I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Me and mine had a great day yesterday, full of family, food, fun and of course presents!
Now, on to the dutch oven fun! We are getting into some areas that cause me to get very nervous about dutch oven cooking. That is using charcoal briquets. I have read several dutch oven cookbooks, and they all seem to use different formulas for how to tell if you are using the right number of briquets to get the right temperature in your oven. I have chosen to use what appears to be the simplest method. This information comes from the book "Let's Cook Dutch" by Robert L. Ririe. This is a great book for the beginner--like me!
You should start your coals 30-45 minutes before you are ready to cook. The coals should be red hot, which, interestingly enough, means they will be ashy grey (go figure) but flare red when they are fanned.
As a general rule, the formula for the number of coals needed per oven is this: for bottom heat, take the size of the dutch oven and add 2, that is the number of coals needed under the oven. For the top heat, take the size of the dutch oven and subtract 2, that is the number of coals needed on top of the oven. For example, if you are cooking in a 12 inch oven, you would need 14 briquets on the bottom and 10 on top. I know this sounds complicated, but remember, this is the easiest method for calculating the heat. There are different rules that apply when you are baking cobblers, breads or biscuits. They need more top heat. You would use only 6-8 briquets on bottom and 18-24 on top. We will talk more about the heat needed for baking when I get brave enough to actually try it.
Here is a chart put out by Lodge. It tell the coal counts needed to reach the proper temperature for cooking.
Come back next time, when we will talk about cleaning your dutch oven. Have a great weekend!