I am not a Dutch oven cooker. I’ve never attempted to use one of these utilitarian tools that scouts, scoutmasters and RV campers have come to rely on.
So why did the Lodge Logic make my list of “Our Favorite Things?”
Well, it’s simple. I’m not a Dutch oven cooker. But I am an occasional Dutch oven eater (not that I actually eat the ovens, of course) And my brother, Glen (a former scoutmaster and current RV camper) is a Dutch oven wizard.
He can cook stews. He can cook rolls. He can cook cobblers. He’s so good, his campground neighbors sometimes buy him ingredients (like 5-pound bags of chocolate chips) so that he won’t run out … and so that he’ll keep supplying them with tasty desserts. He tells me that cobblers and desserts typically cook in a half hour. Stews and meat loafs take about an hour.
I’ll take his word for it. Call me when dinner’s ready.
So though I don’t know much about Dutch ovens, I do know this: Those who have learned —often through painful and smoky trial and error — the intricacies of these cast-iron cooking receptacles are worth befriending when you’re out in the woods. And since my brother is one such expert, I asked him for a few tips.
Without further ado, here are Guru Glen’s s Helpful Hints (Or, how to cook great meals using charcoal … and how to avoid turning your meals into burnt piles of mush):
- My brother relies on a 12-inch, nine-quart Lodge Dutch oven, but he has three ovens in all, and says his Sam’s Club model is also workable. The key is not what you have, but how you use it.
- Get the model with three legs. Get the model with a raised edge on the lid (often called “flanged.” That will keep your charcoal from falling off the lid and into your boot. (OK … I made up the last part, but I’m pretty sure it could happen).
- There are other tools that will make your life easier. Like the “Lid-lifter-picker-upperer.” I didn’t make that part up. Glen actually said those words. Verbatim. What can I say? He’s my brother.
- You also ought to get a mitt. “Insulated is nice. Fireproof is even better,” he says. Especially if you’re trying to pull a flaming charcoal briquette out of your boot, I say.
- You might also want to buy a trivet that you can put the (HOT) lid on. Putting the (HOT) lid on a nearby picnic table is not advisable. Especially if the picnic table is made of plastic. I’m not sure how my brother knows this, but I expect he has melted a few tables in his day. Note to campground owners: My brother did it. Send him the bill.
- Don’t forget the tongs. Not, as I thought, so you could grab bite-sized pieces of chow out of the Dutch oven. No, Glen says you need tongs so you can move your charcoal around to optimize your cooking. Who knew? He did. “It’s a very precise operation,” he told me. (Tongs would also help when retrieving flaming briquettes from your boot, I figure)
Now, where do you start? What does Guru Glen suggest you cook? Well, I didn’t actually get him to tell me that. He’s a chef. Finicky. Temperamental. All that stuff. (Not really). But I did get him to tell me what he’d cook for you, should you happen by his campsite. Before you go looking for him, don’t bother: He often camps in places like Montana and Utah. Last I checked, that’s more than a day hike away.
Among his favorites: A “no-fail” stew that I have sampled and can vouch for. A meatloaf that he says is his best recipe. (I hate meatloaf, so I can’t vouch for this one) Cobblers of all types. And most recently, he has perfected Dutch oven rolls.
It almost makes you want to run out and buy yourself a Dutch oven, doesn’t it?
Me either. Not because I don’t like Dutch oven food, mind you. I just don’t have the time to burn a few dozen meals while learning the craft … and I have an odd aversion to charcoal briquettes in my boots.
I think I’ll just wait for big brother to start cooking, and head over to his house for a snack.