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Dutch Oven Temperature Control


With our thanks to Jeff Currier,
International Dutch Oven Society, for this text

There are several ways to test the temperature of your Dutch oven. I will go over some of these ways, but the one main way to test the temperature is to lift the lid. If the food is not cooking enough add some heat. If it’s cooking too fast take off some heat. Remember, it’s much easier to raise the temperature of cast iron than to lower it.

Here is one way to test the temperature of a heated oven:

  1. Place a teaspoonful of flour in a small pie pan and put the pan inside a hot Dutch oven.
  2. Place the lid on the oven and leave it for 5 minutes.
    1. If the flour has not turned brown, the oven is less than 300 degrees.
    2. If the flour is light brown, the oven is about 350 degrees.
    3. If the flour is dark brown, the oven is about 450 degrees.

Note: If the flour is dark brown after 3 minutes, reduce the heat, the oven is too hot to cook with.

There is a good way to set the temperature. It could be called the 2-3 briquette rule. Using this rule, you take the size of the oven and place that amount of briquettes on the lid and place that amount under the oven.

Then take 2-3 briquettes from the bottom and move them to the top. This technique will maintain a temperature of 325 to 350 degrees. Refer to the table below for common oven sizes. For every 2 briquettes added or subtracted to/from this the net change is about 25 degrees.

These temperature changes are for the Rocky Mountain area, where the cooking altitude is about 4000-6000 ft. If you live in lower or higher area, check these settings with an oven thermometer to make sure they are OK. I mention this because temperatures inside a Dutch oven are effected by altitude. [Ed. – these numbers work well enough here in Oklahoma, altitude 1,500 ft, but I use the lower numbers in each range]

There are a couple of other things to remember about temperature control. The first is that you should rotate your oven a third of a turn every ten minutes. And then rotate the lid a third of a turn the other direction. Next if you are baking bread, rolls, or cake remove the bottom heat after two thirds of the cooking time. It will finish cooking from the top heat. This will keep it from burning on the bottom.

Use this chart as a starting point
and adjust from there!
OvenĀ  size Briquettes on top Briquettes on bottom
8″ 8 – 10 6 – 8
10″ 10 – 12 8 – 10
12″ 12 – 14 10 – 12
14″ 14 – 16 12 – 14
16″ 16 – 18 14 – 16