Dutch Oven Soups
Probably the most common among the uses of a Dutch oven is for good old-fashioned soup. A lot of things come to mind when I think of soup in a Dutch oven, like pictures of cowboys cooking chili over the open fire, or big pot of gumbo simmering at deer camp or grandma’s beef and barley soup when it’s snowy outside.
Dutch ovens are perfect for soup because it can all be done right there in the pot. Brown the meat, sauté the vegetables and boil a stock saving you time doing dishes. Cast Iron is perfect for soups due to its heat harboring qualities, making for even cooking on the bottom and all around the sides of the pot. Check out this chicken and dumplings recipe to see just what I’m talking about!
Braising Meats in a Dutch Oven
Sundays are 1000% better when you have a hunk of meat simmering on the stove or slowly cooking in the oven filling your house with all sorts of pleasant aromas. Arguably the best reason to get a Dutch oven is for the braising abilities it possesses. Braising is a process where you cook a tough cut of meat at a very low temperature for an extended period of time, which breaks down all of the fat and connective tissue leaving you with fork tender goodness. This process can take anywhere from 3-8 hours depending on the cut of meat and temperature you cook it at.
There are a couple keys to a good braise. First, make sure you brown your meat in the Dutch oven before starting the low and slow process. This will caramelize the sugars in the meat developing all sorts of flavor that will cook off into the braising liquid. Second, add a little bit of vinegar (1 tsp) to the braising liquid. This will help break down all of the connective tissue leaving you with the most tender meat possible. And lastly, make sure to cook it long enough. During the braising process, your meat will be fully cooked well before the cooking time ends but don’t be tempted to take it out! You may think you’ve over cooked it, but you haven’t. All of those connective tissues are contracted and will begin to dissolve leaving you with tender meat.
Check out this Curry Braised Elk recipe to see all of these tips in action!
Deep Frying in a Dutch Oven
Cast Iron and frying chicken go together like thunder and lightning! But of course, it can be used to fry other things like, fish, fries, chips, mushrooms, jalapenos, turkey nuggets, popcorn shrimp, Oreos, ice cream bars… Okay maybe not the last one but fried Oreos are legit!
The two main reasons to use a cast iron Dutch oven for deep frying has everything to do with the temperature control. The first reason is that the cast iron is dense and holds heat really well, which helps when you drop your cold food into the hot oil. The second reason to use a Dutch oven is because it is large and can hold more oil. If the ratio of Oil to Food gets too low, the oil cools off too quickly and you get a soggy, oily piece of fish. Another tip to keeping the temperature high is to increase the oil temperature by 25 degrees before adding the cold food in. The cold food should bring the temp down to your target temperature.
Check out this Spicy sandwich recipe where we fry up some chicken!
Making Sauces & Dips in a Dutch Oven
Everyone loves the person who brings the queso dip to the party… well at least they love the queso. Be that person and whip up a delicious dip for your next get together or tailgate. Dutch ovens work great for dips because not only does the cast iron contribute depth and flavor, it can also be served and reheated in the same vessel, no need for a serving dish. The thick cast iron will keep it warmer for a longer period of time as well.
The trick to getting a good sauce is to brown whatever meat or vegetables you have in the pan before starting to make it. This will contribute flavor and complexity later on in the cooking process. Another tip is to try to keep the pan on the cooler side especially if you’re working with diary which when overheated, tends to separate leaving you with a grainy texture.
Check out this Queso Con Carne recipe to see how easily dips can be made!
Baking in a Dutch Oven
One of the most forgotten uses of the Dutch oven is the ability it has to make great bread. The environment created inside of the Dutch oven when it’s in a really hot oven, makes for the perfect conditions to give you a perfectly risen loaf. When using the Dutch oven to bake the pot and lid need to be preheated in an extremely hot oven. This way when you drop the dough into the pot and cover it with the lid, the moisture in the dough immediately starts to evaporate turning into steam, causing the loaf to expand. The result? Light, airy bread with a crispy crust on the outside. Not only can you bake bread, but cakes, crumbles, brownies, casseroles, or pretty much anything you need in a circle shape.