This classic method of cooking is a great way to prepare meals, breads, and desserts. With a little experience anyone can become an expert. Dutch ovens are easy to use and store and will last for many years when cared for properly. Charcoal is cheap and when stored in an airtight container will last indefinitely.
To make Dutch Oven cooking even more energy efficient you may want to try a Volcano Collapsible Grill. A Volcano cook stove uses one third the normal amount of charcoal. The airflow is regulated and the heat flow is channeled to the sides of the pot so the Dutch oven works even better.
You can bake, simmer, stew, fry, roast, steam, stew, and boil in a Dutch oven. You can cook the food directly in the Dutch oven or place a second dish on a trivet (prevents scorching on the bottom) inside of the oven. Available in many sizes and styles. Ovens with legs work best for outdoor cooking. Dutch ovens without legs are perfect for cooking on a wood burning stove.
Dutch ovens are available in traditional cast iron and cast aluminum. Cast aluminum is a much lighter oven that can be washed with soap and water (doesn’t rust). It does not retain heat as well as cast iron so it preheats and cools down faster. Cast aluminum will melt at a lower temperature (1065-1170°) than cast iron (2100-2200°). Avoid direct contact with the coals and using too many coals when using cast aluminum.
If weight is not a problem, cast iron Dutch Ovens have many benefits. Because they retain heat longer, they cook more evenly and keep food warm longer. Cast iron requires fewer coals to maintain temperature. But clean up and maintenance is a little more difficult.
Dutch Oven Cooking in a Volcano
A Volcano cook stove can be placed on almost any surface because the coals and oven are held above the surface. It can even be put on a plastic tablecloth. It uses less briquettes to achieve the same results as traditional Dutch oven cooking. The Volcano can also be used as a fire pit if needed.
Charcoal absorbs moisture from the air and may become difficult to light. If you are using charcoal coated with lighter fluid (such as Match light) leaving the bag open will cause the solvent to evaporate. It is best to store in an airtight metal or plastic container in a cool, dry place. If charcoal does absorb moisture you can let it dry out (put in direct sun on hot day) and try again.
We store our charcoal in used laundry soap buckets. One 30lb laundry bucket will hold approximately 15 lbs of charcoal or about 240 briquettes. We caulk the lid on tight to ensure that it stays airtight. Generally, one pound of charcoal is 15-17 briquettes.
Charcoal produces deadly carbon monoxide. NEVER use indoors!