A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dutch ovens are usually made of seasoned cast iron, however some Dutch ovens are instead made of cast aluminium, or are ceramic. Some metal varieties are enameled rather than being seasoned. Dutch ovens have been used as cooking vessels for hundreds of years. They are called casserole dishes in English speaking countries other than the United States ("casserole" means "pot" in French), and cocottes in French. They are similar to both the Japanese tetsunabe and the Sač, a traditional Balkan cast-iron oven, and are related to the South African Potjie and the Australian Bedourie oven.
Early European history
During the late 17th century, the Dutch system of producing these cast metal cooking vessels was more advanced than the English system. The Dutch used dry sand to make their molds, giving their pots a smoother surface. Consequently, metal cooking vessels produced in the Netherlands were imported into Britain. In 1704, an Englishman named Abraham Darby decided to go to the Netherlands to observe the Dutch system for making these cooking vessels. Four years later, back in England, Darby patented a casting procedure similar to the Dutch process and began to produce cast-metal cooking vessels for Britain and her new American colonies. Thus the term “Dutch oven” has endured for over 300 years, since at least 1710.
American Dutch ovens changed over time during the colonial era. These changes included a shallower pot, legs to hold the oven above the coals, and a lid flange to keep the coals on the lid and out of the food. Paul Revere is credited with the design of the flat lid with a ridge for holding coals as well as the addition of legs to the pots.
Colonists and settlers valued cast-iron cookware because of its versatility and durability. Cooks used them to boil, bake, stew, fry, and roast. The ovens were so valuable that wills in the 18th and 19th centuries frequently spelled out the desired inheritor. For example, Mary Ball Washington (mother of President George Washington) specified in her will, dated 20 May 1788, that one-half of her "iron kitchen furniture" should go to her grandson, Fielding Lewis, and the other half to Betty Carter, a granddaughter. This bequest included several Dutch ovens.
Westward bound settlers took Dutch ovens with them. A Dutch oven was among the gear Lewis and Clark carried when they explored the great American Northwest in 1804–1806. Mormon pioneers who settled the American West also took along their Dutch ovens. In fact, a statue raised to honor the Mormon handcart companies who entered Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in the 1850s proudly displays a Dutch oven hanging from the front of the handcart. The Dutch oven is also the official state cooking pot of Texas, Utah and Arkansas.
Mountain men exploring the great American frontier used Dutch ovens into the late 19th century. Chuck wagons accompanying western cattle drives also carried Dutch ovens from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century.
In the Netherlands, a Dutch oven is called a braadpan, which literally translates to frying pan or roasting pan. The design most used today is a black (with blue inside) enameled steel pan, that is suitable for gas and induction heating. The model was introduced in 1891 by BK, a well known Dutch manufacturer of cookware. Cheaper and lighter in weight than cast iron, it proved to be a revolution in the kitchen. A braadpan is mainly used for frying meat only, but it can also be used for making traditional stews such as hachée. Cast iron models exist, but are used less frequently.
A camping, cowboy, or chuckwagon Dutch oven has three legs, a wire bail handle, and a slightly concave, rimmed lid so that coals from the cooking fire can be placed on top as well as below. This provides more uniform internal heat and lets the inside act as an oven. These ovens are typically made of bare cast iron, although some are aluminum. Dutch ovens are often used in Scouting outdoor activities.
In Australia, a bedourie camp oven is a steel cookpot shaped and used like a Dutch oven. Named after Bedourie, Queensland, the Bedourie ovens were developed as a more robust (non-breakable) alternative to the more fragile cast iron Dutch ovens.
In South Africa, a potjie //, directly translated "pottle or little pot" from Afrikaans or Dutch, is unlike most other Dutch ovens, in that it is round bottomed. Traditionally, it is a single cast, cast iron pot, reinforced with external double or triple circumscribing ribs, a wire handle for suspending the pot, and three short legs for resting the pot. It is similar in appearance to a cauldron. It has a cast iron lid with a recessed convex contour to allow for hot coals to lie on top, so that the pot may also be heated from above, and a handle. When the vessel is to be stored long term, care must be taken to avoid rust forming, this is accomplished by coating it in a non-toxic oil, such as cooking oil. This act ensures that the vessel remains in a seasoned state. "Potjie" can also refer to the technique of cooking potjiekos. Among the recipes which require a potjie, there is one for a type of bread called "potbrood", which literally means "pot bread".
Among the South African indigenous peoples (specifically Zulus) these pots also became known as phutu pots, after a popular food prepared in it. The larger pots are normally used for large gatherings e.g. Funerals or weddings to prepare large quanties of food. Wooden spoons referred to as Kombe in the Tsonga language are used for mixing and stirring.
This tradition originated in the Netherlands during the Siege of Leiden and was brought to South Africa by Dutch immigrants. It persisted over the years with the Voortrekkers and survives today as a traditional Afrikaner method of cooking. It is still in common use by South African campers, both domestic and international.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, a chugun is a cast iron pot used in a modern oven or in a traditional Russian oven, hearth, or a campfire. A chugun is used in a variety of cooking methods including high temperature cooking, low-temperature cooking, thermal cooking, slow cooking, smothering, roasting, baking, braising, and stewing.
The shape of a chugun is similar to a traditional crock with a narrow top and bottom and wider in the middle. When used inside a traditional oven, a long handled holding tool is used with a roller that serves as a lever to lift a heavy chugun in and out of the oven. Since there are no handles, it's inconvenient to use a chugun on a stovetop.
Often several chuguns of different sizes are used in the oven at the same time to prepare the entire meal. Dishes usually cooked in a chugun are roast meat with vegetables called "zharkoye," holubtsi, potato babka, stuffed peppers, and baked milk.
Use in cooking
Dutch ovens are well suited for long, slow cooking, such as in making roasts, stews, and casseroles. Virtually any recipe that can be cooked in a conventional oven can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
When cooking over a campfire, it is possible to use old-style lipped cast iron Dutch ovens as true baking ovens, to prepare biscuits, cakes, breads, pizzas, and even pies. A smaller baking pan can be placed inside the ovens, used and replaced with another as the first batch is completed. It is also possible to stack Dutch ovens on top of each other, conserving the heat that would normally rise from the hot coals on the top. These stacks can be as high as 5 or 6 pots.
Seasoning and care
Bare cast iron
After use Dutch ovens are typically cleaned like other cast iron cookware: with boiling water and a brush, and no or minimal soap. After the oven has been dried, it should be given a thin coating of cooking oil to prevent rusting. Whether that should be a vegetable fat or an animal fat (such as lard) is hotly contested. Saturated fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, which tend to go rancid more quickly.
Where possible, a cleaned and freshly oiled Dutch oven should be stored in a clean, dry location with the lid ajar or off to promote air circulation and to avoid the smell and taste of rancid oil. If the Dutch oven must be stored with the lid on, a paper towel or piece of newspaper should be placed inside the oven to absorb any moisture.
With care, after much use the surfaces of the Dutch oven will become dark black, very smooth, shiny and non-stick. With proper care, a Dutch oven will provide long service.
Enameled ovens do not need to be seasoned before use. However, they lose some of the other advantages of bare cast iron. For example, deep frying is usually not recommended in enameled ovens; the enamel coating is not able to withstand high heat, and is best suited for water-based cooking.
Enameled ovens can usually be cleaned like ordinary cookware, and some brands can be put in the dishwasher.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dutch ovens.|
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- "Lodge Cast Iron Cookware". Lodgemfg.com. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
|Look up dutch oven in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|The Wikibook Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Recreation has a page on the topic of: Dutch Oven Cooking|
- Ragsdale, John (2006). Dutch Oven Cooking (4th edition) (paperback). Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-352-1.
- Stucki, Dick (2006). Dutch Oven Cookin'. Bonnevile Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-925838-00-1.
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