10/26/09

A Full Pot


By Keith Fisher

Have you ever seen a MACA twenty-two-inch Dutch oven? I compared my three-year-old once. She could’ve taken a bath in it. MACA, a casting company out of Springville, Utah, makes thick, deep, Dutch ovens. They offer many smaller sizes too, but they never made a shallow pot. The size and thickness of the casting is great for even heat, but every one is heavy.

I own several MACA’s. From eleven-inch to fifteen, with an oval thrown in, I don’t need a home gym. I could go outside and get a great workout lifting Dutch ovens. I love using my fifteen, because I can cook large roasts and feed many people, using one pot.

Which brings us to the point. Several years ago, while attending a Dutch oven gathering, I watched a man attempt to roast a large piece of beef. It was about 20 lbs with the bone inside. He placed it in a big MACA oval at five p.m. We waited most of the night for it to cook.

A few years ago, while cooking at girl’s camp, I attempted to make a big pot of spare ribs in my fifteen-inch. Because it was taking so long, I ended up using two smaller pots and transferring them into the big pot, to simmer in the sauce.

The thing that neither of us took into account is mass. Sometimes it’s better to use more, shallow pots, in order to get everything cooked right. Big pots are wonderful, but it’s hard to stir several pounds of spareribs. And the larger the piece of meat, the longer it will take. Even at home on the range.

Every spring, we make beef stew, corn bread, and cobbler for the fourth grade in the school where my wife works. As part of their American history unit, the kids study the nineteenth century migrations and finish up with a day of period games, crafts, and Dutch oven cooking. It’s a great honor for us to be part of it.

Because of the number of kids, I’ve learned to appreciate large ovens, but I’ve also learned to make the stew in layers. I start with the onions, when they are done, I add meat chunks. Sometimes I use extra pots because I don’t want to overwhelm the oven. When the meat is done, I set it aside and start cooking the vegetables in the juices from the meat and onions. When the pot comes back up to temperature, I put the meat back, and add spices and make a roux, if needed.

The points are, I try not to let cold ingredients cool off the pot, and I cook in stages. Then, in the final step, the stew simmers for the better part of an hour. (The longer, the better.) The flavors blend just as well as if they had been sitting in the pot together the whole time.

A word of caution, however, If your guest list is small, you might want to cook less food in a smaller pot. That is, of course, unless you want to build up your muscles and have a freezer for the leftovers.

And yet another word, CampChef and lodge make a sixteen-inch, shallow pot, that can fill the need. The capacity is similar, and the area exposed to the heat, allows you to cook several pieces of meat at the same time.




2 comments:

L.T. Elliot said...

It's interesting that you mention roux's. I'm TERRIBLE at roux's. How do you do it?

G. Parker said...

wow...i wouldn't have thought of doing it in stages, though that's kind of what I do with home cooking. Good blog!