Dutch Ovens 101: Tips for Getting Started

Often, when my Dutch oven group gathers for competitions, trainings and community events, we are asked many of the same questions by the general public.

How hard is it to cook in a Dutch oven?

What size oven should I start with?

How do I take care of one?

What’s the best kind of fuel to use?

What’s the best size for cooking a kangaroo? (just checking to see if you’re paying attention…)

Basically, how do I get started?

For some reason, this little black pot with three legs seems to intimidate a lot of people – even the most experienced of cooks. But I will tell you the same advice I was given when I first started and spouted out the same questions. Anything you can cook in your kitchen, you can cook in a Dutch oven.

Size matters

There are sooooo many different sizes of Dutch ovens in this world. Sizes range from eight to 24 inches in diameter and four to six inches deep. The lid is tight-fitting, has a lip around the edge and a handle in the center. For the beginner, I recommend the 12-inch deep oven, which has a capacity of eight quarts. This oven is the most versatile. You can cook anything in it…cobblers, breads, stews, roasts, vegetables. It is large enough to feed a family or leave a couple with a few days of leftovers. But not so big that you feel like you’re feeding the entire rodeo.

Italian sausage and peppers cooked in a 12-inch deep Dutch oven.

Mixed berry pie baked in a 12-inch deep Dutch oven.

Other sizes and what can be prepared in them.

This upside down pineapple cake was baked in a 10-inch shallow Dutch oven. Shallow-sided ovens are best for breads and cakes.

This margharita pizza was baked in a 16-inch Dutch oven. This size is great for pizzas, large meat dishes like tri tip, and feeding large groups.

Four tri tips can fit into a 16-inch Dutch oven.

Following is a chart that outlines oven sizes and their capacities.

Oven Sizes = Oven Capacity
8-inch = 2 quarts
10-inch = 4 quarts
12-inch shallow = 6 quarts
12-inch deep = 8 quarts
14-inch shallow = 8 quarts
14-inch deep = 10 quarts
16-inch = 12 quarts

Stay tuned for the next edition of Dutch Ovens 101:  Fuel and Temperature Control….

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