07-02-2009, 12:08 PM
Hey y'all. I may ruffle a few feathers with this post but so be it. I have been cooking in Dutch Oven for 25 years and I have only been using charcoal for the last 7-8 years. Most of what I have done is using coals from my campfire shoveled on or around the Dutch oven. Many people have these fancy ideas and formulas to figure out how to use charcoal. [b]It is not rocket science!! 8) Charcoals are simply a convenient and compact source of heat that's all. The amount of coals that you use isn't nearly as important as how you place them on your pot. Most Dutch ovens are 10", 12", or 14" in size and lend themselves in size to about as many charcoals as you can put on them. Here's the deal, some charcoals burn hotter than others and charcoals burn hotter or cooler depending on weather conditions, elevation, and humidity. So don't stress about how many to use or not use...period! Where most people mess up is by not using the coals correctly. There are four types of Dutch Oven cooking: #1. Roasting. This is where you have a checkerboard pattern of coals on the bottom only. You wan't to use this method for ALL soups, stews, chili's, and braised meat dishes. For those of you with a Camp chef stove this is the best way to do it. #2. Broasting. This is where you have most of the heat on the bottom and some on the top. This is the preferred method for cooking whole meats and poultry, this is also the best way to cook Dutch Oven potatoes. To place the coals: put a checkerboard pattern on the bottom and a ring of coals around the outside of the lid. #3. Baking. This is for all breads and desserts but not for meat dishes. To bake you want to place the coals opposite of Broasting with a checkerboard of coals across the lid and a ring of coals around the bottom (sticking part way out) this will prevent the bottom from burning and give a nice browned appearance to the top. #4. Broiling. This is used for finishing dishes rather than cooking the whole process. I use it to golden up a cobbler or to glaze a meat dish. To broil, place a checkerboard pattern of coals on the lid only. The way I determine my heat is to check it after five minutes. If I have a hot spot, I can tell immediatly and adjust my coals accordingly then I just let it go until it's done. If I am cooking something that has to cook for several hours I will replace coals as needed when they burn down to half their original size. The problem I have with rotating the lid and the pot is that if you do have a hot spot you just keep perpetuating the hot spot all over the pot. The whole idea of a Dutch Oven is to have a heavy well seasoned pan that distributes heat well into your food. If you are having a lot of problems with heat I would look at your Dutch Oven and it's condition, not the charcoal. I hope this has helped y'all out. If you have any questions about Dutch ovens, feel free to ask. I'm always willing to help fellow food lovers out!