The concept of “prepping” encompasses more than just having a supply of food to eat. The fact is veteran preppers will tell you in addition to a stash of food; you also need to have a plan and the gear to handle everyday tasks as well. For example, let’s say your electricity or gas supply is gone. How would you cook for your family? Living without utilities can put a kink in your day. Keeping a normal routine is not always easy, especially when it comes to preparing meals. However, there is one alternative cooking option every prepper, homeowner and even campers should own and that is a traditional Dutch oven.
A Dutch oven is a heavy iron kettle with a tight-fitting lid perfect for cooking meats, entrees, soups, breads and even desserts. This culinary workhorse is often used over a bed of hot charcoal or over an open fire. And because most meals prepared in this type of kettle are no-fuss, “dump and go” types of recipes requiring little attention, make the Dutch oven an ideal alternative method for cooking meals when electricity or gas is not an option.
Dutch ovens come in small, medium and large sizes. An average-sized kettle is about 12 inches in diameter and holds about 6 quarts. It is important to know, not all ovens are created equal, some brands are only suited for light cooking in a conventional oven. Others such as the Dutch ovens by Camp Chef and Stansport designed for open-fire or charcoal-pit cooking are the perfect choice for preppers as well as campers.
Buying a Dutch oven may seem a little intimidating but it does not have to be so. When I spoke with Camp Chef’s Steve McGrath, he offered the following helpful tips for buying, baking, cleaning and storing a Dutch oven.
What to Look For
Lid fit is the most common and easy way to distinguish a quality Dutch oven. You want a lid that fits snug in the kettle it is paired with. Too loose of a lid and the heat will not stay in the oven. A lid that is too tight often gets stuck once the oven heats up. Also, examine the finish, is it rough, smooth or inconsistent? You want an all-over smooth finish free of obvious flaws and small cracks.
Reason for the Season
Seasoning is a process used on cast ironware such as Dutch ovens to cure or prepare the metal for the cooking process. This process eliminates the time-consuming step of self-seasoning an oven before its first use. Today most ovens come pre-seasoned. However, you will need to maintain the seasoning. It is a simple process that includes heat and thin layer of lard or vegetable oil. Just remember if you use your Dutch oven infrequently, this protective layer may go rancid.
What to Make
Dutch ovens have been around for a very long time and there are countless delicious recipes available using the oven as the only method of cooking. The recipes range from hardy stews and roasts, to complete one-pot entrees, to heavenly desserts and delicious breads. A simple Internet search will render many delectable Dutch oven delights.
After enjoying a delicious meal from your Dutch oven, you need to make sure to clean it properly before storing it away. Hot water, a scouring pad and a little elbow grease will clean most things. Occasionally you may need a pan scraper for dry or stubborn pieces. Avoid citrus-based soaps or other acidic cleaning items, as they tend to eat away the seasoning. Store in a cool, dry place and fold a paper towel and wedge it under the lid to allow air to circulate plus it soaks up any additional moisture.
The image of a Dutch oven is often associated with camping trips or even chuckwagon cattle drives from days gone by, but the truth is Dutch ovens are still being used by many folks today. In a nutshell, the Dutch oven is a timeless alternative for cooking delicious homemade meals without using electricity and is a perfect tool for the home prepper.
Do you have a Dutch oven? How frequently do you use it? What’s your favorite recipe? Tell us in the comment section.
Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics like archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.