How to Cook with a Dutch Oven. The dutch oven is a favorite tool for campers around the world. You can stew, simmer, bake, roast and fry over a campfire with a Dutch oven. The trickiest parts of cooking with a dutch oven are learning how to control the heat level and determining portion sizes.
Pretreat the New Dutch Oven
Prepare the oven. A new cast iron dutch oven will need to be pretreated before you cook with it the first time. To pretreat the dutch oven, wash it, towel dry and then let it air dry while you preheat your home oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the dutch oven and lid on the center rack of the oven. When the dutch oven and lid are hot to the touch, remove them from the oven and wipe both pieces, outside and in, thoroughly with peanut, olive or vegetable oil. Put both back in the oven and cook them for one hour.
Remove both pieces from the oven, wipe thoroughly with oil again and cook once more for one hour. When finished, remove from oven and let cool.
Wipe only the insides of both pieces with oil. The dutch oven is now cured and ready for storage or use.
Cooking with the Dutch Oven
Prepare the coals. You will need twice as many coals as the size of your dutch oven. If you have a 12" dutch oven, you will need 24 to 25 coals. Deep dutch ovens will require more coals. You will also need more coals on windy or cold days, and if you are cooking a higher volume of food. Many things will influence the amount of heat the coals put out, so you will need to experiment for a while.
Arrange the coals. You will arrange the coals in a circle under the oven about 1/2-inch from the edge of the oven. Coals placed on top of the oven will be arranged across and around the lid, keeping the coals as even apart as possible so you do not create hot spots.
Fill the oven. Add all your ingredients to the oven according to the recipe directions. Place the oven on the coals, seating the oven as steady as possible. Cover the oven with the lid and place the number of coals needed on the lid.
Rotate the oven. Most foods will require you to rotate the oven to avoid hot spots and cook evenly. When you rotate the oven, remove the lid. You do not have to remove coals first if the lid has a little lip around the edge to catch coals and dust, and use the oven handle to rotate the oven 90 degrees. Use this time to stir your food, and check to make sure everything is cooking the way it should. Replace the lid and the coals.
For baking put one-third of the coals under the oven and two-thirds on top. For roasting put an even number of coals on top and bottom For stewing and simmering put two-thirds of the coals under the oven, and one-third on top.