If you’re only using your Dutch oven when you go camping, you’re missing out on all that’s possible. You could be doing so much more with it. And you may need to one day in the future, such as in a grid-down scenario.
That’s why you should know about Dutch oven cooking with storage food. It’s the topic of DestinySurvival Radio for this week and the following week. My guest is Mark Hansen, author of Stop, Drop, and Cook. Mark has written other books on Dutch oven cooking, but this one specifically focuses on cooking with storage food.
Once Mark and I were well into our conversation, it became evident to me that we needed to keep going with it. Therefore, it seemed like a good idea to take our lengthy chat and break it into two shows. That’s how it came to be that you’ll hear part two next week.
I admit, I don’t know much about cooking with a Dutch oven. If my questions for Mark display amazing ignorance, bear with us. Mark is good about giving good information, no matter what your level of Dutch oven cooking experience.
This week’s show focuses mostly on basics about Dutch ovens. Part two goes more into Mark’s thoughts and advice about cooking certain foods.
Getting His Cooking Fire Started
In 2006 Mark’s wife gave him his first Dutch oven. He started cooking Sunday dinners. And so began his love for cooking in Dutch ovens and cooking in general. He felt like he should share his knowledge and recipes with others, so he started his blog, www.marksblackpot.com. It has grown to the point he estimated he gets 15,000-18,000 page views a day.
Mark was approached by his publisher, which is not something that happens to many writers. He now has a total of five Dutch oven cookbooks to his credit, including this most recent book, whose full title is Stop, Drop, and Cook: Everyday Dutch Oven Cooking With Food Storage.
After a lengthy, interesting introduction, you’ll find recipes in five main sections.
- Dinners and Entrees
- Side Dishes
The last few pages contain a resource list of helpful Web sites and a recipe index.
The introduction alone is well worth having the book because Mark gives what I would call Dutch Oven 101. He explains…
- Shopping for a good Dutch oven
- The difference between camp and stove Dutch ovens (The camp oven is what you need for the kind of cooking Mark writes about.)
- Cast iron vs. aluminum
- The size(s) you need for the recipes in his book
- Seasoning, maintenance and cleaning
- Cooking accessories to have on hand (lid lifter, tongs, leather gloves, etc.)
- The kind of charcoal to use
- How to know how many coals to use when cooking
- Your cooking space
- Cooking methods (baking, roasting, sautéing, and simmering)
- Ingredients you’ll want on hand, including herbs and spices
- Basic tips on storing food and setting aside water you’ll need for cooking
If all of that isn’t enough because you’re totally new to Dutch oven cooking, Mark recommends his book Black Pot for Beginners. On his blog you’ll find links for easy recipes as well as those which are more in depth.
Recipes in Stop, Drop, and Cook come in varying levels of simplicity, or complexity, depending on your point of view. They include plenty of helpful commentary and tips. Thus, they’re not just lists of ingredients and cooking times.
Some recipes call for freeze dried and dehydrated food to be reconstituted first. Others do not. His commentary for each recipe explains what is necessary.
Being rather ignorant of the possibilities of Dutch oven cooking, I was surprised by the wide ranging variety of recipes in each section. Perhaps you will be, too. For example, you’ll find peach cobbler, meatloaf, chicken parmesan, brown sugar glazed carrots, and a whole lot more.
The versatility afforded by Dutch oven cooking is amazing, and Mark loves to spread the word about it. You’ll be asking yourself, “Is there anything you can’t make in a Dutch oven?”
Slowing Down for the Down Time
Dutch oven cooking is not fast food cooking. It calls for planning and work. But it’s the slow cooking which Mark says brings out the best flavors and makes food taste so much better than anything that comes out of a microwave.
Besides, if you’re getting through the aftermath of a disaster with no electricity or gas, you won’t have access to your microwave anyway. The goal of Mark’s book is to help you cook good meals when you’re in that type of situation.
I asked Mark if a Dutch oven could be used for solar cooking. He said he’s heard of it, but hasn’t tried it himself. He’d like to though.
Getting Your Dutch Oven
You can get by well with one twelve inch Dutch oven. It will cook a lot of food. But if you want to do more elaborate meals, then you’ll want more than one. Mark suggests having more than one size in that case. He says he’s been surprised by how much he has used a small eight inch Dutch oven.
You can buy your Dutch oven from many stores that sell outdoor and camping supplies. You’ll find some in the Prep Mart on this site. Of course, you can probably find your Dutch oven at a garage sale, but you may have to put a little effort into cleaning and seasoning it.
The most important thing to keep in mind when buying a Dutch oven is the quality. One way to determine that is to see if the lid fits well. If it rocks, the seal won’t be as sound as it could be.
Cleaning your Dutch oven isn’t difficult for most foods, especially if you do it soon after you’ve cooked. As for seasoning, Mark does his Dutch ovens once a year.
Cooking with Your Dutch Oven
How long should you cook your food? Of course, that depends on the recipe. Soups and chili need plenty of time to simmer for the best flavor.
Stop, Drop, and Cook includes tables to show how many coals you need for various sizes of Dutch ovens and the desire cooking temperatures. This should help you avoid the mistake of adding too many coals. One rule of thumb for heating a twelve inch oven to 350 degrees is to multiply the diameter by two, then ad a couple more, for a total of 26. When baking, you add more coals on the top than on the bottom.
You need less liquid for cooking in a Dutch oven than for conventional cooking because the lid keeps in the moisture. You’re effectively steaming your food.
Try not to get steamed yourself, but we concluded part one of our conversation at this point where Mark talked about cooking a turkey with scrumptious results. That should leave your mouth watering. Get a napkin, and we’ll wrap up with part two next week.
Time to Stir a Little More
Hear part one of my two part conversation with Mark Hansen by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for April 30, 2015. (Right click to download.) Check out his blog at www.marksblackpot.com. To order any of Mark’s books mentioned in this post, start by clicking on its title wherever you see it here.