Dutch Oven Temperature Control

Found this while looking for new Dutch Oven recipes and thought it would be good here:

Category: MISC
Serves: 0

Temperature shock (cold-to-hot or hot-to-cold) can damage your oven --either by cracking or warping. However, a well-made dutch oven (ie not a Chinese import) is much more forgiving than you’d expect. You can safely put your pot right onto coals if the coal temperature isn’t too hot to cook.
Different foods and dishes require different cooking temperatures. The following guide is for an aluminum dutch oven. Increase the number of briquettes by about one-fourth for a cast-iron oven. Actual temperatures will vary due to charcoal quality and weather.

Desired Temperature Range Ten-Inch Oven Twelve-Inch Oven
250-300 - Low 8 on top/6 under 10 on top/8 under
300-350 - Medium 10 on top/7 under 12 on top/9 under
350-400 - Hot 12 on top/8 under 14 on top/10 under
400-450 - Very Hot 14 on top/9 under 16 on top/12 under

When coals are ‘hot’, they are barely covered with white ash and you can hold your hand near them for only 2 or 3 seconds. You can hold your hand near ‘medium’ coals for about 5 seconds. Low coals are covered with ash. You should be able to hold your hand near them for about 7 seconds.

Many dutch oven cooks use the “three up, three down rule.” For 325 degrees in a 12-inch diameter iron oven you need 12 briquettes + 3 = 15 briquettes for the top and 12 briquettes - 3 = 9 briquettes for the bottom. To get 350° F, add one more coal on both the top and bottom. Each two additional coals will give you about 20° F more heat.

The objective is to get the oven hot enough to cook the food before it dries out, yet not so hot you can’t control the cooking process. In most cases, if the food is sputtering and popping a lot, the heat is too high. If the temperature is hot enough to suit the needs of a blacksmith, it’s too hot to cook and could likely damage your dutch oven. Using your tongs, remove about one fourth of the briquettes at a time from the top and underneath until the cooking slows to a steady simmer.

Preheating your dutch oven isn’t normally needed. I can think of a couple of exceptions. For example:
When you want to sear a roast prior to roasting, bring the oven up to temperature, then brown the meat on all sides in a bit of oil, then add vegetables, etc. and cook.

When using the lid as a griddle to cook pancakes, turn it inside up, place over your coals and bring to cooking temperature before pouring the batter. I judge pancake temperature with a couple of drops of water. If the water droplets pop or explode into vapor, the lid is too hot to properly cook pancakes. If the water does nothing or gently sizzles, it’s too cool. If the water dances around the lid, you’re ready to cook.

Temperature shock (cold-to-hot or hot-to-cold) can damage our oven; either by cracking or warping? How is it??

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