Monday, September 08, 2014

Shallow vs. deep camp oven

Chef Steven with three shallow
and two deep camp ovens at
Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders'
50th birthday celebration in Oroville,
California, December 2002.
Selecting the right pan or pot is as much a science as cooking the meal itself. Capacity and shape are important features to consider when selecting a cast iron Dutch oven. Each  plays an important role in how the dish cooks in the pot. Cast iron ensures even cooking, slow transfer of heat to the product and heat retention in the pot. And its well-developed patina helps the cooking surface resist sticking.

The question being asked here is whether you will use a regular or shallow Dutch oven or a deep model? The popular manufacturers cast Dutch ovens in both sizes. Lodge Manufacturing, for instance, produces a line regular and deep camp ovens in 10-, 12- and 14-inch diameter pots.

The Lodge deep 10-inch camp oven holds one additional quart of volume and is five-eighths-inch deeper than the shallower model. The Lodge deep 12- and 14-inch camp ovens each hold an extra two quarts and are one and one-quarter inch deeper. The deeper ovens feature a narrower base.

Camp Chef also manufactures a line of deep camp ovens in 10- and 12-inch diameters. Their camp ovens are made to similar specifications used by Lodge. Lodge uses the term “camp oven” to differentiate ovens made for outdoor cooking from home-style Dutch ovens.

The added height and capacity of the deeper camp ovens provides extra headroom. This lets the outdoor cook prepare fit larger roasts and poultry into the Dutch oven without being cut into smaller pieces. Deep ovens are also useful for bread baking, stewing and frying.

When considering the type of Dutch oven to use, look at the pan or pot you’d use for a recipe inside the home kitchen. You want to select the Dutch oven that best fits that profile. For instance, a layered dish, like lasagna, works best inside the wide, flat confines of a regular oven while a rib roast can only fit in a deeper oven.

The regular or shallow camp oven is best used for any recipe that benefits from the shallow pan with a wide base. Use for rolls, biscuits, cookies and cakes; casseroles, lasagna and other layered dishes; small cuts of meat, fish and poultry; etc. The wide base also makes a better skillet than the narrow base of the deep camp oven.

Cakes are best baked in a regular Dutch oven. The shallow oven and wide base more closely mimics the shape and size of a standard round aluminum cake pan. This allows for even baking while maintaining moderate depth in the cake.

As explained above, the deep camp oven is best when you need extra depth for large cuts of meat and poultry, loaves of bread, or any dish where you want the extra headroom. The also make good bean pots. The narrow base lets you concentrate heat and moisture around pieces of meat and vegetables, thus minimizing the likelihood of the dish drying out. Use the deep oven for stews and soups as well.

For meat and poultry, the size of the piece determines the oven to use. A whole chicken, for instance, requires a deep oven because of its size and structure while several smaller Cornish hens should neatly fit inside a regular oven. Cut-up chicken (individual pieces or quarters) works best in a regular oven where the wide base and shallow headroom allow for even heat distribution and cooking.

Next time you want to cook in a Dutch oven, consider whether a shallow or deep oven is best for the dish. While it's possible to interchange these ovens (as I have done many times), consider the advantages of each oven. The deep camp oven is best reserved for dishes that neatly fit inside its deep profile. The same hold true for the shallow oven.

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