Dutch Ovens 101: The Necessary Accessories

As with any kitchen or wardrobe, accessories make all the difference. It is the same for Dutch oven cooking, especially if you want to cook outside and in some degree of comfort. Following is a gallery of items that I think are necessary for the Dutch oven chef. Be forewarned, Dutch oven cooking can be an expensive hobby, but many of these items are one-time purchases and should last a lifetime. This gallery is in no particular order or priority.

This cooking table, manufactured by Camp Chef, makes Dutch oven cooking easy on the back. No bending over campfires, fire pits or aluminum garbage can lids (yes, many people cook this way with their ovens). It is easy to assemble – the legs and wind guard come off – and can be toted in a durable vinyl grill bag.

The charcoal starter should be familiar to anyone who camps. It is an essential tool in Dutch oven cooking. Coals go in the top cylinder, newspaper is rolled into the bottom and lit. Coals take about 20 minutes to heat through this method.

Charcoal. I think this is an obvious one, but it is important to use a high quality type. Kingsford is the best – it holds the heat the longest and provides an even temperature.

Leather welding gloves – yes, that’s right – welding gloves. Cast iron gets HOT and you will feel the heat through your regular oven mitt. Cooking safely is fundamental and these heavy leather gloves will protect your hands. Welding gloves can be found at hardware stores or through Lodge and are relatively inexpensive.

A lighter, preferably one that is long. I keep four to five of these on hand because I never want be unable to light my fire. You know what I mean.

A metal trivet can be very versatile. I’ve used it as legs for my poultry roaster or a skillet so coals can be slid underneath. I’ve used it as a lid stand. It fits inside my oven in case I need to raise something, like a pizza, from the bottom to avoid burning. It’s my multi-tasker.

A metal lid stand can rest on the ground or on a table and gives you a clean place to rest your lid while cooking.

Lid lifters come in a number of varieties and sizes. They provide stability and safety when lifting a coal-covered lid from a hot Dutch oven.

Here I am, safely using my lid lifter.

An ample supply of newspaper is good to have on hand for lighting your fire. You know what I mean.

An external digital thermometer is a nice perk to have, especially if you are roasting meats that require a few hours or a specific temperature. This thermometer allows you to set your temperature and sounds an alarm when you reach it. You can find it at discount, grocery and department stores for under $20.

A kitchen timer is very helpful to keep you and your dish on track.

An ash bucket is essential when discarding your hot ashes. I purchased this metal bucket from a local Army Navy supply store for $10. I drilled holes into the top to alleviate any suction of the lid when the hot ashes are sealed in the bucket (otherwise you cannot get the lid off until the bucket completely cools). You can also use a heavy plastic paint bucket purchased at a home improvement store and fill it halfway with water, then dump in the ashes. One must be safe when playing with fire.

Wooden utensils are best when cooking with cast iron. They don’t scratch the surface like metal ones, won’t melt like plastic ones, and don’t get too hot to handle.

A variety of plastic scrapers of all shapes and sizes plus a soft-bristled scrub brush make cleaning your cast iron a lot easier and won’t damage the seasoned surface.

Lodge manufactures these nifty silicone hot handle holders which are ideal for cast iron skillets and griddles.

These silicone trivets provide a safe and ample surface to place your hot Dutch oven or skillet.

Plus I really like the pattern.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Dutch Ovens 101: Restoring Rusty Cast Iron.

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Addicted to Pots

Since I started this blog a couple of weeks ago, I have been pondering – or should I say, obsessing – over various recipes in which I can showcase my cast iron addiction, I mean collection.

So today I pulled out every piece of cast iron that I own and thought it would be nice to show how diverse cast iron cookware is and how, once you get started collecting, it’s very difficult to quit.

A few years ago, after watching a Dutch oven competition at a local festival, I told my husband that I thought it might be fun to give Dutch oven cooking a try. That Christmas, I received these two lovelies, plus some cookbooks.

Dutch ovens

Now, this is what my Dutch oven collection has become.Dutch ovens

From top to bottom, one 6-inch, one 10-inch, two 12-inch, and one 16-inch. I don’t have a 14-inch yet. What’s wrong with me?

And don’t forget my latest acquisition…9.5 quart turkey roaster.Dutch oven turkey roaster

And then there are all of my kitchen items.

The Skookie (not to be confused with Snookie) is basically designed for a skillet cookie…get it, skookie. Good stuff can be made in this little devil. And it even comes with its own oven mitt. I have two of these. Only two. I have it all under control.skookie

Ahhh…the fajita skillet. Ay caramba! I have this one, plus six that a friend gave me when she moved. They are rusty and need to be cleaned up and re-seasoned. Sounds like a project for a future post. Then I might have to plan a fajita party. You see the path I’m heading down…fajita skillet

I’ve already introduced you to my biscuit pan. (See Recipe for Cheesy Scallion Biscuits.) I’ve also used the pan to make mini pizzas on the grill…great for camping and kids love them. Plus, appetizers like mini spinach and bacon quiches. Oh, the cravings!cast iron biscuit pan

Cast iron pizza anyone?cast iron pizza pan

This is what you can do with this awesome pizza pan.

Margharita Pizza

This square griddle is perfect for paninis.  Why do I suddenly have the munchies?square cast iron griddle

This rectangular griddle is double-sided – the smooth side is great for pancakes.rectangular cast iron griddle

And the ribbed side is great for grilling burgers, shrimp, fish, etc. The griddle fits over two burners on the stove.cast iron griddle with ribs

I love this Dutch oven, which is designed for the stove and oven. Great for soups, stews, and pasta dishes.cast iron Dutch oven

And now the skillets. I call this one Monster. It’s huge – a 12-inch. Great for stir fry and jambalaya.monster cast iron skillet

Even its lid has teeth. I told you, it’s a monster. Am I hallucinating?cast iron skillet lid

I use these two skillets the most, for just about everything. The large is a 10-inch and the smaller is a 5-inch. I can’t live without them.two cast iron skillets

This deep 10-inch skillet is great for sauces and pasta dishes.deep cast iron skillet

And finally, to cap off this addict’s showcase, I received this lovely cast iron Japanese tea kettle from my hubby this past Christmas.cast iron Japanese tea kettle

I’m addicted to tea also.

Tis the Season: Tips on How to Care for Your Dutch Oven (or any piece of cast iron)

Dutch Oven Turkey Roaster

Dutch Oven Turkey Roaster

Check out my new baby! Thanks to a lead from my friend Barb, I recently purchased this amazing 9.5-quart turkey/poultry roaster through eBay. From what I understand, these Dutch ovens are discontinued and hard to find, so I am very grateful that my friend was looking out for me. Thank you Barb!!!

Today, most cast iron cookware is sold pre-seasoned, which makes cooking life a lot easier (and a little less labor intensive). When I purchase a new piece of cookware, I still go through a seasoning process before I use it. This is also the same process I use every time I clean my cast iron after cooking.

Follow my tips to keep your cookware in top, seasoned condition so it will stand the test of time. If properly cared for, cast iron is built to last! It just requires a little TLC.

First, some don’ts:

Don’t ever put your cast iron in a dishwasher.

Don’t ever leave it to soak overnight in a sink of water. It will rust, leading to bigger problems.

Don’t clean it with dish soap (I know, the horrors!). Dish soap will remove the seasoning.

Cleaning Tips:

Clean your cast iron with hot water, even letting it sit over a stove top or grill on low heat, to cook off any food residue. Plastic scrapers, a soft bristle scrub brush and sponge with brillo pad help – just requires a little elbow grease. Finally, I use vinegar as a disinfectant and odor remover. Towel dry immediately after washing or let dry on the stove top, grill or in the oven on low heat.

vegetable shortening, paper towels

Seasoning Tips:

Many people have their preferred oil/shortening to apply to their cast iron. Vegetable shortening (Crisco) or any type of cooking oil (except peanut) is fine to use. I prefer vegetable shortening. I would not use a cooking spray, like Pam, as it tends to get tacky or sticky when cookware is stored.

paper towel with vegetable shortening

Take a paper towel and generously coat it with shortening.

Seasoning a Dutch Oven

Apply it to the surface of your cast iron and work it into the metal until the shortening is not visible and a nice gloss appears.

Seasoning a Dutch Oven

I apply it to all surfaces of my cookware – interior, exterior, lids.

That’s pretty much the process for seasoning. Repeat this process every time you clean your cast iron and it well maintain a beautiful glossy, non-stick surface for years.

Storage Tips:

Storing your cast iron correctly is crucial so it won’t go rancid. Cast iron requires a little air circulation.

Paper towels, Dutch Oven storage

Simply place some paper towels on the bottom of your cookware.

Dutch Oven with paper towels

Fold two paper towels in half and fold them over the sides of your cast iron pot.

Dutch Oven with paper towels

Place your lid on top. The folded towels create a tiny gap to allow air flow into and through your pot.

Cast iron skillets

Skillets can be stored with paper towels on the bottom and stacked.

DO NOT store your cast iron in a garage or outdoor shed where they may be susceptible to extreme temperature changes. Cast iron will crack in such situations.

I store my cast iron in my house – in cupboards and closets – in a fairly consistent temperature-controlled environment.

So that’s the scoop on how to care for your cast iron. Pretty simple, right?

Now I just have to figure out where to put this monster pot I just bought…