Learn how to make a tasty beef stew in a Dutch oven when you are out camping or in your own back yard.
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Step 1: Assemble Ingredients and Equipment
If you don't already have a Dutch oven, be sure to choose one that has legs to hold it up above the coals and a tight fitting lid with a raised rim. You will also need:
-A seasoned Dutch oven--this recipe is for a 10" oven
-A very heavy oven mitt, welder's glove or hook for moving the oven and lid
-Tongs for moving the coals - Don't use the same tongs to handle food!
-A suitable location as covered in the next step
-Knife, Cutting Board, Large Spoon, you know--the usual stew making implements
-Canola or Corn Oil, Enough to thickly coat bottom of Dutch Oven
-1 Lb. Stew Meat, Cubed
-1 Yellow Onion, Diced
-1 Green Bell Pepper, Cut into 1" Pieces
-3 Medium Carrots, Cut into 1" Pieces
-4 Ribs of Celery, Cut into 1" Pieces
-1/2 Lb. Fingerling Potatoes, Cut into (you guessed it!) 1" Pieces
-1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley
-Vegetable Bouillon Cube
-1/2 Cup Red Wine
-1/2 Cup Water
-Salt and Pepper
This recipe serves 2-4 depending on side dishes and how ravenous you may be. This stew takes 2-3 hours to cook once you've plunked the lid on so be sure allow enough time, including prepping your ingredients.
Step 2: Choose a Spot
Once your ingredients are assembled and prepared, you'll need to choose a spot to do the actual cooking. Find an area that is flat, bare ground away from combustible materials. Set your oven on the ground and trace a circle around it to mark the spot and show how much space you have to lay the coals.
Step 3: Light Coals
Pile your coals in a separate spot or use a chimney starter. Light the coals and let them burn until they are mostly covered with gray ash. For my 10" oven I used sixteen coals. After about an hour and a half of cooking you'll need to replace the coals so make sure you have another sixteen on hand. Since you are cooking on the ground be sure to keep a close eye on children and pets!
Step 4: Arrange Coals
When the coals are ready, arrange a dozen of them inside the circle on the ground. Space them evenly with a little room between for air to circulate.
Step 5: Place the Dutch Oven
Place your Dutch oven over the coals. You might have to wiggle it a bit to fit the legs around the coals and get them firmly on the ground. Ideally it should be above the coals and not sitting directly on them, but it won't hurt if it is. Dutch ovens and their lids are heavy so always be sure you have a firm footing and a good, heatproof grip when lifting them!
Step 6: Start Cooking!
Now the fun really begins! Once the oven has heated up for a couple of minutes, add the cooking oil. You'll know it's hot enough when the surface of the oil is shimmering.
Step 7: Brown Meat
Carefully add the meat to the oven. Stir it around periodically for a minute or two until it's nicely browned on all sides.
Step 8: Add Onions
When the meat is browned, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened.
Step 9: Add Rest of Ingredients
Dump the rest of the vegetables into the oven and stir. Add the parsley, wine, water and bouillon cube, season with some salt and fresh pepper and stir again.
Step 10: Cover Oven and Stew the Stew
Place the lid on the oven. Were you wondering why we lit 16 coals but only put down twelve? It's because four go on the cover. Arrange them equally around the edge. This is the cool thing about Dutch oven cooking. Heat is applied from the bottom and the top, sort of like your kitchen oven. But, because there are coals on the top, you'll need to be very careful to lift the cover straight up when checking on the stew. Don't let ashes fall in or all your work may be wasted.
Every twenty minutes lift the whole oven by the handle and give it a quarter turn to compensate for any uneven heating. After you turn the pot, gently rotate the lid a quarter turn in the opposite direction.
Start checking the coals after an hour or so and when they are getting to where they are mostly burned up, light your second batch. When they are ready, carefully move the oven aside, knock down the ashes from the first batch, and arrange them as before.
Cook the stew until the vegetables are done. Set the cover aside someplace safe and serve.
This recipe is very flexible as far as the ingredients you use so feel free to adjust it as you wish or adapt your own favorite stew recipe to the technique. Cooking in a Dutch oven is something of an adventure so if you have to have precisely controlled conditions to cook it may not be for you. Yet, with some practice and attention to what you're doing, it's a fun way to make a special and memorable meal for family or friends.