Every year, since I was 9 years old, my family has been going to Jackson Hole, WY to camp along the banks of the Snake River and to go whitewater rafting.
In an effort to minimize the amount of work that must be done in the kitchen while at camp, the week prior to the trip is set aside to prepare as much of the food as possible. Food assignments are divvied out among those who are attending and everyone takes a part in preparing something; a sauce, browning meat, cutting chicken, washing lettuce, etc. By the end of the week much of the meal prep is complete and all that is needed to prepare each meal is to put it all together and heat it up. It’s a nice little system and it allows the cooks the opportunity to play along everyone else rather, than slave away in the kitchen all day.
This is that week. Well…it would be…if we were going…but for the first time since I can remember, the trip isn’t happening. I’m more than just a little bit sad about it but rather than dwell on what cannot be, I’m going to share some of the most memorable bits and bites from years past.
The portable outdoor kitchen has grown over the years in order to accommodate the 40-65+ people who accompany us, there are a few items that have been coming along since the beginning. One such kitchen essential are our Lodge dutch ovens. I don’t know what it is but eating food that has been prepared in a dutch oven, after a day spent paddling an 8-man raft into the eye of over a dozen rapids, flipping capsized rafts, water fighting other boats, pulling rafters in [and out] of the raft all while keeping a keen eye out for mutiny among your own raftmates, just tastes better than food prepared by conventional methods.
Although dutch oven cooking really isn’t that difficult, for someone who doesn’t have much experience with charcoal or open flame cooking, it may seem a little intimidating. (At least it was for me the first few times I tried it) So, to lessen the intimidation factor I’ll start with something relatively simple, dutch oven BBQ/Teriyaki Chicken.
The most difficult part of this recipe (and really any dutch oven recipe) is adjusting and distributing the heat so that you cook your food properly. How much heat you use depends on the size of your oven. How to distribute the heat depends on what your cookin’
First – Calculate the heat
The general rule is to use twice the amount of coals as the diameter of the oven. For this recipe I used a 12-inch deep dutch oven, therefore 24 coals will be used on the oven at any given time.
Second – start your briquettes
Start more than you’ll need incase you need to replace some once you get started.
I prefer to use charcoal that has NOT been pretreated with lighter fluid because we have found that charcoal with lighter fluid starts out super hot, but loses it’s heat quicker and thus must be replaced more often in order to ensure the food is cooked properly.
I also prefer to start my charcoal in a chimney. The chimney keeps the coals from losing too much heat plus it’s easier to keep the coals going.
Third – determine your cooking method
Baking = more heat on top than on bottom
Roasting = even heat
Stewing = more heat on bottom than on top
Frying/boiling = all the heat on the bottom.
For this recipe, we prefer to stew so we distribute the heat with a little more on bottom (14) than on top (10).
Once you’ve done all the calculations it’s time to cook.
Place your chicken in a well seasoned dutch oven and coat with the sauce of your choice. (Since we’re camping and I want to keep it simple, I prefer to use my favorite store bought sauce.) Replace the lid on the dutch oven. Put the dutch oven over the coals and then place the needed amount of briquettes evenly, on the lid. Cook for 2 hours, rotating the lid and oven a ¼ turn every half hour or so to ensure there are no hot spots burning the food. If necessary, replace dying coals with new. If you’d like the chicken to have a nice char on it before serving, thrown the chicken pieces on a hot grill for 2-4 minutes.
For more information on dutch oven cooking please visit The Dutch Oven Dude. He has a handy little calculator to help you figure out how many coals to use and he has a lot more information on how to prepare your ovens and such. Just make sure that you write down the numbers BEFORE you leave camping as hopefully wherever you are going will be out of range for cell and internet service and you will not be able access the information once you arrive.
Dutch oven BBQ/Teriyaki Chicken
12” deep dutch oven
10 lbs chicken thighs and drumsticks, skinless
40 oz bottle of BBQ or teriyaki sauce
- Heat coals
- Place chicken into a dutch oven and coat with desired amount of sauce.
- Replace lid and put dutch oven over 14 hot briquettes. Place 10 briquettes on top and let cook for 2 hours. Chicken is done when it begins to fall off the bone.
Notes: Rotate lid and/or dutch oven a ¼ turn every ½ hour to avoid hot spots and scorching. Replace coals that have burned to ash with new hot coals to ensure the chicken cooks in the time allowed.
Source: family file, Apron Appeal original.