For centuries people have cooked on an open fire and used some form of clay, ceramic, iron or steel vessel to contain the food during the cooking process. In Japan the traditional cookware for hot-pot are called tetsunabe. They are made of clay or cast iron. Throughout the Balkan region they use what is known as a Sac; a bell shaped cooking implement made of ceramic or iron. The Australians found that cast iron has a tendency to be too fragile for the outback country so, they make their cooking pots out of steel and they are called a Bedourei oven. In northern Europe and North America a cooking pot made of cast iron, with a lid is called a Dutch oven. Here is a link to more in-depth reading about the history of the Dutch-oven.
The above picture shows a variety of cast iron cookware including several Dutch ovens. The darker color indicates more thorough seasoning of the iron.
By using a Dutch-oven an adept cook can prepare everything from breads and other baked goods to soups and stews, pan-roasted meats, fried foods and much more. Cast iron is well recognized for its even heating qualities. The key to successfully cooking with cast iron is to regulate the fire.
For over 100 years, Lodge, an American manufacturer of Dutch-Ovens, has been producing quality cast iron cookware. They are a favorite of mine. Their products are sturdy enough to last many generations and they are very useful for both indoor or outdoor cooking. I own many Lodge products in black cast-iron. From searing and braising a pot roast to frying potatoes or fixing French toast for breakfast, I use them regularly when cooking at home. I also use them for camp cooking. Cast-iron Dutch-ovens and other well seasoned cast iron cookware are excellent for use with charcoal briquettes and wood fires alike.
On the left is a Lodge 6 Quart Dutch oven and on the right is the Tremontina 7 Quart oval. The rubber coated utensils are used to avoid scratching the enamel surface.
Another type of Dutch-oven is a cast iron pot that has been glazed and fired with enamel. The advantage of the enamel coating is that the iron is now completely sealed. When cooking in cast iron, there is a tendency of certain highly acidic foods to impart a slightly metallic taste. Enamel glazed cast iron prevents that problem. The one limitation is that enamel can not be used on a wood fire or with charcoal briquettes. Enamel cookware also requires a little extra care to ensure that the enamel does not get chipped. So, it is imperative to use only wood utensils or Teflon coated utensils to avoid scratching the enamel surface. In addition to my large black seasoned cast iron Dutch-ovens I have two enamel Dutch-ovens. The larger is a Tremontina 7 quart, oval Dutch-oven and the smaller is a Lodge 6 quart, round. The oval is great for cooking whole duck or chicken and of course, both serve well for seafood and tomato based foods. I also find that the enamel cookware cleans up a little easier. I have to say that all of the Lodge cast iron Dutch-ovens are excellent for outdoor use and for use when cooking non-acidic items, their enamel coated cookware is a lesser quality than Tremontina. The Tremontina is a heavier gauge with a more substantial enamel coating.
In a future article I will share a few recipes for classic Dutch oven cooking.