Even people who do not have an interest in cooking have heard of a Dutch oven. They know it does not refer to a stove made in the Netherlands, but rather to a specific type of cookware. To put it simply, a Dutch oven is a thick-walled pot that makes it ideal for cooking on fires and grills.
The origin of the term is a bit confusing. A similar vessel was produced in the Netherlands during the 17th century. Forge techniques in Britain made similar pots less durable and of lower quality. Abraham Darby decided to go to the Netherlands and research the process. He returned to England and filed for a new patent. Historians speculate that the place where he learned this process is the origin of the name.
British forges produced the cookware for English audiences and people in the new American colonies. The Dutch oven went through changes when it came into the new world. The pot itself became shallower and the shape changed to keep coals out of the food cooking inside. Some models added three legs to let the pot sit over the coals. The versatility of the item made it popular. People often put who would get the item in their wills in colonial times.
The Dutch oven originated in a time when cooking over a fire was far more common than it is today. However, people can still buy flat-bottomed pans for use on the stove. The shape and size lets a person simmer or cook the food, but these models are not designed for camping or outdoor cooking.
Camping models retain the three legs that the early American colonists added. The lids also have flanges that let a person place the coals on top. Placing the coals on top lets the heat get distributed through the inside of the vessel more evenly. The lid and flanges protect the contents on the inside from unintentional flavoring from charcoal, wood, or the occasional piece of dirt or dust that sometimes signals outdoor cooking.
What Can I Do With Dutch Ovens?
Dutch ovens make it possible for people going camping or cooking over the fire to roast chickens, roast beef or if they are so inclined a small turkey. The process of cooking in one of these cooking vessels takes much care and preparation. The temperatures of the coals on a cooking fire are much harder to control than those that come from the stove. A person needs to monitor what he cooks carefully. It is not that much different from grilling, although longer tongues are required to remove the lid and check the meat inside.
Dutch ovens are hard to carry for backpacking trips, but they are ideal for a traditionally family camping trip. They also provide vessels for making good baked beans, stews, and other healthier items also.