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The Secret To Cooking With Cast Iron

Cast iron Dutch Ovens in various sizes. Notice the “lip” on the lids to hold hot coals on the lids while cooking.


This is information from an older radio program of mine. I felt like the info on Dutch Oven cooking was important enough to re-post it and get it out there.

All of my cooking pans, both for the kitchen and outdoor cooking are cast iron with the exception of some heavy stainless steel pans I bought in a moment of weakness about 15 years ago.  Don’t be afraid of using cast iron, its easy to use and maintain after you get the hang of it. Check out antique stores and flea markets for used cast iron, its usually less expensive than buying new and often, you can get pans that are already seasoned well.

The Rule Of Two Rule for Dutch Oven Cooking

The Rule Of Two uses charcoal briquettes to disperse heat under and above your dutch oven to cook food. If you don’t use charcoal briquettes, you can substitutes pieces of charred, burnt wood that you’ve been burning in the fire. When we’re camping I don’t always have briquettes and just get a big fire going and make my own ‘charcoal’ from the pieces of wood that burn and fall apart.  The temperature per piece of  ‘charcoal’ won’t be exactly the same as using briquettes but its similar and you can add more pieces or take away pieces of burnt wood to get the right temp.  It will be a learning experience the first time you do it, so watch your food carefully.

The Rule Of Two

Size of oven times 2 = X

X = the number of briquettes that go on top and beneath the dutch oven

Then, remove two briquettes from the bottom and place them on the top as well.

This configuration will help the dutch oven interior to reach 325*F – 350*F


Example – a 10 inch diameter Dutch Oven.

Place 10×2 or 20 total briquettes under and on top of the oven. I divide them evenly so I’ll have ten under and ten above.

Now you will want to remove two from the bottom of the oven and place then on the top of the oven.

Example #2 –  a 12 inch oven:

For a 12 inch oven would need 12 x 2 or 24 briquettes total.  12 on top and 12 underneath the oven.  Then take two briquettes from under the oven and place them on top.  So you’d have 10 under and 12 on top.


This rule will provide 325-350* temperature depending on the kind of briquettes you are using. I recommend Kingsford because they seem to give you the most reliable and consistent heat.

If you are baking sweet breads or cakes in your DO, you’ll need to reduce the number of briquettes by about one third. Sugar burns more quickly than other foods.


It is possible to make your own briquettes of course and you can also use wood to cook over. Cooking with wood rather than briquettes takes a bit more practice because the coals that you make when you burn wood are not always uniform in size and density, they may burn at different rates and temperatures. I almost always use wood to cook over outside and I’ve learned how to judge how many wood coals I need to get the temperature right.  Here is a video showing how to make your own charcoal.


To begin cooking in a dutch oven, be sure your cast iron has been seasoned correctly (see below).  Dutch Oven seasoning should be done outside.  You’re going to be greasing up the entire pan, inside and out.  And, after a pan has been used in a fire it gets soot and burned on charcoal or wood on it. Seasoning it inside will really smoke up your house.

Peanut oil is recommended for seasoning Dutch Ovens that will be used outdoors over a fire because the smoking point of peanut oil is higher than other oils and because it gives a hard coat after its baked.

To season Dutch Ovens (DO) outside, over a fire:
1. Rub a thin layer of peanut oil over ALL surfaces of the DO, inside and out, lid included.

2. Turn the DO upside down, so oil will not pool inside, and place the lid on the upturned legs. Place the oven over enough coals to bring the DO to ab out 375*F; For a 10 inch DO, that is 21 coals.

3. Allow it to bake for 1 hour, exchanging hot coals for cooler, spent coals frequently.

4. Take the DO off the heat and allow it to cool enough to handle it. Rub more oil inside and out and bake the same way for another hour.

5. Repeat once more for a total of three hours over the coals.

This seasoning should never have to be done again unless your DO rusts or is damaged in some way.
You can clean your DO with water and dry it well over heat, rubbing a little oil in the cooled pan before storing.  Its generally not recommended to use soap in DO’s because the soap will get into the pores. However, I do use soap on mine after they’ve been used a few times and have a really nice, thick seasoning on them. If you use soap, be sure to rinse well. Scrape bits of food out of the pan first, rinse with water and then scrub using a Scotch Brite or other scrubby.

You can find instructions for seasoning cast iron on my site.  For any information you’ve heard on my radio show  you can search this site for Radio Show and find all that info.

A Few Tips For Dutch Oven Cooking:

1. Keep checking your food. Yes, opening the oven does reduce the temperature temporarily. But its better to know what’s going on in there than to burn or  under cook your food. You can check the food quickly with practice.

2. Get your fire going at least 1 hour before you need the coals if you’re using wood. You can start your fire about 20 minutes ahead of cooking time if you are using charcoal briquettes.

3. For easier clean-up, fill the DO with water after you’ve removed the food, but do not use cool water in a hot oven it will crack the oven!

4. Practice makes perfect so use your DO frequently and learn!

5. To make the oven easier to clean you can line it with foil or use a foil or tin pie plate in the bottom of the pan. Grease the oil or pan just like you would the Dutch Oven before using.

6. When baking breads and cakes in the DO, reduce the number of briquettes by about one third so as not to burn the food. Sugar burns more quickly than other foods and foods that contain a lot of sugar will burn more quickly.

Baked Beef in the Dutch Oven (DO)
3 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoon flour
2 1/2 lb Round steak
1 c Beef broth
2 Tomatoes,  sliced thinly

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a DO and saute 1 of the sliced onions and the garlic until the onion is soft. Remove the onions and garlic, leaving behind as much of the fat as possible.

Mix the salt, black pepper, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons of the flour together. Dredge the meat in this mixture, set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the DO and brown the steak on both sides. Cover the steak with the  remaining sliced onions and 1/4 cup of the broth and cover tightly. Use the Rule Of Two and place coals on and under the DO.  OR you can bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender.

Layer the tomatoes on top of the other ingredients, cover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer.

Remove the meat to a heated platter and allow it to sit, covered with foil or a lid for 10 minutes.

Bring the juices in the casserole dish to a slow boil.  Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour and the remaining 3/4 cup of broth into a jar and shake well. Slowly add this mixture into the simmering juices. Whisk until the juices are thickened and cooked.  Pour this sauce over the sliced meat and serve.


Dutch Oven Peach Cake
12 inch Dutch Oven, butter
1 yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 – 30 ounce can sliced peaches, drained, save the juice

Butter a 12 inch Dutch Oven.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil and syrup from peaches. Stir til smooth.
Pour batter into a buttered 12″ Dutch oven. Arrange peach slices over top of batter.

Cover oven and bake using 8-10 briquettes under the DO and 14-16 briquettes top for 1 hour or until top center of cake springs back when touched.

Delicious with whipped cream or ice cream.




1 Comment

  1. Tracy

    Thankyou! Very informative.