The Dutch Oven - - 300 Years Old And Still Going Strong
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The Dutch Oven  -   -  300 Years Old And Still Going Strong

Dutch oven cooking began over well over 300 years ago with the advent of a new method of casting iron cooking pots. The Dutch (duh) used dry sand in the mold-making process, the result being a much smoother finish. England began using a similar method early in the seventeen hundreds and made the new cooking pots available to the general public in England and the American colonies that were being established at the time.

It’s no wonder the Dutch oven became so popular with settlers. It was nearly indestructible and you could use it to bake, boil, stew, braise, fry, roast or anything else you needed to do. Whole meals could be made in one, and the tough meat from game became fall-off-the-bone tender. The pots could fall off a cliff and, apart from dings and dents, still work just fine. Their wire handles made it possible for them to hand from hooks off carts and wagons, freeing up space for other things. And I suspect more than one was a handy weapon in the hands of an angry cook.

As America began to grow and spread westward across the continent, the Dutch oven went along with the travellers. Lewis and Clark carried these handy little cauldrons in their gear when they explored the Great Northwest in 1804-1806. They endured many hardships and deprivations that saw them lose or abandon most of the gear they took, but when they came back they still had two things—guns and Dutch ovens, which gives you some idea of the value they placed on the cooking pots. Settlers, pioneers, cowboys and mountain men all considered the Dutch oven crucial to improving the quality of their lives.

Although the popularity of the Dutch oven waned, it never went completely out of style. Even as early as the 1940’s there were a few people who swore by the vessel. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the author of the Yearling, waxed poetic in one of her books about Dutch ovens, saying that she not only didn't feel sorry for the pioneers and their cooking over a hearth in Dutch ovens, but that she would willingly give up her modern aluminum cookware to do the same. (The quote may be found in the 1942 novel "Cross Creek".)

If you want to kindle that same love for Dutch oven cooking, head on over to Camping and Hiking Ideas, where you can learn all about choosing and cooking with Dutch ovens, and some recipes besides.


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