When you picture a woman cooking over the fire on her way out West, you probably picture her using a Dutch oven.
Dutch ovens were popular with colonists and settlers, mountain men, westward homesteaders, and cowboys. They evoke images of simpler times, traditional living, and meals around the fire, but Dutch ovens shouldn’t be a thing of the past! They’re still perfect for the modern homesteading family. They’re affordable, last forever, and have so many uses.
Here are six reasons why every homesteader should get a Dutch oven.
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1. Dutch Ovens are Great for Off-Grid Homesteaders
If you’re a homesteader with a remote or off-grid lifestyle, odds are you’ll have days without access to the modern conveniences of electric or propane ovens. In these situations, a Dutch oven can help you easily pull together a warm, hearty meal the traditional way.
You can hang your dutch oven over a fire for awesome soup or one pot pasta dishes, or bake things likes pies, breads, and even potatoes by placing your Dutch oven right into the fire and covering it with hot coals.
If you have a wood stove, Dutch ovens can also be set on top or inside the stove. Even if your stove isn’t designed for baking, you can let the fire burn down a bit, shove the coals to the back, and place your Dutch oven in the front of the fire box. They’re perfect for times when a modern oven or stove just isn’t an option.
2. They’re Perfect for Urban or Apartment Homesteaders Too!
If you’re an apartment homesteader or someone with reliable access to modern appliances, Dutch ovens are still worth getting. They do double duty with for stove top and oven meals.
On the stove stop, they’re great for long simmering meals like stews, chilis, and soups. Their heavy lid, sides, and bottom heat more evenly than a traditional pot or even crockpot, sealing in flavor. They also make pot roast so good you’ll be taking your crockpot to the thrift store. You can quickly braise meats then put the lid on and let them simmer all day.
They’re also great for baking. Recipes like blueberry cobbler, pot pie, and baked ziti are always great baked in a Dutch oven. If you’re trying to learn to make awesome, from-scratch breads, Dutch oven bread recipes are a great place to start. Most of them are no-knead and are great crusty loaves. Cooking in a Dutch oven allows slow baking and steaming which makes for chewy crusts and light, airy bread.
3. They’re Great for Camping
While they’re certainly not just for camping, their ability to make campfire meals easy is undeniable. It’s why all the mountain men, cowboys, and westward pioneers gave them a prized spot on their pack horses and wagon trains. Being able to make one pot baked or boiled meals without even a camping stove is awesome.
Plus, you’ll definitely be the coolest family when you’re eating deep dish Dutch oven pizza and everyone else has hot dogs.
4. There Are Tons of Recipes for Dutch Ovens
Before the invention of electric and propane stoves and ovens, most American families ate almost every single meal out of a Dutch oven. Their versatility has led to thousands of recipes and hundreds of cookbooks making it easy to make satisfying, unique meals with one kitchen implement. Just browse Pinterest, do a quick Google search, or check out all of the cookbooks available on Amazon dedicated to Dutch ovens.
5. They Make for Easy Clean Up
Another reason dutch oven meals have been so popular over the years is that most of them are one pot meals. You can make delicious from-scratch food in your Dutch oven and only have one pot to clean up after dinner!
6. Dutch Ovens are Extremely Durable
If you want to buy a piece of cookware that will last your family at least a lifetime, a Dutch oven is for you. Quality Dutch ovens are made of cast iron or cast iron and enamel, which means they’re so tough that eventually, you can pass them on to your children. You may even find older Dutch ovens in antique and thrift shops that have already seen years of family life that are still in excellent condition.
How Do You Select a Good Dutch Oven?
When looking for your new Dutch oven, opt for one made of solid cast iron like this one by Lodge. They can be used in open fires, in the oven, or on a stovetop. They also hold heat better and are very durable. Plus, like any cast iron pan, cooking in them adds small amounts of iron to your food which is an essential mineral.
Many modern Dutch ovens have rounded lids and flat bottoms, but if you’ll be using yours the way the original homesteaders did, look for a Dutch oven with legs and a flat, lipped lid like this one. The legs keep the Dutch oven from smothering coals underneath and the flat lipped lid allows hot coals to be stacked on top for easy baking.
It’s worth noting that plain cast iron does require seasoning but it’s super easy. Just heat them up and rub with vegetable oil or another fat after cleaning. If you don’t like the plain cast iron and won’t be cooking on an open fire, many people also love the enameled cast iron which can be cleaned like regular cookware but doesn’t add iron to your food and should not be used in an open fire.
Modern homesteading may not require you to travel by wagon or spend your days toiling over an open fire, but there are definitely a few things that can be learned from homesteaders in the past. Even with advancements in modern technology, Dutch ovens should not be forgotten. They’re still incredibly useful whether you’re off-grid in a small cabin on hundreds of acres, trying to cook from-scratch meals in a tiny house, or incorporating the homestead lifestyle into your big city apartment. They’re durable, versatile, easy to clean and maintain, and an all around great investment.