Before we delve into this question at greater length, it is probably worth noting that the modern Dutch Oven can be used on all heat sources.
That might feel like a useless piece of information to some but establishing clarity on that can be a little daunting, when there are so many heat sources available in 21st century cooking.
What Heat Sources Can Be Used For Dutch Oven Cooking? While most Dutch Oven manufacturers have put considerable thought into this – and have the boxes ticked – the most common heat sources for Dutch Oven cooking include gas stoves, solid electric stoves, radiant cooking, induction cooking, ceramic glass and even fire. Fire was the initial source for Dutch Oven cooking.
In the context of the 21st century, gas, oil, coal and wood are all suitable sources for Dutch Oven cooking too. Based on that alone, we can safely conclude that you could conceivably cook with a Dutch Oven at exceedingly high temperatures. Fires are never cold.
The jury is out on whether that (cooking at very high temperatures) would be advisable or not for somebody trying to protect their Dutch Oven in both the short and long term. One fear that will come to mind for most Dutch Oven users is the prospect of the cookware becoming sticky.
As we have already established in previous blog posts on this page, excessive heat is often at the source of the problems for those among you who encounter Dutch Ovens that stick.
So, while you are at liberty to throw caution to the wind when cooking with a Dutch Oven, it is advised that you only ever cook at medium to low temperatures when using a Dutch Oven. A key consideration here is that the Dutch Oven retains heat so well.
All this really means though, is that cooking at a certain temperature will protect your Dutch Oven – which you no doubt spent a considerable amount on. Does that mean cooking at exceedingly high temperatures is dangerous? Not yet.
Try To Never Cook Dry With A Dutch Oven
If you are going to cook with your Dutch Oven at any heat level, it is ill-advised to do that cooking dry. That is to say, you should always try to ensure that there is some form of liquid, oil or fat source covering the entire surface of your Dutch Oven base, especially when preheating your Dutch Oven.
That would naturally be particularly important when cooking at high heat levels. Dutch Ovens with black enamel would be the exceptions that make the rule in this regard. If and when you do decide to cook dry with your Dutch Oven, make sure you never leave it unattended while cooking.
Medium And Low Heat Produce The Best Results
People who purchase and use Dutch Ovens are normally pretty specific about their cooking requirements. They want the food they cook in a Dutch Oven to come out a certain way. Most of those cooking expectations will only ever be met if and when you decide to cook at low or medium temperatures.
A defining characteristic of a Dutch Oven is that it promotes slow cooking. That also normally ensures that all the nutrients in your food are locked in while cooking. Your best meals will certainly come from slow cooking and the same principle would actually apply even when you are frying and sauteing food on cast iron.
Dutch Ovens – When To Cook At High Heats
You are only ever likely to cook at high heat with a Dutch Oven when you are boiling food. That would ordinarily apply to when you are cooking something like pasta or vegetables. Not only is this the most likely time for you to cook at high heat, it is probably the only time you should cook at high heat with your Dutch Oven.
There is a tendency for people to preheat their Dutch Ovens, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. There are perfectly good reasons to preheat your Dutch Oven when cooking. However, you should not do this at very high temperatures.
Again, it is the Dutch Oven that will likely suffer more than you if you do preheat it at high temperatures. We aren’t sure we can call that dangerous yet. Just a major inconvenience because it will most likely have an adverse impact on your cooking.
For one, food you cook with the Dutch Oven will likely start sticking as a result. When thrashing these issues out, something that should never be lost on people is that Dutch Ovens retain heat very well. Excessive heat is almost always detrimental to your Dutch Oven cooking.
Oven Use Is Perfectly Fine, Just A Little More Complicated
While people are likely to do most of their Dutch Oven cooking on a stove top – or even on a fire – the actual kitchen oven is something that will need to be taken into consideration at some point.
It is certainly when you will need to start thinking about the temperatures you use for the Dutch Oven a little more attentively. It is probably a good idea to be a little more specific on the numbers too – and once you are clear on them, stick to those numbers. Limit your Dutch Oven experimentation here.
Most manufacturers will advise that you never heat your oven to more than 260 degrees celsius.
That would equate to 500 Fahrenheit or if you are using a gas setting, never go above 6 (European Standards) on those settings. Those are all your maximum temperatures for Dutch Ovens…when used in ovens.
Also, do not use a wooden Dutch Oven handle when cooking with this method. Cast iron handles are fine and probably the best way to go about it actually. Stainless steel knobs are also perfectly adequate.
We have been long winded in our response to the original question but this is where the element of danger does very much come into play. It has more to do with the handling of the Dutch Oven than anything else though.
Cast iron handles and/or stainless steel knobs will heat very quickly when cooking or baking in an oven. Anybody who has ever used an oven already knows this, but you need to use a dry cloth or suitable oven gloves to remove the Dutch Oven when you are done cooking or baking.
Again, an important consideration to make is that the Dutch Oven – whether traditional or modern – retains heat better than any other cookware on the market.
Any form of recklessness on your part here can result in the sustaining of serious burns and potentially worse than that, depending on the circumstances in your household. The same principle should actually apply when you are using a Dutch Oven on the stovetop. Hold with your hands at your own peril.
When you open the lid to the Dutch Oven, is also when you should pay attention to potential danger.
Remember that a Dutch Oven retains a lot of heat. When considering that, you should also bear in mind just how much damage steam can do. Never stand directly above the Dutch Oven when opening the lid.
That is pretty much all we have to say about that.