There is nothing on Earth quite like cooking in a Dutch oven over an open fire. A well-seasoned Dutch oven is so valuable it is often a family heirloom, creating nutritious meals from scratch and nourishing your loved ones.
Cooking from scratch inside a Dutch oven is an art that is slowly becoming lost due to modern conveniences. People short on time or money might opt for a frozen processed meal instead of cooking a meal from scratch. The frozen meal is easier to prepare, but has significantly less nutrients and more chemicals inside than a homemade meal.
Dutch ovens have been a part of the American economy since the 1700s. They are made of cast-iron from molds that vary in size, usually 8 inches to 16 inches. The matching lid has a lip attachment on top to keep coals securely in place, should you want to cover your Dutch oven for more heat. The steel handle allows you to remove it from the fire or wood stove without touching the hot pan.
A well-made Dutch oven will last centuries. Generations can pass down their skillets to their kids and the cast-iron flavor will improve with time and use (just be sure to never use soap when washing it!)
Related: The Lost Art of Scratch Cooking
It’s time to bring back a delicious, healthy, and peaceful tradition of cooking scratch-made meals inside a Dutch oven.
Cooking Over a Fire
A Dutch oven is made to use over an open fire or woodstove.
This means it works inside or outside, depending on where your fire is.
The oven is made to withstand high direct heat, so it can be placed and buried directly under hot coals or in your fireplace.
The seasoning from the pan mixed with the smokiness of the fire creates dishes that are unique and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
To get Dutch oven scratch-cooking perfectly right, there are a few tool recommendations to help you out. You are working with hot coals, so having long barbecue tongs help to move the coals around the oven to control the heat.
I also like to keep a whisk broom on-site so that any coal debris on top of the lid can be swept away and not into the food. It makes opening it much cleaner.
Get the Most Out of Scratch Cooking
When making stews and soups, or meat with lots of connective tissue, you want a cooking vessel that can accommodate one-pot cooking. All of the Dutch oven recipes of yesteryear were done in the same pot and cooked all day long.
The fruits of your labor were celebrated at dinnertime when you’re rewarded with a smoky, slow-cooked dish that will keep you satiated until morning.
Building a flavor base is super important when cooking from scratch in a Dutch oven.
The pot itself lends a lot of flavor to what you’re cooking, but having a foundation of flavor from aromatics is the best way to start a recipe.
By sweating onions, garlic, freshly picked garlic scapes, carrots, and celery you are building flavors that will permeate the rest of the dish.
In that same realm, it is important to sear your meat inside the Dutch oven before leaving it to cook. Searing the meat inside the cast-iron provides a deep flavor that you only get from deeply browned meat.
Your dish will still be delicious if you simply throw all ingredients into it at the same time, but if you can spare the extra time, it’s worth it.
The Best From-Scratch Foods to Cook In a Dutch Oven
There was a time when all meals were made inside the Dutch oven over a fire. Eggs and meats or potatoes were cooked for breakfast, soup or stew for lunch and dinner. It is truly a historical staple in open-fire cooking.
With the mainstream kitchen having many modern conveniences, there is no longer a need to cook over an open fire anymore. Us preppers and campers are the folks still holding on to this awesome tradition.
Call me old-fashioned, but my favorite meals in the Dutch oven are foraged, hunted, and caught meals. When my rabbit trap is set off, I know cast-iron rabbit stew is in my near future.
During deer season, a venison stew is best cooked in a well-seasoned Dutch oven with whole carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onions, and garlic.
Using foraged mushrooms and garlic scapes also will make a tasty and nutritious soup.
For a cheap and filling meal while off-the-grid, make a large pot of beans over the open fire. Dried beans last a long time, are usually kept stocked in your pantry, and are a healthy meal that fills you up. Add some bacon, carrots, onions, or whatever aromatics you may have.
Another great scratch-made meal to make in a Dutch oven is breakfast. Adding some bacon and eggs to the Dutch oven is cheap and filling. You could also bake bread or biscuits inside for a really warm and comforting treat.
Bread inside of a Dutch oven is the most delicious bread you will ever eat.
The cast-iron pot has very even heating, so homemade bread can bake inside with the lid on!
Simply make a dough, allow to rise, add to the skillet with a lid, and place over the fire. Add coals to the lid to add head all around the pot. In an hour, you have fresh crusty bread to last through the week!
The options are limitless when it comes to cooking in a Dutch oven.
The Dutch Oven – Your Next Prepper Purchase
All preppers and foodies alike should have a high-quality Dutch oven in their home. It not only creates the most delicious dishes from scratch but also provides you with a tool for cooking over an open fire.
Dutch oven cooking over the fire is a lost art that should be revived, not only for survival purposes but because the process is fun and worthwhile in terms of flavor. Old-timers will know that the longer you use your Dutch oven, the more flavorful it becomes.
Don’t waste any more time, get to cooking in your Dutch oven!