It’s cold outside, but already you are dreaming of those warm summer days around the campfire. Here’s the how-to.
This time around, I didn’t just jump in and assume that I knew what the heck I was doing. I actually did a little research and I was rewarded for my efforts with this beautiful (and HUGE!) lasagna for our Sunday dinner. Not only was the lasagna cooked perfectly, but by using the dutch oven I was able to make it outside while I was doing my weekly baking inside in the oven. That’s what I call a good use of time and space.
To start, we rigged up a little outdoor cooking space that was better than I used last time. We’re in the process of building a permanent fire pit/cooking pit, but until it’s done this works fantastic. My husband laid down some extra bricks and put an old cast iron grate over the top of that. Behind the bricks, we stacked up a row of cinder blocks and then put another one on the top of that. This created a super nice wind break and the bricks on the bottom kept the cold ground from sucking all of my heat away. Whew! That was some discretion, eh? So, next we lit some briquettes and I stepped back inside to get my lasagna assembled. By the time I was done, my charcoal was, too.
Then we used the “plus 4, minus 4” rule to set out the circle of hot coals for the bottom of the dutch oven. Basically, you take the size of your dutch oven (I had a 12 inch one) and subtract 4 to get the number of coals for the bottom of the oven and then you add 4 to the size to get the number of coals for the top. There should be roughly twice as many above as there is below. This figure will get you to about 350 degrees or so.
Remember, heat rises, so you have to force the heat DOWN into the dutch oven by using more heat on top. In my case, we needed a ring of 8 coals on the bottom, HOWEVER, it was raining and windy again, so we added 2 extra on the bottom for a total of 10 to combat the adverse conditions. Using the same rule, we needed 16 on the top but, again, we added an extra 2 to help offset the nasty weather.
The lasagna needed to cook for an hour, about the same time it takes to bake in my conventional oven, so I left it alone and let the dutch oven do it’s thing. After about 30 minutes, I rotated the dutch oven 180 degrees and peeked in. Everything looked great, so i left it alone. After 60 minutes, the lasagna was completely done, we just needed to brown the top. So I added a second ring of coals to the top of the dutch oven and took it off of the bottom coals. This helped the top to brown and kept the bottom from overcooking. At this point, we left and fed our cows. When we got home about 20 minutes later, our lasagna was perfectly cooked and we were starving!
Lessons Learned: Cooking in a dutch oven is fun, but learning how to brown something in one was AWESOME! It’s just a little thing that makes so much difference. I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty amazing after I successfully made our dinner in a dutch oven and it was actually edible. It was fantastic, to be honest, and I feel just a little bit more comfortable with this outdoor method of cooking.
- 12 Inch Dutch Oven
- Charcoal Lighter Basket
- Lid Lifter
- Cast Iron Conditioner (after clean up, of course)