June 19, 2013
How to Control Dutch Oven Temperature: The Rule of Three
By David Draper
Of all my cookware, the Dutch oven is probably the one thing I rely on the most. I use it for braising, frying, and making soups, stews, and chili. But admittedly, it rarely gets put to use outside of the kitchen in the way it was intended—over a campfire or hot coals. My plan is to remedy that this summer.
Dutch oven camp cooking presents a few challenges, not the least of which is temperature control. Varying conditions beyond the cook's control can easily turn a 30-minute bake into an hour's wait. Experienced camp cooks have this down to an art, or maybe it's more of science. One thing I have learned in my research is the Rule of Three.
By taking the diameter of the Dutch oven into account, you can determine the number of coals needed to bring the internal baking temperature up to 325 degrees. Simply subtract three from the Dutch oven's diameter (in my case, 12 inches) for the number of coals that go under the oven (for me, that would be 9) and add three for coals that go on top (15). An additional coal on both the top and bottom will, under ideal conditions, increase the temperature by 25 degrees.
It all seems pretty simple, but if that's too much math for you, just print out this chart from Lodge and pack into your chuck box for reference.