Friday, June 21, 2013

Cook With Cast Iron Pots On An Open Fire

An open fire allows cast iron pots to retain and distribute heat well.

Using cast iron pots to cook with over an open flame has several benefits. The types of cast iron pots commonly used include sauce pans, kettles and Dutch ovens. The temperature is controlled by the intensity of the heat source and the distance the pot is from heat source. By manipulating these variables, cast-iron pots can facilitate the preparation of quick-cooking items, such as eggs, and long-cooking items, such as roasts. (See Reference 6) Add this to my Recipe Box.


1. Acquire a cast iron pot or a cast iron Dutch oven with legs. If the pan or Dutch oven is not equipped with legs, acquire a trivet-like device called a spyder. A spyder sits on the heat source and the pot sits on top of it. Direct contact with hot coals often causes food to burn; creating a space between the heat source and the pot allows air to circulate underneath, which promotes even heat distribution. (See Reference 1,6)

2. Season the cast iron pot or Dutch oven. Ignite a medium fire using a dense wood such as cedar, oak, pecan or mesquite. Kindling from light-wood trees such as pines or aspens will not create coals that retain heat well. Brush a thin patina of vegetable oil on the pot's cooking surface and wipe with a paper towel. After the flame reduces to hot coals, place the pot over the heat. Allow it to heat for 20 minutes, than remove. Allow the pot to cool then wipe it with a paper towel. Seasoning the cast iron creates a layer on its surface composed of polymerized fat that prevents sticking. (See Reference 2,3,6)

3. Preheat the cast iron pot prior to cooking. Preheating the pot has several benefits, such as creating an even cooking environment and promoting uniform heat distribution. Also, when cooking proteins, a preheated pan creates a sear that results in a caramelized exterior; this is a positive characteristic of the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that causes amino acids to take on the properties of sugars. (See Reference 4,6)

4. Monitor the food's progress. Check the temperature of whole beef, such as roasts, and other proteins, such as chicken and pork, by inserting a meat thermometer into its center. Allow pork to reach a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, beef to reach a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Other foods commonly cooked in cast iron pots over an open flame, such as stews and legumes, can be taste tested to see if they are done. (See Reference 5,6)

Tags: cast iron, heat source, degrees Fahrenheit, Dutch oven, iron pots, cast iron