During a normal year, Nevada Outdoor School would be gearing up for our annual fundraiser, the Buckaroo Dutch Oven Cook Off (affectionately known by NOS staffers as “DOCO” said, “doh-co”), for the 12th time! Although typically held at Vesco Park in Winnemucca, this year it will be a virtual event, held on Saturday, September 12th from 2:00 – 5:00pm via GoToMeeting. For more information on how to participate, how to donate, or just watch, visit our website at NevadaOutdoorSchool.org.
A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight fitting lid usually made from cast iron. Dutch oven cooking has been around for thousands of years, dating back to 4000 BC and referred to as cauldron cooking. In America, cast iron pots began arriving by the mid-eighteenth century after being patented in 1708 from ideas gathered from foundries in Holland. The design was improved with a tight lid and a flared edge to help hold the coals on the top. The Dutch oven has a rich American history. They were very practical pieces of equipment on trail-drives or for mountain men and prospectors. The lid kept the dust out and the heavy pot would not blow over in the wind. In addition, it is possible to efficiently feed a lot of people using a Dutch oven. Delicious, nutrient dense meals with a variety of components can be cooked in a single oven.
In modern times, coals, or BBQ briquettes, are used to heat the Dutch oven. Because the Dutch oven cooks with the hot moisture and pressure that builds up inside, usually a 300 to 350F temperature is sufficient to bake most any dish. Unlike other forms of cooking, the integrity of the food remains intact (for example, no dripping grease or loss of water), and it is therefore the best tasting food around! You can also roast, braise, pan-fry or even deep fry in a Dutch oven by varying the amount of coals used to adjust the temperature.
For baking, coals are applied to the top and the bottom to provide an even heat inside the pot. Generally speaking, to cook at 350 F, the number of top coals is your oven size (in inches) plus 3 briquettes. The bottom heat is the oven size minus two. (For example, in a 10-inch Dutch oven, you would want 13 coals on top and 8 coals on the bottom to establish the best baking temperature). It is important to check your dish when it is about 2/3 way done as you may have to remove some bottom coals to prevent burning. However, the best way to determine when the dish is done is by using your nose, especially when baking cakes, breads and brownies.
In preparation for NOS’s virtual Dutch Oven Cook-Off fundraiser on September 12th, several members of the Nevada Outdoor School team gathered to practice and demonstrate their skills for a video you can watch at nevadaoutdoorschool.org or on our YouTube Channel. In the video you will see a variety of delicious one pot meals and desserts that were prepared and tasted including a savory roast with thyme cobbler biscuits on top, a bacon wrapped turkey breast with mixed vegetables, Mexican meatball soup, loaded brownies and a cherry-swirled cheesecake (our mouths are watering just thinking about them!) In the video, NOS’s Executive Director represents the International Dutch Oven Society category, cooking three dishes: a main dish, bread and dessert. Many serious Dutch oven enthusiasts belong to the International Dutch Oven Society. You can learn more at IDOS.org. In past years, the event in Winnemucca served as a sanctioned Society event, and local and visiting participants have advanced on to win a variety of prizes at national and international events.
If you want show off your skills, give Dutch oven cooking a try or just learn more about cooking in a Dutch oven, join us on September 12th! Teams will be live-streaming their cooking and there will be instructional videos throughout the event. While we won’t have the opportunity to smell or taste other people’s dishes, we will be able to admire the delicious food, pick up a lot of pointers and see different techniques demonstrated. Contact Melanie Erquiaga (775-623-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to register or go to www.Nevadaoutdoorschool.org to view the official event Rules and Regulations and to get a Registration form.
Cooking outside can be a lot of fun. Gather your friends and family, find a new recipe or showcase your favorite, and give Dutch oven cooking a try! Don’t know where to start? Three great Dutch oven cook books by Colleen Sloan are, “Log Cabin Dutch Oven”, “Cabin Cooking: Rustic Coat Iron and Dutch Oven Recipes”, and “Log Cabin Grub”. You can order yours today at email@example.com. Remember to also think about fire safety and practice “Leave No Trace” when cooking outdoors.
Get outside and cook; fresh air, tasty food and sunshine is good for all of us!