Dutch Oven Experiment

One food I really enjoy that I can’t have often in the van is pizza. Without a microwave or an oven, it’s hard to heat up my own. I could order out — I hear Silly Al’s in Quartzsite is quite good — but even a small pizza is more than I can eat in one sitting, and when it comes to leftovers I’m right back where I started being unable to reheat them. So I decided to try an experiment. I pulled out the cast iron “Dutch oven” pans and tried to heat up a frozen pizza with them.

In a real Dutch oven, you have a fire underneath, and you place hot coals from the fire on top to heat it from both sides. I’m just using a butane stove, so I took the tall half, which would go on top, got it all nice and hot on the stove without anything in it. Then I put the short half on the stove with as low heat as I could get. I put the pizza on it, put the piping hot tall half on top, and let it cook.

I can’t exactly set a piece of cast iron to maintain precisely 350 degrees, so there’s a lot of guesswork involved. My kitchen skills are basically non-existent, so I’m just making this up as I go. I noticed the bottom getting just about cooked while the top, though unfrozen, was still cold, so I turned off the stove completely. When the top half cooled off, I removed everything from the stove, heated up the top half again, and gave it another round.

When it cooled off again it still wasn’t done, so I channeled my inner redneck (after all, I have family in Florida), got out my propane torch, and heated the top up with that. I’m sure when Allyson, who wrote The Reenactor’s Cookbook, reads this it’ll make her twitch. Sorry about that.

Here’s the funniest part: it worked! Due to residual heat, the bottom was a little more crispy than I’d prefer, even though I’d turned off the stove before it got to that point. It was still quite edible, though. Plus, I learned not to heat up the bottom as much in the future.

This is a far cry from gourmet cooking. It’s taking something premade and frozen and warming it up just enough in just the right way to be edible. But it worked, and I’m happy about that. With a little more practice, I should be able to figure out just the right way to make this happen consistently. Maybe someday I’ll even be able to risk doing this without having a backup meal already planned in case this one turns into an inedible chunk of roasted carbon.

One comment

  1. Next time try putting the deep pan on the bottom and the small pan on top, like a lid. That way the sides of the deep pan will contribute more heat to keep the internal temp higher.

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