Friday, June 18, 2010

The Dinwiddie Ring Method of Temperature Control

I've been using the Dinwiddie Ring Method for a couple of weeks now, and I really like it.  My confidence level has really shot up, and my dutch oven cooking has become MUCH less stressful.  I really wish I would have known about this method sooner.  I have 6 or 7 dutch oven cookbooks, and they all use coal counting.  I haven't seen one yet that teaches this method.  I wonder why that is?

First, let me tell you why I like the ring method over coal counting.  With the ring method, I can use any brand of charcoal on the market.  (Even Kingsford, which I have also been using with great success for the past few weeks.)  I can even mix brands of charcoal with out any problems.  I can also use any size of charcoal without having to compensate for the size differences between brands.  For instance, I had been using Sam's Choice brand charcoal for most of the year.  It is twice as big as Kingsford charcoal and therefore puts out more heat and burns longer than Kingsford.  If I'm using 20 Kingsford briquettes, they are putting out less heat than 20 Sam's coals.  But with the ring method, I don't have to compensate for any of that.

I know you have all seen the Lodge Temperature Control Chart.  It is really complicated and I couldn't cook without consulting the chart to see how many coals I needed.  The Dinwiddie Method's chart is much easier to remember and I don't have to check it before I cook every time.

Here are the basics:

1 ring:  If you make a circle of hot charcoal with all of the briquettes lying flat and touching each other, with spaces left out for the legs on the bottom rings, that is "one ring".  The outside edge of the ring is lined up with the outside edge of the pot, top or bottom.  For the record, I still use the coal counting method for the bottom heat.  I take the size of the oven, subtract 2 and that is the number of bottom coals I use.  I've found that if I use a full ring on the bottom I tend to burn my food.

1/2 ring:  A "half ring"  is the same size circle but with every other briquette missing.

2 rings:  is simply a second ring just inside the first, with the rings touching.

Full spread:  Means to put all the briquettes you can (one layer deep, lying flat) either under or on top of the pot.

The ring method is self correcting for the size of the briquettes used.  If your charcoal has been burning a while, the pieces will be smaller and will put out less heat.  But it will take more of them to make a ring, so you still get about the same temperature.  As the briquettes burn down, you simply add more to fill in the spaces and keep the temperature constant.

  Duane Dinwiddie found that he could cook almost everything there is with just four temperatures--slow, medium, hot and very hot.  For a 12" dutch oven, slow will have 1 ring on top and one ring on the bottom and be 300* (+/- 25*).  Medium is 1 ring under and 1 1/2 rings on top and is 350* (+/-25*).  A hot oven is 1 ring under and 2 rings on top and is 400* (+/-25*).  A very hot oven is 1 ring under and 2 1/2 rings on top and is 450*  to 500*(+/-25*).

The following chart shows this method in detail.

If I could go back and start this year over, I would like to do it with this method of heat control.  It would have saved me a lot of frustration.  I'm going to be teaching several dutch oven classes over the summer and you can be sure that coal counting will be mentioned only as a secondary method of temperature control.


  1. This dinwiddie ring method sounds very similar to Cee Dubs common sense method. Since using his method, I too have had many rewarding and less stressful hours in the great outdoors. Love your site and proud of you for sticking with it.

  2. Great post. Thanks for helping push a topic that makes life easier.

    "Work smarter, not harder."

  3. Ranes--

    Truer words were never spoken. I can't believe how much easier this is. I'm just bugged that it took me 6 months to figure it out. :P

  4. Toni, this sounds very interesting. Thanks for the link to the LSDOS; I went to it and liked it. Lots of info. Altho I have never had a problem with the coal-counting method, I am going to give this a try. I posted a link of the Family Camping Chat website; hope that is OK.


  5. I also like using the ring method.I also dump or sweep ash off my lid to keep it from insulating out the heat on a longer cooking recipe. I just wanted to give you a quick tip on typing the "degree" symbol instead of the asterisk. Hold down the Alt key and use a numeric keypad to type 0176.Then let off the Alt key and the degree symbol should appear. It looks like this: 300°

  6. Thanks David, I would never have figured the degree symbol out on my own! I've always wondered how to do it! :)

  7. This is great! I never realized someone had put it down to a complete method. I've basically used rings most of my Dutch Oven career. It'll be nice to have the full understanding of it now.

  8. Fantastic info - I hadn't ever heard of this method either... and I can never remember charts and stuff so this should be much easier to work with. Can't wait to try it out! :)

  9. I'm tickled to death to see the Dinwiddie method mentioned here. It first appeared in print in "A Texas Treasury of Dutch-oven Cooking" produced by the Lone Star Dutch-oven Society and available through Lodge manufacturing. The debate in Texas has finally been settled between the checkerboard method and the Dinwiddie method. After exhaustive testing at numerous Dutch-oven gatherings it was determined that the Dinwiddie method is less likely to cause hot spots and therefore less likely to burn your food then the checkerboard method

  10. Nancy, the Dinwiddie method is so much easier and equally accurate to any of the methods of heat control I've tried. It is totally "idiot proof". I really wish it was talked about more in the dutch oven world. It takes away a lot of the intimidation factor for new dutch oven cooks. But one of the things I like best is that it easily addresses the issue of heat reduction from burned out briquettes. Love it!

  11. I used my dutch oven ONCE last year at a campout for Church, and I RUINED the cherry chocolate cake that was "fool proof"...I've been a little intimidated since, because I really don't like wasting food but I really wanted to learn how to use it properly! I cannot wait to use this method when I go out next weekend! I'd do it sooner, but living in an apartment complex, I'm not quite sure how to handle it. Thanks so much for posting this! I'm a new follower!

  12. Glad you like it.
    Duane Dinwiddie

  13. Duane-- I love your method! It makes cooking so much easier. I've been teaching it in classes all around my area and everyone has caught on and loved it. Thanks!

  14. Thank you for making us all smarter! I love your website and have incorporated it into my weekly Dutch Oven adventures!

  15. F18Paul--

    Happy to help! Thanks for reading!

  16. We use the ring method with our Boy Scouts, it makes it easier and more accessible to them.

    If we make it too much like school when we are out on a weekend, they get bored.

  17. At the bottom of the temperature control chart it states “one additional benefit … is that it is valid for… campfire coals.” This is very interesting and worth exploring. When camping we like to have a campfire anyway, so why bother with charcoal. Charcoal may be easier to use but the easy path does not lead to the top of the mountain.

  18. You're exactly right Boyd! The surface area of the lid that is covered with coals is what matters. A shovel full of good hot coals artfully arranged is a beautiful thing!

  19. i learned the +3, -3 method and it is better than any chart. Take the size of the pot, i.e. 12" and add 3...12+3=15 for the top, the subtract 3...12-3=9. That gets you in the ball park of 325°. Works for any size pot...10" would be 13 top and 7 bottom. Add or subtract a coal from the top and bottom for every 25° difference. Oh, and put the charcoal in a ring.

  20. G'day everbody - would this system work on a BedourieCamp Oven as well

    will give it a go anyway and let you know
    BUT to be forwarned is to be forarmed

    have a great day


    peter Australia

  21. The information on temperature control and its advantages in various application is what i was looking for. Thanks for sharing it.


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