There is something nostalgic about Dutch oven cooking over an open flame. The smell, the feel, and the taste of this experience cannot be replicated by any other method of cooking.
Sure, I’m a bit biased about the almost magical effect that the Dutch oven has on the ingredients that are placed inside of it. But as you read a bit further, you will get a better grasp on my infatuation with cast-iron Dutch ovens.
Dutch ovens bring out that warm feeling of being “home” regardless of where I may be in the world. As I huddle around the fire ring with my group, preparing our meal, the Dutch oven becomes part of my extended family.
Dutch Oven Cooking as a Part of Your Emergency Plan
Coach Helder's Dutch Oven Cooking Video Tutorial:
A lot goes into preparing a meal using a Dutch oven. We need to gather firewood, build a sustainable fire, prepare our ingredients and then actually cook the meal. Most of the time, this requires a group effort. So… not only does the Dutch oven provide a tasty and nutritious meal for us, but it also brings our group together, as one team, working towards a common goal.
There are various Dutch oven choices available to us. We have options ranging from ceramic to aluminum construction. But for my purposes, there is only one real type of dutch oven… One made of 100% cast iron.
I also require certain features from my Dutch oven. Besides the obvious cast-iron construction, I also require my Dutch oven to have:
- 3 legs on the bottom to hold it above the coals
- A lid flange or ridge to contain coals for baking purposes
- A lid handle to remove and replace the lid
- Made in the U.S.A. with U.S. materials
So now that you know the specs that I require for my Dutch oven, let’s get into why I feel that the best Dutch oven is the ideal cookware for emergency situations when weight is not an issue.
Cooking in a Dutch Oven is Safest
A lot of the cookware options that are catered to the survival minded are made from aluminum. This keeps the mess gear lightweight, and aluminum is also a great conductor of heat. However, when food is cooked at high temperatures in aluminum, some leaching can occur, and the extra aluminum ends up in our food–and bodies.
There is plenty of talk about aluminum toxicity contributing to diseases such as Alzheimer's. Even though there are arguments on both sides of the fence, I chose to avoid cooking in aluminum cookware. There may not be any proven detrimental effects from cooking in aluminum but there certainly aren’t any health benefits either.
When we cook in our cast iron Dutch ovens, any leaching that occurs from the cooking process is actually beneficial to us. Our bodies require iron and during stressful times, we need all the benefits that we can get in order to accomplish our mission. The stronger that our immune system is, the better our chances of not only surviving but also thriving as we ride out the calamity are.
Cooking in a Dutch Oven is Convenient
Whether I am making a stew or baking a cake, the Dutch oven is the only cooking container I need. I can gather up all of my ingredients, toss them into the Dutch oven and begin my cooking process. This not only makes cooking a lot easier, but it also allows me to utilize less gear. In an SHTF scenario, I want to conserve as much energy as possible. Deploying, stowing, and cleaning only one main piece of cookware certainly lightens the workload.
The lid on a Dutch oven fits snugly when placed over the pot. Due to its heavy cast-iron construction, a sealed Dutch oven keeps the critters out. This helps to preserve any leftover food while we work on other elements needed in an emergency situation.
Dutch Oven is Ideal for Various Cooking Methods
You can deep fry, bake, sauté, boil and do pretty much any other preferred cooking method in the outdoors. The Dutch oven can even be buried for a slow cooker method. Another great feature of the Dutch oven is the fact that the lid can be inverted, placed over a flame & used as a skillet. This adds diversity to your cooking options and you can divvy up the food preparation tasks with the multiple members of your group.
The only real limitation with the Dutch oven is your imagination and skill set. You may not have all the ingredients that a certain recipe calls for but it’s the perfect opportunity to overcome and adapt! One of the benefits that I get from my Dutch oven is that it seems to add its own bit of seasoning to the meal being prepared. This more than compensates for any missing ingredients that the recipe calls for, especially in an emergency situation.
The more that you use your Dutch oven, the more that it adds to the flavoring of your meal. You can understand why the Dutch oven is so much part of the history, prompting George Washington's significant other to include the cooking wares in her will. Take care of your Dutch oven and it will remain part of your gear for life.
Dutch Oven Cooking is Ideal for Both Bugging-In or Bugging-Out
The Dutch oven might not be the most viable choice for bugging out on foot due to its weight & dimensions. But for bugging-in at home or bugging-out in your vehicle, the Dutch oven is ideal.
In an emergency, we may not have full access to the grid. Electricity and gas utilities will not be in operation. Knowing that I can prepare a family meal, utilizing a fire and a Dutch oven, adds a bit of comfort to the current mayhem and the uncertainties that lie ahead.
Comfort Food When Comfort is Difficult to Come By
In an SHTF situation, you may not want to give away your location with a big, boisterous fire at night. This holds true whether you are bugging in or out. Security is key and a fire can be spotted from miles away. An added benefit of the Dutch oven is that it can be buried while cooking your meal.
Turning a Dutch oven into a slow cooker is a method that has been used for years. It was a preferred means of cooking used by our Western pioneers. They would bury their Dutch ovens in a hole with a bunch of hot coals, and head off to hunt or perform whatever work was needed. Hours later, they would return to a warm nutritious meal waiting for them. All that they had to do was to retrieve it from the hole that it was buried in.
If you choose to practice this method, remember to abide by the Leave No Trace rule. Always leave your working environment better than you found it.
The Dutch Oven Produces Better Tasting Food than Other Cookware:
OK, I realize that this is just my opinion… But I can guarantee you that I am not the only one that feels this way.
Because of the pores in the Dutch oven, the more that you cook with it, the greater the flavor of future meals become. Now, it’s not an overwhelming addition to the flavor… It is more of a special ingredient that you cannot seem to put your finger on. Think of it as your special secret spice that will keep your family and friends guessing as to what it may be.
I can use relatively plain ingredients with my Dutch oven cooking and once the meal is done, the food is infused with a richer flavor that the ingredients alone couldn’t produce. When we couple that with the fact that we are also getting some additional iron leaching… You can easily see why Dutch oven cooking is the preferred method for many who are focused on preparedness.
A Dutch Oven is Easy to Clean
Let’s be honest… Neither of us finds the aspect of cleaning mess gear enjoyable. Sponges, soaps and scouring pads are messy and add a plethora of unwanted chemicals. These same chemicals can end up in our bodies and cause adverse effects to the environment.
When it comes to the Dutch oven, soap is a NEGATIVE! The soap can become lodged in the pores of the cast iron. If that happens, you will need to re-season your Dutch oven and basically start from scratch. Well… there goes all that wonderful added flavoring that I mentioned earlier. I will get into seasoning your Dutch oven in a future article.
I clean my Dutch oven by scraping out the excess food, filling it with water and bringing it to a boil over an open flame. After emptying the water out, I repeat the scraping process for any stubborn food residue and apply a thin coat of oil to the interior of the oven. I also put a thin layer of oil on the underside of the Dutch oven lid.
Once the Dutch oven is fully cooled, I stow it away in a custom-built wooden box so that I do not get my other gear dirty while transporting it.
That’s it… Cleanup is nice and simple, comparatively.
The Dutch Oven is Durable Enough to Last a Lifetime
Due to the Dutch oven being constructed with cast-iron, it is extremely durable and holds up well when used in the field. No need to worry about dents or dings that would make the pot unserviceable. I have lost various mess gear in the past due to dings that caused the lid to no longer fit snugly on the pot. Even though this gear was made of quality stainless steel, it was still malleable enough to get destroyed by unforeseen mishaps.
However, when the Dutch oven becomes hot, it also becomes brittle. Always handle your Dutch oven with care, especially when it’s hot. If you drop it over a stone while it is hot, it will crack. Like every other piece of gear that we own… Take care of it and it will take care of you for a lifetime!
I have several pieces of cast-iron cookware that are over 100 years old. They were passed down to my parents and then handed down to me. If you invest in a quality Dutch oven, it won’t be cheap, but with the proper care its lifespan is virtually endless. Eventually, you can hand it down to a loved one to carry on the tradition.
During an emergency scenario, there are so many unknowns that we will encounter. Being able to provide not only a nutritious meal, but also a tasty one, is imperative to keep energy and morale levels up. One of the best ways that I've found to accomplish this is via Dutch oven cooking.
As always, you need to get out there and practice. The more that the Dutch oven becomes a part of your method… The faster you can reap the benefits.
Once you get it right and share that first Dutch oven cooking chocolate cake, made entirely in the field, you will be the HERO of your next outing or camping trip.
If you're looking for products to assist in your Dutch oven cooking, check out these options:
- If you're ready to dive in, give this Lodge L12CO3 Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven a try!
- Looking for something a little smaller? The Camp Chef DO-5-Mini 3/4 Quart Dutch Oven is for you!
- If you don't want to use strong pliers to lift your dutch oven lid, this Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Lid Lifter might be a nice convenience.
- Dutch Oven Chronicled 28
- “Mary Washington's Will”. Kenmore.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 19, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.