Saint Patrick’s Day Feast

Not a lot to say, really. I went to Wally World today and picked up the 14 inch Grand Canyon Dutch Oven that was big enough to take a 1/2 a ham (butt portion) and added a couple of very large Russet Potatoes and some carrots. Then proceeded to the patio to make a Pile Of Bricks surround for the new 14 inch Dutch Oven so as to reduce fuel used.

The result is our Saint Patrick’s Day Feast.

(No I care not one whit what the Pope and Catholics say. He’s a Saint, and I’ll celebrate until I die.)

So, I started with 32 briquettes, but needed to add about a dozen or two more “along the way” along with trying to add some Manzanita along the way (courtesy of P.G. Sharrow) that made wonderfully smelling smoke that was wasted as it was outside the Dutch Oven (but I enjoyed the smell ;-) (The spouse closed the windows into the house as she does not like anything that causes her nose to function… Is “Philistine” a PC term these days?)

At any rate, here is the dinner for tonight, in honor of Saint Patrick:

Ham in Dutch Oven 14 inch Camp Chef

Ham in Dutch Oven 14 inch Camp Chef

The Camp Chef series is a little bit deeper than the Lodge Dutch Ovens. So far, I like it better. You can also see the long ‘probe’ of the oven thermometer. The Camp Chef comes with a small port where you can insert such a thermometer. That, alone, is ‘worth it’ to a dedicated cook. That the Camp Chef is cheaper than the Lodge is just “gravy”. I also got a 4 qt Texasport D.O. It camed lacking seasoning and with now such thermometer port. Yet looks like a decent D.O. A review is to follow… but I think as a low cost option, it is fine. I’m willing to ‘season my own’, and at 1/2 the price, well, that’s well worth it.

Back at dinner…

I put a ‘brick surround” around the D.O. as I think it helps conserve fuel. One thing the thermometer made clear was some simple physics. An empty D.O., or one with a fluffy bread loaf in a pan, has one mass. A D.O. with an 11 pound ham and 4 pounds of vegetables quite another. So the “rule of thumb” that certain briquette counts match a temperature is a bit naive. I had to add a dozen or so briquettes when the ham and potatoes went in. Not so much ‘toward the end’. You have a fixed surface area, and fixed heat transfer. The mass in the pot matters. Rather a lot. (Thus my fixation on having a thermometer port…)

All in all, I really like the Camp Chef line and their allowance for a thermometer port. It lets me have control of the cooking process. ( It was cruising at 275 F when the ham went in. Sans port, I’d have not realized I needed more coals..)

OK, a couple of more pictures (then I really need a Tequila Moment before dinner is served… ;-)

Camp Chef 14 inch Dutch Oven from above with brick surround

Camp Chef 14 inch Dutch Oven from above with brick surround

You can see my attempt to use a bit of Manzaneta on top of the Camp Chef 14 inch Dutch Oven from above with brick surround as charcoal fodder. It is much better as ‘smoking material’. It evolved to survive our endemic fires in California, and smokes more than burns. Best used in the Smoker, IMHO.

OK, here’s a slightly different view:

Dutch Oven Surround

Dutch Oven Surround

So this is a view from the side. The thermometer reads a steady 350 F. Just about right. This was prior to opening the Dutch Oven for the first picture of everything inside.

So, at this point, it’s time for dinner. Just one more shot of Tequila, since, after all, I am Hispanic then time to serve. Enjoy Saint Patrick’s day, all you Irish and Dutch Hispanics! (As the Spanish Empire at one point included the Netherlands, folks of Dutch ancestry, among others, are able to claim being “Hispanic” per USA rules.)

I’d love to say more, but right now, it’s time to serve and feast. ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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18 Responses to Saint Patrick’s Day Feast

  1. John F. Hultquist says:

    Dinner looks great. The “shot” of Tequila . . .
    Oh! I get it. You didn’t shoot a photo of that – You drank it.
    The Irish are proud of you.

  2. p.g.sharrow says:

    I am delighted you were able to give proper Burnt Offerings to the God of Carbon and Life, and the wave offering as well. :-)
    At Castle Kilburn the Lady provided boiled potatoes.carrots,cabbage and corned beef. A wee touch of whiskey to finish. pg

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Well, dinner was quite a success. A tiny bit more cooked than I’d expected. More “medium well” than “medium”, but nothing to complain about.

    I do think I’ve “got clue” now about why things in the D.O. are so much more flavorful. Thanks in part to the thermometer, in part to one of the potatoes.

    A combination of more caramelization and more Maillard reactions.

    The surfaces of the iron are hotter than those of a regular oven in spots and there is more opportunity for some parts of the food to be warmed to excess, as happens in frying chicken in a cast iron skillet, where there are darker, more flavorful “crusty bits” where the chicken has sat in contact with the skillet. (That is why it’s a bad idea to turn the chicken too often when frying…)

    One of the potatoes came out with a very dark brown layer where it had been pressed up against the iron. That bit, and the parts next to it, had much more flavor and richness. Similarly, parts of the ham were more caramelized and richer. I think it is because the iron is closer to the food, and a bit hotter than a tin pan warmed on the outside by hot air only.

    The carrots, too, were divine. A very rich and deep flavor. Makes me want to never see a canned or frozen carrot again. (Honestly.)

    At the end of the process, I find that I can strongly endorse the Camp Chef line of Dutch Oven.

    The thermometer port is highly valuable. The slightly greater depth / width compared to the Lodge let me put in a ham that would not fit in my Lodge. It comes with a lid lifter (that also, as I figured out, has a hook for picking up the whole pot by the bail; so no need for gloves…) It comes already seasoned (and a decent job of it too. I put it, empty, on the coals and got it hot. Didn’t smoke or smell funny or anything. Then added the ham… SIZZZZLle! Also,the lid doubles as a skillet of sorts (with its own built in legs). I haven’t tried that feature, but it looks like it will do fine.

    Frankly, at this point, were I heading out “into the woods”, I’d take one of their Dutch Ovens in preference to most of my regular cookware. (Pot, frying pan). Taking only a small pot or kettle for making hot tea / coffee / cocoa, and maybe some other small pot for heating small dishes.

    At some point I need to do a “compare and contrast” on the three brands I’ve got, but the bottom line is that the Lodge is good, but a bit over priced, the Texasport (that I’ve not actually used yet) looks good and did well in the seasoning run – but comes unseasoned and waxed, so you need to deal with that, but at about 1/2 to 1/3 the price, and the Camp Chef is “in between” in price, but ahead in all features.

    Oh, and I’m very happy with the way the brick ‘surround’ helped keep the heat in and steady. I think it does reduce fuel use. I’d guess that, all up, I used about 48 briquettes worth of charcoal to cook a nearly 8 pound ham with side vegetables over a 2 hour 40 minute period. Not bad, really. Not bad at all. ( I need to weigh some of those and see what the mass is.. I’ll put that data here in a few minutes).

    What else impresses me is how the clean up is just not very hard. Yes, the D.O. and charcoal are “messy”. Charcoal dust and all. But once the food is out of the pot and it is cooled ( I brush the charcoal dust off at the pit, outside, with a heat proof fireplace brush) it’s just wipe with a wet sponge, rinse, wipe again, rinse again ( you could likely cut that in half, but I “sin” and use a slightly soaped sponge the first go through) then wipe down with cooking oil.

    I’ve also come to be quite fond of my “Pile Of Bricks” method. It is a highly flexible way to extend fuel efficiency and deal with wind issues. At some point I need to to an A / B test of temperature in a pot with / without the surround. But not, I think, today ;-)

    Now that I have a pot with thermometer, I’ll be trying a loaf of bread again. It will take less coals, and I can now calibrate how many. I’ve come to appreciate that the dynamics of a D.O. are different. Instead of a set temperature and variable fuel, you have set fuel and variable heat flow. More mass in the pot means lower internal temperature. Fluffy bread in the pot means higher temperature. Obvious, really, when thought about; but I’d not thought about it much… The ‘formula’ for briquettes vs temperature needs the terms of:

    Size of pot, mass and composition of contents, desired temperature.

    The “rule of thumb” methods ( ring top / bottom for 350 F for example) are only true for a moderate pot contents mass of medium wet composition – like a chicken. More stuff, like a large ham and bunch of potatoes, took more charcoal to get to 350 F (though not so much to keep cruising once at that temperature) while the isolated loaf of bread went to about 500 F on the same charcoal as it was low mass and insulative / fluffy.

    But with the thermometer notch, I can rapidly learn new “rules of thumb” for selected pot meals and breads.

    It is now approaching midnight, so I ought to be heading off. It’s been a nice evening. Very nice, actually. But now the eyes are getting heavy and I’m hearing the bed softly murmuring “warm… soft… warm… soft… snuggley… “

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, took 5 briquettes and weighed them (both individually and as a group). Individually, most were 1.3 oz and one was 1.4 oz. The “group” was 6.7 (that gives 1.34 oz average)

    For 48 (estimated) briquettes, that’s 4 lbs ( 64.32 ounces ) at about $1/3 / lb, for $1.34 (odd, that… the same number…)

    In the electric oven, it’s about 4 kW but of intermittent duty, so we need to guess that part. Call it 50%. So 2 kW-hr / hr, for about 3 hours (including preheat). 6 kW-hrs. At a marginal rate of $0.29 / kW-hr (as any reduction comes ‘at the margin’, so my highest rate tranche) that is $1.74 estimated.

    That makes it about 40 cents cheaper, per meal, to use the Dutch Oven at present California electric rates. (Going the other way, my D.O. runs to about 22 cents / kW-hr equivalent benefit, which is inside the error bands of the minimum baseline tranche tariff rate.)

    Even without using “found fuel”, and buying charcoal at Walmart, it is more economical (and tastes a lot better too!) to use the Dutch Oven with charcoal than to bake in an electric oven.

    Now if I can improve the “surround” for even more efficiency, and maybe use some “downed wood” for part of the fuel, this could be a real money saver… When our peak tariff hits $1/2 per kW-hr (that is in the works), it is about 1/2 the cost.

    As the smaller Dutch Ovens use less charcoal / meal, while the Electric Oven is constant regardless of what you put in it, this is the “worst case” and all other cases will be even more profitable. ( The 14 inch Dutch Oven is very large. Those “dinky carrots” are full sized. Those were rather large potatoes – big bakers, and that ham was a 1/2 ham butt portion at almost 8 pounds.)

    So this is rather interesting… At some point I’ll need to ‘do the math’ on driving up into the woods and collecting various wood types. I’ll also need to see how it does on Bamboo (of which I have large piles… it grows fast and composts slow…) Maybe even price out a 1/2 cord of wood. (That’s about 1/2 ton and last I looked was about $100 to $200 depending on type in San Jose, so about 10 cents to 20 cents / lb, but that needs a BTU vs charcoal adjustment) In any case, be it delivered cord wood or low end generic charcoal from Wally World, it is cheaper to use the Dutch Oven and “burn plants” than to use electricity in San Jose.

    Thanks, Rabid Green Energy Fanatics, for pushing the price of electricity up here so much that I’ll be burning wood and charcoal (briquettes are partly made from coal… it is pressed coal dust and wood) and putting lots of Carbon Dioxide and smoke into the air, rather than making my roasts in an electric oven. (We mostly use hydroelectric and nuclear here in California, with some natural gas turbines. So very very clean and little pollution made. Too bad it’s more expensive than burning trees…)

    So I now have a very nice solution for “wet roast meals”. I am ‘on my way’ to a solution for baked breads. ( I have all the parts, just need to calibrate my charcoal level) I’m also pretty sure that the ‘small Dutch Oven’ or maybe even just a pot, set on top of the coals when roasting can be used to heat a ‘side dish’. I’ve also gotten good at using the Camp Stove for making coffee and tea. Gasoline is ‘way cheaper’ than electricity for that. So at this point, unless it is raining, I have little need to use the All Electric Kitchen.

    Sometime this summer I hope to get the gas range installed inside the house. Then only the baking will be electric and I’ll have a partly electric kitchen. There being no practical way to put flue on the oven space, it will stay electric. But I’ll be baking out doors on wood or charcoal.

    As next fall comes, I’ll need to relocate the “baking area” to under the awning on the patio. But there is plenty of time for that. Heck, maybe I’ll even set it up in the fireplace. There is room for it, and the heat would help in the winter. Might even get me a pass from the “Fireplace Police” (we have ‘no burn’ days in winter when using a fireplace is forbidden… but I think if it’s cooking you get a pass… the back yard BBQ does for sure.)

    Ah, the things we do to save the planet… burn trees… smoke up the air… But at least I’m not using nasty fully scrubbed natural gas or coal fired electricity, or, horrors, zero emissions nuclear power… /sarc…

    At the present rate of progress, I estimate my cooking methods will have advanced all the way to what my grandparents did on the old farm in the 1800s in about 4 more months. Progress!

    But you know, all kidding aside, the food really does taste a whole lot better from the Dutch Oven. It’s not just a psychological thing from being out in the woods camping. Even at home, it is the method itself that makes the difference.

    I’d be tempted to get one of those ‘no legs’ iron pots they call dutch ovens that are designed to go into a regular oven and see if I could get the same effect from it… but that would involve using my AEK, and that is just not worth it. It costs too much…

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Yes, after licking the salt the Tequila gets waved around, then swallowed, then the empty glass gets really waved around while biting the citrus ;-)

    I’d have done a corned beef, but since the spouse and I are both being a bit arthritic on beef (but not on pork or chicken) we have to moderate beef intake. So a roast ham instead. Did get the potatoes in though ;-)

    Glad to hear you and yours had a nice evening as well. I’d have finished with a wee dram of Whiskey m’self, had I any… but the Tequila was to hand, so I “made do” ;-) If you look to the lower left of the pictures you can see some ’empty’ citrus rinds… The grate they are on is the 1950s era iron grate from the giant inefficient and hard to use built in BBQ on which this whole thing is setting.

  5. EM – possibly you could just drill a suitable hole in the DOs that do not have a thermometer port.

    It does seem somewhat crazy that the utility power is more expensive than burning charcoal. Since that is so, though, it would seem that building a charcoal-fired (or found wood-fired) oven into the already-existing chimney might be a useful thing to build, and would give you somewhere to cook on wet/cold days when the patio is not such a nice place to be.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Simon Derricutt:

    It is hard to drill cast iron. It would be easy to just cut a notch with a grinding wheel. But yes, I can add one.

    I’m more likely to just “calibrate me” instead. I don’t really want to watch a thermometer for 3 hours ;-) So if I can learn that the “Dutch Oven Formula” is something like “A pound of charcoal for the pot and 1/2 the weight of the food”, then I can do other things while it bakes. So I figure 4 data points, plot and solve for the formula. Empty, 1, 2, and 4 lbs of food. Only the ’empty run’ is for data gathering only. The others will just be ‘meals as I cook them’.

    Yes, really stupid that electric rates here, driven by wasteful wind and solar projects, are so high that it is more economical to burn trees and bagged charcoal. Such is the “Green Stupidity”. But “it is what it is”.

    Per indoor: I can just set the pot in the fireplace. Likely just burn a log and use those coals, too. Don’t know that I’ll do even that, though. We get about 7 to 10 inches of rain, sometimes up to 20 inches, per year. It comes in “monsoon” patterns, sometimes in one series of strong storms. (Like a few weeks back). Most of the rest of the 4 months when we can possibly get significant rain; it is dry. We’re talking maybe 2 to 4 wet days a month most of the ‘possibly wet’ 1/2 year, with about 2 weeks of ‘lots of rain’ in one or two months. If those days I use the electric oven, or even do: frying, saute, boil, cold cuts, deep fat fried, microwave, or even ‘take out’; well, not a hardship. If I spend 4 days of a month baking bread in the electric oven, that’s about $1.50 that month. Maybe $15 for the whole rainy season. At that rate it’s hard to make a case for spending much time or money on it. It’s a California Mindset, I guess. When ‘really raining’ is a few days of the year and barely measured in weeks, it just isn’t a concern.

    If I do make something indoors, it will be more because I want to play with it, than for a reasoned case of saving money on the power bill. Something like using the fireplace for the ambiance of warmth and cooking both… a “retro cauldron in the fireplace” kind of thing ;-)

    Oh, and one other thing: During very cold times, we often get “spare the air days” and doing wood burning is banned in the fireplace. Yet there is an exemption for outdoor BBQ. So it’s also logistically easier to just set it on a bed of coals on the patio. No need to worry about the “Fireplace Police” as dinner is just started in the pot and they call it a ‘no burn’ day… Yeah, more California Lunacy.

    So we are cutting down trees here and sending them to the UK to be burned to make expensive electricity, instead of burning them here to make cheap house heating. Both “to be green”. Both bad engineering decisions. Both lining someone’s pocket or giving them a ‘power trip’.

  7. EM – could be the type of spade bit used for drilling glass and tiles will give you a good hole in the brittle type of cast-iron used for pots, but I haven’t tried it specifically on this type of pot.

    Meantime, it seems likely that fairly soon we’ll have some sort of nuclear power source sufficiently small for heating the house or cooking. One can hope….

  8. John F. Hultquist says:

    I noticed the potato against the side.

    No time this AM. I’m off to help prune wine grapes. I’ll just mention that a slab of Salmon roasted over an open ‘cuttings’ fire is one great way to prepare a meal on a summer evening. The cuttings fire is also the source of heat for
    . . . with potatoes brought from home, this was the mid-day meal for the vine pruners. Got-a-go.

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    It is nearly trivial to use an abrasive blade and just cut a ‘notch’ straight down the edge of pot and lid. (Turned to align, you have a thermometer port, out of alignment, a normal sealed lid).

    To cut the notch, all is stable and it’s straight down into the edge. About as easy a cut as can be done.

    Attempting to drill a hole in hard materials from the side at the edge would be very hard, whatever the bit, as things will want to ‘wander”. Then you end up with a circular hole where alignment of the two holes is less perfect than can be done with a simple notch.

    Don’t know why you are so fixated on drilling. This problem is much more easily and effectively solved with cutting.

    Look at the photo with the food in it. Notice the thermometer going through a squarish notch. It’s a solved problem.

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Yup, that potato has a more “richly flavored” band where it pressed against the pot. Similarly the crusty bits on the ham.

    Like that bit of food history about cuttings fires and cheeses… Maybe I ought to plant grapes just so I get the cuttings ;-)

  10. Larry Geiger says:

    Most Dutch Oven recipes give you a suggested number of coals for the botton and for the top. The problem is that almost all recipes are designed for the 12inch Lodge DO. We follow the recipes and the number of coals (always Kingsford, just to be consistent). Seems to work out fine. The tall, 14in, I would presume, would use more than the standard recipe.

    We cook stews and lasagna and stuff, but baking is the most fun. Biscuits for breakfast with sausage gravy, pies, cakes, cobblers for dinner. Yum.

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Larry Geiger:

    I’ve got a book on Dutch Oven cooking (that I need to find ;-) that does that. But I also have a lot of ‘things I regularly cook’ that are not a recipe. So I need to be ‘calibrated’ myself. Probably reading the cookbook I can get some of that; but it’s fun to do some of the ‘figuring it out’ for myself ;-)

    All the bread recipes I’ve seen have round lump breads. I’m looking to do baked in a cake pan. That was very different on coals needed (as most of the D.Oven is empty…) as one example.

    Cobbler…. hmmm…. I’ve never made a cobbler before, but I really like them ;-)

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  13. Simon Derricutt says:

    EM – I suppose I’m a bit fixated on drilling a hole since I see the possibility of a slot being a source of cracks, considering the temperature cycling and the material. If you don’t see this problem, it’s not a problem….

    Since the DO encloses the food, the paraffin/kerosene burners should also give the same result at possibly less cost than the charcoal with better control of the temperature. It won’t smell as nice as the manzanita on the patio, though.

  14. Matthew W says:

    Since I HATE boiled food, this is my kind of St Pats dinner !!

  15. Matthew W says:

    March 2013 at 6:30 pm
    Cobbler…. hmmm…. I’ve never made a cobbler before, but I really like them ;-)
    Umpity decades ago at a Boy Scout Jamboree, I made a peach cobbler in a dutch oven.
    It was horrendous !!!
    But, it did earn us enough extra points to win an award that weekend.

    Sure I could do better today !!!

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    Welding cast iron is hard. Grinding a slot, maybe not so much ;-)

    I’d be open to “drilling” if straight down into the edge, I just see that as hard to do. Using a grinding wheel on cast iron is pretty much accepted.

    Yes, cast iron is a bit more picky than other materials but not so you’d notice with a grinding wheel, IMHO. Maybe “I’ll let you know” on one of the ones I have now :-)

    Yes, a D.O. is very forgiving of fuel source. On the “someday ToDo” list is try a D.O. in a kerosene fired fire. Probably about 2 months away?

    The Manzanita did smell nice ;-)

    But it reminded me of what I already knew…

    When “brush fires” broke out around my home town area hills, the Manzanita would survive. Why? It didn’t “burn”. Major limbs ( that were only 3 inches or so in diameter) would get burned / scorched places and all the leaves would die. Yet the wood didn’t burst into flame in modest fires. Just smouldered. Then went out.

    This stuff is well adapted to woodland fires. Only burning up entirely in hot concentrated fires.

    So no real surprise that the stuff smokes well and burns not so well.

    And yes, the smell is “very nice” even if it does remind me of various forest fires of my youth… (Though now I understand the “old hand” forest fire fighters who said things about “smoking lunch over manzanita”…)

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