Years ago, I took a short Dutch Oven cooking class. I learned that you can bake anything in a Dutch Oven that you can make in your home oven. Anything. Want a to bake a casserole? No problem. Fresh homemade bread? You can do it. Baked beans, pizza, or a pork tenderloin? You got it. Baking in a good Dutch Oven can be fun and rewarding.
Cobblers, the Classic Dutch Oven Dessert
Like a lot of people, I started my Dutch Oven cooking experiences with the classic cobblers. And years later, I still enjoy making cobblers. In fact, this past weekend I made a couple of them.
The first was during an overnight camping trip with a bunch of young men and their fathers. I helped to make Peach Cobbler using a recipe that one of the fathers had brought. It turned out really well and I’ll have to email him to get a copy of the recipe. We heated the Dutch Ovens in the most primitive way; we used hot coals from the campfire on top of and underneath the Dutch Oven. It doesn’t get much more primitive than that.
The second cobbler that I made was at home with my family. I made a Cherry Cobbler using a variation of a Peach Cobbler recipe that I’ve used many times in the past. Although it was improvised, it turned out well. For this one though, I cheated a bit and used our oven. Yes, you can cook in a Dutch Oven inside your own electric or gas kitchen oven. Just prepare everything as you normally would and place the Dutch Oven inside your traditional oven. It works great.
Here’s the Cherry Cobbler recipe that I used. It’s really simple.
Joe’s Cherry Cobbler
- 3 21-ounce cans of Cherry pie filling
- 1 box of French Vanilla cake mix
- 12-ounce can of Sprite
- 2 tablespoons of butter
Empty the 3 cans of pie filling in the Dutch Oven. Sprinkle approximately 1/2 cup of cake mix directly on the pie filling. In a mixing bowl, mix the remainder of the cake mix with the can of Sprite. You don’t have to mix it really well; leaving a few lumps in the batter is fine. Pour the batter into the Dutch Oven. Slice the butter into thin patties and place on top of the batter. Cook at 350F for approximately 45 minutes.
Heating by Formula
When baking with a Dutch Oven, it’s important to remember that most of the heat should come from the top. You should place twice as much heat on the top of the Dutch Oven as below it. This will help to keep the contents from burning on the bottom.
When cooking with charcoal briquettes, I use a formula for calculating the number of briquettes that will be required to heat the oven to 350F. Take the size of the Dutch Oven and multiply by two. So for a 12-inch Dutch Oven, that’s 24 briquettes; for a 1o-inch version, that’s 20 briquettes. Now place 2/3 of the briquettes on top and put the remainder underneath. For a 12-inch Dutch Oven, 16 would go on top and 8 will sit below the oven. For the 10-inch model, I’d place 14 on top and 6 underneath. Of course this is just a guideline. In cold or windy weather, you’ll need to adjust by adding additional briquettes proportionally.
To increase the temperature by 25F, add two briquettes. To increase by 50F, add 4 briquettes. So, a recipe that called for baking at 400F in a 12-inch Dutch Oven would become 2*12 + 4 or 28 briquettes. Likewise, subtracting 2 briquettes will reduce the cooking temperature by approximately 25F. Under most circumstances, 350F is a good temperature for Dutch Ovens.
Cooking with coals from the campfire is more of an art than a science, but with a little practice and patience you can master this technique. (It’s pretty hard to mess up a cobbler.) Just remember that most of the heat should come from the top. I’ve also found that it’s typically better to move the coals just outside of the fire ring rather than trying to cook in the fire itself. It’s frequently just too hot in the fire to adequately regulate your heat.
So what about you? Enjoy cooking with a Dutch Oven?