Yesteryear’s Memories: Dutch Oven

April 6, 2021

With early settlers traveling the prairies of Southern Illinois, there was one article that we may recognize that hasn’t changed much over the years. Cast iron cookware has been very popular in the last two or three centuries, and the so-called Dutch Oven is near the top of the list where it comes to versatility. They can be used to fry, roast, boil, braise, and bake depending on the nature of the meal. It is said that Paul Revere added feet, and the raised edge on the lid to keep hot coals from falling into the food. Hot coals on the lid kept the temperature more even and effectively made the utensil more like a masonry oven.

These cooking pots were initially made from brass, but the demand was so great that cast iron started to be used as it was cheaper. A Dutch sand-casting process was patented for manufacturing, and thus the “Dutch” term got added.

My great great great great grandfather’s will specifically listed a “bell metal skylet” to be left to a daughter because metal cookware was so prized in the late 1700’s. This cast iron equipment was carried in steamer trunks, on covered wagons, and shipped on steamboats as people spread across the United States. Dutch ovens are still admired and appreciated today — and even more the delicious meals that can be created with a good old low tech chunk of iron and a fire.

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