This article was last updated on September 8th, 2020
Dutch ovens have been in use for centuries to cook bread, stews, and many other delicious meals. Though they vary somewhat in size and structure (some have legs or hanging hooks while others are more streamlined), dutch ovens tend to share consistent thickness and temperature thresholds.
Dutch ovens are a form of cookware typically made of cast iron. They tend to be thick, circular, pots with equally solid lids. Because of their durability, they are often used for cooking foods over an open flame or hot charcoal. Achieving the desired temperature with a dutch oven can be tricky.
Let’s explore dutch ovens and discover the ideal temperatures and timings for various heating configurations. This way, you can use your dutch oven correctly without fear of overcooking or undercooking a delicious dish.
What Is a Dutch Oven?
Most people assume that dutch ovens were invented in the Netherlands. But while the concept for dutch ovens was born in the Netherlands, it’s creation can be attributed to an Englishman named Abraham Darby.
In the early 1700s, Darby visited the Netherlands and studied their brass-based manufacturing processes.
He observed the Dutch pot-makers using unique casting molds made of sand, and he began to theorize that other types of metal could be molded using the same technique.
However, Darby struggled to adapt cheaper forms of metal to this process.
Fortunately, a Welshman named James Thomas helped Darby experiment with the technique until they achieved success with a cast-iron pot. This sturdy, kettle-like cookware became what is known today as the dutch oven.
Many of the original dutch ovens were far larger and heavier than the ones found today.
They often featured short legs and a thick carrying handle. This allowed owners to set their cookware over an open flame or blazing-hot coals without burning the pot’s bottom.
It also ensured maximum portability, allowing families to transport hot meals among home with ease.
Dutch ovens are still used all across the world. They tend to be most popular among campers and home cooks.
While they’re often used for baking bread, dutch ovens can be used to boil, fry, or bake almost anything.
What Are Dutch Ovens Made Of?
Originally, all dutch ovens were made of cast iron. This gave them a look, weight, and function similar to cast iron skillets.
However, modern dutch ovens are often made of a variety of materials. Some have cast iron cores that are covered in a fine ceramic coating.
Others are made of solid glass or thick aluminum. Copper and stainless steel are also popular materials used to create dutch ovens.
But if you’re determined to experience an authentic dutch oven cooking experience, you may want to opt for seasoned cast iron.
While cast iron is one of the heaviest materials, it is also one of the most durable. Cast iron also heats evenly and stays hot for quite a long time.
Thick cast iron cookware can survive exposure to live flame or heated charcoals without melting, bending, or dangerous off-gassing chemicals.
As such, many dutch oven owners proudly remark that their oven is made of cast iron.
You may experience excellent results with glass, copper, or enamel-coated options if you intend to only use your dutch oven on a standard stovetop or in a conventional oven.
But when it comes to cooking on an open fire or over a pit of coals, cast iron tends to produce reliable results.
This is crucial for anyone hoping to achieve the desired temperature with their cookware.
Preheating Time and Methods for a Dutch Oven
Understanding the dutch oven preheating process begins with determining the heating method. After all, cooking on an induction stovetop is vastly different than cooking over open coals.
Let’s take a quick deep-dive into some of the most common preheating methods for dutch ovens.
Once you understand how a heating source helps determine preheating time, you might be better able to achieve your desired dutch oven dish’s ideal temperature.
Without further ado, let’s explore the three most common heating methods for dutch ovens and their preheating times.
This is certainly the most straightforward preheating method.
Most conventional ovens require users to set a preheating temperature, eliminating the need to use a thermometer to gauge the heat.
Still, if you’re using your home’s oven to preheat a dutch oven, you’ll want to heat in tandem.
Rather than waiting for the oven to reach the desired temperature and then putting the dutch oven inside, allow the two ovens to heat concurrently.
This can help prevent cracks in the vessel and expedite the preheating process.
When the conventional oven has reached the desired temp, the dutch oven will also be ready for use.
Cooking on the stovetop can be slightly trickier and does require a little extra finesse.
However, if you’re using a dutch oven for stovetop meals, you can follow the oven preheating guide above and remove the oven and place it directly onto a warm stove surface.
Remember, applying sudden and extreme heat to your dutch oven is generally not a good idea. This is true of most cookware, no matter the material.
This rule can make it a challenge to cook with charcoal, as most will not warm-up their dutch oven before casting it over the coals.
Dutch ovens were made to be used with charcoal and live flame. However, the knowledge surrounding this process can be confusing.
For example, putting a dutch oven directly over a strong fire can be disastrous, but putting it near-live flame can be wonderful.
As such, many people aren’t fully comfortable using their dutch oven on coals.
Fortunately, there’s quite a lot of modern information concerning this particular heating process.
Like the other preheating methods mentioned above, it’s vital to warm your dutch oven slowly.
Additionally, you’ll need to place the oven on a bed of charcoal and cover the lid with coals as well.
The number of individual briquettes for the base and top differ depending on the size of the dutch oven you’re using and your ideal temperature.
The following guide could help.
Each square’s number represents the total number of charcoal briquettes needed for that particular vessel and temperature.
To figure out the top-to-bottom ratio, you can employ some simple math. Using a 2:3 ratio can ensure that a dutch oven is correctly heated.
For example, a 10-inch oven that needs to hit 400 ℉ will require about 25 briquettes.
At a ratio of 2:3, this means you’ll need to place about 16 to 17 bits of charcoal beneath the dutch oven, and the remaining amount on top.
You may find it helpful to have a thermometer on hand to keep track of rising temperatures within and surrounding your dutch oven.
A handheld infrared thermometer can help you measure heat without risking your safety or meal.
The Etekcity Infrared Thermometer uses a high-beam laser to target surfaces and read their heat signature. With an easy-to-read backlit digital screen and the ability to register temperatures at a distance, this device could be an excellent (and affordable) member of any cooking toolkit.
Download a Copy – Dutch Oven Temperatures, Coal and Briquette Placement Chart
Dutch Oven Maintenance Guidelines
Dutch ovens require a little extra care to remain in tip-top condition.
Fortunately, this often boils down to soaking your dutch oven in warm, soapy water for half an hour before rinsing and wiping it clean.
However, different materials call for different cleaning measures.
For example, glass cookware should never be exposed to extreme temperatures in rapid succession.
Placing a blisteringly hot glass dish into a freezer can result in fractured or shattered glass.
Similarly, using an abrasive sponge or scrub to clean a ceramic-covered or enameled dutch oven could result in cracks in the enamel.
Let’s explore a few handy cleaning tips and tricks for the two most popular types of dutch ovens—ceramic and cast iron.
Ceramic Dutch Ovens
Ceramic or enameled dutch ovens are particularly popular due to both their appearance and functionality.
These rugged vessels are often coated in brightly-colored ceramic or porcelain-based enamel.
Their cores can be almost any type of metal, though most sport a cast-iron skeleton.
Due to their layered nature, ceramic dutch ovens must be treated with more care than copper, iron, or steel models.
After cooking with a ceramic dutch oven, allow it to cool to room temperature before soaking it in warm, soapy water.
After several minutes to half an hour (depending on the nature of the stuck-on food debris), use a non-abrasive cleaning cloth or soft silicone scrub to remove any remaining gunk.
Rinse clean with cool water and repeat immediately if necessary. Be sure never to leave your dutch oven filled with water overnight.
While the ceramic coating should protect from any potential rusting, it’s unhygienic to keep your dutch oven in a mid-washed state for several hours.
Doing so could potentially shorten the life of your dish. However, this issue is far more prevalent in cast iron dutch ovens.
Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Cast iron is a fantastic material for cookware. When properly maintained and cared for, it can outlive its owners.
Cast iron is also nearly impervious to accidental drops and collisions, unlike glass or solid ceramic.
However, cast iron is metal, and nearly all metals are prone to corrosion, rusting, and water-based decay. This can make cleaning your cast iron cookware a challenge.
Still, a little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to avoiding costly cast iron issues.
Firstly, cast iron doesn’t respond well to abrasive cleaner or scrubbing sponges.
Secondly, you should never apply dish soap or similar solutions to cast iron.
Keeping these two primary rules in mind when working with a cast iron dutch oven could potentially lengthen the life of your vessel.
After cooking with a cast iron dutch oven, you’ll want to allow it to cool to room temperature before cleaning it.
Once it is cool enough to safely touch, you’ll want to remove any remaining food and either store it or dispose of it.
Then, use a strong, clean cloth to wipe away oils or food particles that may remain.
After removing all visible bits of grub, run your oven beneath warm water for several minutes.
You can use a soft, non-abrasive cleaning pad or scrub to remove any stubborn bits of food that may be clinging on.
You could pat dry the oven or allow it to air dry, but most swear by hand-drying due to rust concerns.
Storing your Dutch oven is also extremely important for the cooking pot optimum lifespan!
Check out this article that details in-depth the importance of storing cast iron and also vital storage tips.
To Finish – Dutch Oven Temperature Guide
Dutch ovens might not hail from the Netherlands, but they were inspired by some of the time’s innovative techniques.
They’ve continued to be a staple form of cookware in many households, and for a good reason.
Dutch ovens are durable, self-contained cooking vessels that can withstand high-heat environments.
Achieving the perfect temperature requires a little finesse, and those using charcoal to heat their dutch oven will need to refer to a guide for help.
However, practice makes perfect. The best way to enjoy your dutch oven is to use it often.
Doing so will help you grow more accustomed to the preheating and cooking process.
After each dish, be sure to clean your dutch oven with plenty of warm water. It’s also crucial to avoid using potentially harmful tools and cleaning liquids.
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