse the dutch oven with fresh water.
- As soon as it’s rinsed out place the dutch oven back on the coals to dry.
- Watch the dutch oven carefully as it dries. As soon as the last drop evaporates in the bottom, remove it from the fire.
- Pour a large drop (probably a couple of tablespoons?) of oil in the bottom. We generally use Wesson Oil. Take a paper towel and thoroughly coat the entire inside of the dutch oven and the lid with the oil.
- Once the lid and oven are thoroughly coated, place the lid back on and store the DO.
I follow the same regime with my cast iron frying pan after breakfast. The pan is over 80 years old. I got it from my mom. I cook pancakes and french toast in it regularly with no sticking.
Check out this post for sources of dutch oven gear. My kit includes:
- Dutch oven and Lid
- Lid lifter (almost required!)
- Heavy gloves (nice to have)
- Bottle of Wesson oil (We have experimented with different oils. While we often cook with olive and other oils vegetable oil seems to work best for coating the inside of the oven. Olive oil doesn’t coat the inside as well or last as long. Wesson oil is our favorite; it’s inexpensive and readily available.)
- Scrubby Pads
- Paper Towels
- Kingsford Charcoal (get “better” charcoal, not the cheapest)
- Large Plastic Stirring/Serving Spoon
- Three large pebbles and an aluminum baking pan (for baking place the pebbles in th bottom of the oven and the pan on top of the pebbles)
We do not thoroughly clean the outside of our dutch ovens. If you don’t want to put that dirty old thing in the back of your wife’s mini-van after a camp out use a heavy-duty storage container a dutch oven bag or dutch oven box. Mine’s in a surplus Army/Navy surplus store canvas bag. My frying pan is in my kitchen box in the bottom of the box with the dirty side down.
Some of the “authentic” dutch oven folks may and complain and moan about this advice, especially the detergent. That’s ok, I know lots of folks that have done it this way for decades, have yummy food, and healthy Scouts. I think that it’s a good method especially when the dutch oven is troop equipment. Once a Scout goes out and buys his own oven he can do it any way he pleases
One of the best recipes for Scouts to start with is beef stew. Get a beef stew seasoning packet (McCormick, etc) at the grocery store and follow the recipe on the back . Brown the stew meat in the dutch oven, chop and add the veggies, the water and packet contents and then let it cook. You don’t even need coals on top for this. From there they can work up to other stuff.
Our favorite is lasagna. We have a no-boil-noodle recipe. It’s a little messy to prepare the ingredients and layer them into the oven but it sure is good. We also like to bake biscuits as we have a guy who makes some really, really good sausage gravy for breakfast. Cobblers are also very popular.
Yum. I’m gettng hungry now!