Dutch Oven Guide

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Dutch Oven History

The name "Dutch Oven" has been used to refer to a variety of lidded pots over the generations. However, to fully understand what a real Dutch oven is and why this pot is important you have to understand the history behind this incredible cooking apparatus.

It is believed that the original "Dutch Oven" was invented in the 1700s by an English man by the name of Abraham Darby who as the story goes visited Holland to inspect a new Dutch casting process he had heard about. This was a casting process by which brass vessels were cast into dry sand molds. Darby was impressed enough by this process that he returned to England and began working on bettering this casting process himself. Eventually, he created a casting process by which he used a better type of sand for molding his pots as well as the process for baking those molds that gave his pots a smoother finish.

Once he perfected the process Abraham Darby then began shipping his pots to the new Colonies in America where they instantly became popular as well as around the world.

What The Original Dutch Oven Looked Like

The original Dutch oven that Darby invented was designed for outside cooking. It was made of cast iron with a flat bottom and sides and short legs to hold the pot off the coals. The lid was flanged in order to hold hot coals on top so that the food inside the Dutch oven was surrounded by heat. A handle made of steel bail was attached to ears at the side of the pan.

The design of the Dutch oven not only proved to make it ideal for cooking out of doors but, also made it the ideal pan for cooking in the fireplace hearth of Colonial homes which in many cases was the only means of cooking that was available to those settling in the new land. It became the one pot that was in almost every home across America.

How The Dutch Oven Got It's Name

Ironically no one knows for sure exactly how the "Dutch oven" got its name. There are however a few theories all of which makes perfect sense. The first theory is that the name Dutch oven came from the original casting process that Abraham Darby went to see in Holland. Since Darby's own casting process was an advancement on the Dutch's casting process some believe that the Dutch ovens are a salute to that process.

Others believe that the name originates due to the Dutch peddlers who would go door to door selling various household wares. No doubt many a "Dutch oven" was sold by these early salesmen, and the name could have originated here.

The Third theory claims that name "Dutch oven" originated with settlers in Pennsylvania who were fine cooks and used pots similar to what Darby designed for cooking almost all of their food. Where ever the name came from this pot seems to be part of the history of the United States as Dutch Ovens were present at a number of historical events.

Two Dutch ovens accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition on their epic journey and in fact were the only cooking vessels that accompanied the group the entire trip. They were used to feed the workers during the building of the Transcontinental railroad and the miners during the gold rush years. It seems almost every where you look in the history of the U.S. The "Dutch Oven" played a part in feeding the people who built the country.

One reason for this is that not only were Dutch ovens durable, but their design allowed for them to be used to cook foods in various ways. Soups could be boiled, stews could be simmered, meat could be roasted and cakes could be baked in these incredible pots. These were the pots that were used for the inevitable pot of beans the cowboys ate when on the trail and they were the pots that Colonial women used to bake cakes and make chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner. And though over the years there have been some technical advances made to these pots, they continue to be used today.

Changes In Dutch Ovens Over The Years

There have been many changes in Dutch ovens over the years and today some of the pots that are often referred to as Dutch Ovens bear little resemblance to the original pot that bore that name. Today the term Dutch oven often refers to a flat bottom pot with a round lid and no legs that is made of cast aluminum or cast iron. In fact, the largest manufacturer of "Dutch ovens" Lodge manufacturing refers to these no legged pans as Dutch ovens and calls what was the original Dutch oven which they still manufacture "Camp ovens"

Regardless, of what name this pot goes by it is still being used by people all over the world for a variety of types of cooking. Campers depend on the Dutch oven for cooking over open campfires and more and more ordinary cooks are purchasing Dutch Ovens in an effort to learn to perfect the cooking skills and the food their ancestors depended on.

Today you can find a variety of Dutch oven recipes, and there are even classes on learning how to cook using Dutch Ovens. For those who have never roasted a turkey using a Dutch oven or baked a pineapple upside down cake in one you don't know what you are missing. It is an adventure that takes you back to when cooking was an art form and making the perfect meal in a Dutch oven was a source of pride and accomplishment.

Today's cooks are rediscovering the joys and the skills of Dutch oven cooking and they are loving every minute of it!

 

 

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