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The Dutch Oven – A Great Addition to Your Survival Kit
If you’re one of those folks without electricity, heat, or warmth due to the recent snow storms, you’ve probably recognized the need for a cooking tool capable of baking, boiling, frying, and sauteing. And it should be able to run on a variety of heat sources, since you don’t know when the electricity might come back.
My candidacy for this wonder tool has been around for hundreds of years. It’s easy to find, cheap, and effective. Get a cast iron or aluminum Dutch oven. The cooking tool has a proven track record.
Hurricane Katrina was expected to hit the mainland within hours, and my relatives in Mississippi, about 150 miles north of New Orleans, weren’t sure what was coming.
I overheard my wife talking on the phone with her sister, Patti, from Clinton, MS. In the midst of discussing making the hurricane, they started talking about recipes and what to cook, using a cast iron dutch oven!
Everyone near Katrina faced a power outage that could last indefinitely. Among the necessities of urban survival were a way to cook and purify water.
Patti had a secondhand cast iron camp oven with a pointed lid and three legs. Designed to be heated top and bottom with campfire embers or charcoal, that type of furnace was taken on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, used by travelers on the Oregon Trail, and was indispensable in countless cabins, huts, and soddies on the border.
Technically, a “Dutch” oven has a rounded, legless top and can be used in a conventional oven above a stove or on an outdoor propane fish cooker or grill. My propane cooker stays on my patio year round because it’s in constant use. Even when there’s snow on the ground, we still go out to fry bacon or cook fish.
Today, a camp oven is on my short list of tools for my disaster survival kit. And if you’re one of those stranded due to record snowfall, or anticipating some sort of disaster, you need a Dutch oven, too.
A Dutch oven can be used to boil water, make a stew, bake bread, and bake just about anything that fits inside. And if you are forced to evacuate an area, a camp and/or dutch oven is compact and light enough to be easily transported.
My wife’s advice to her sister was to go to Walmart, get at least 50 pounds of charcoal and three of the 14-inch diameter round metal pet food dishes. Put the oven, these items, and some basic cooking utensils in a square milk crate for storage.
I have been cooking with Dutch ovens for decades in hunting and fishing camps, and on many camping trips and Boy Scout and Girl Scout outings. I am often asked for a list of basic tools to get started in Dutch oven cooking. So, here is the bare essentials list of Dutch Oven Survival Kit necessities, proven over the years.
– 1 – Lodge Brand 12-inch Shallow Cast Iron Oven: I like Lodge Cast Iron best, because it is made in America and has a proven quality, but that’s just personal preference. Other experienced Dutch cooks may use different brands, so choose whichever you prefer. Sometimes on outdoor excursions I carry an aluminum furnace instead of cast iron to save weight.
– 3 – Shallow metal pans with pointed edges: These are essential and ordinary dog food pans work very well. Place a baking sheet under the oven to protect the embers from moisture and help regulate the heat; and another pan is used to store the coals. The third is a spare that serves to cover the oven and protect it from rain or snow during cooking.
– 1 – Lid Lifter: In a pinch, a pair of channel lock pliers will do the trick.
– 1 – trivet or tripod: This is a metal or wire rack that supports the lid while you stir the contents of the oven or adjust the seasonings. Keeps the lid away from dirt and clean.
– 1 – knife. You probably don’t need a tactical or survival knife (although, in an emergency, the knife you have is a “survival knife”) but you will need something that works for food prep.
– 1- nylon spatula: used for cooking and cleaning the oven.
– 1 – large nylon spoon
The lid lifter, trivet, ‘survival knife’, spatula and spoon all fit into the oven. All of these items fit into a commercial nylon Dutch oven holder. Another great way to transport everything is in a square milk crate. Put metal pans on the bottom and the oven won’t tip over. The loaded crate stacks well.
Cleaning a Dutch oven is easy. Take the spatula, scrape off any leftover food, and fill it with water. (Never put cold water in a hot oven. It could crack.) Put the oven back on the coals and boil the water. Usually this will be enough to clean the oven, and all you have to do is scrape up the softened food residue and wipe it dry. Hit the cast iron with a light film of oil to protect it from rust.
Of course, there are other “nice to have” kitchen items that could be included. But this basic Dutch oven survival kit will get you through.
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