Most Googled: Are Dutch ovens actually from the Netherlands?
If you’re a culinary aficionado, chances are you’ve heard of a Dutch oven. The cooking pots are perfect for slow cooking, and for hundreds of years have been used to make all manner of stews, roasts, casseroles and lots of other traditional dishes.
Although also known as casserole dishes and cocottes in France, the pots have been known as Dutch ovens for over 300 years! In this week’s “Most Googled” article, we’ll take a look at why this multifunctional cooking pot has long been associated with the Netherlands.
What is a Dutch oven?
If you hear the term “Dutch oven” for the first time, it would be understandable if you were left scratching your head, wondering what on earth it means. Does it refer to any oven in the Netherlands? Or just an oven owned by a Dutch person? Maybe they were referring to the silly prank that children laugh about at school?
Actually, a Dutch oven is a particularly thick cooking pot, with a tight-fitting, heavy lid. Today, they are usually made from cast iron, but can also be made from aluminium or ceramic. Similar cooking pots are made using enamelled metals (metals that have been fused with powdered glass), and these are sometimes known as French ovens.
Dutch ovens are an extremely versatile cooking appliance, and can be used to cook stews, soups, casseroles; even bread, cakes and pizzas, and pretty much anything else that can be cooked in a traditional oven. They can be used to braise meat and even cook whole chickens. Dutch ovens are also often favoured by campers as they can be stacked on top of each other to cook several things at once.
Cultures from all over the world use similar cooking pots; they can be likened to Japanese tetsunabe, South African potjie, Moroccan tagines and the Australian Bedourie oven. In the Netherlands, a Dutch oven is called a braadpan, also known as a stoofpot or sudderpan.
So why are they known as Dutch ovens?
The term “Dutch oven” has its roots in the 18th century. Prior to that, brass was commonly used for kitchen appliances and utensils in England. Then in 1702, foundryman Abraham Darby formed the Brass Works Company in Bristol with several of his contemporaries. He apparently visited the Netherlands in 1704, where he discovered the Dutch method of using sand moulds for castings, rather than loam or clay. This method produced a finer finish on the resulting kitchenware.
Darby then founded a new brass mill to produce finer brassware products. It was at this brass mill that he realised he could produce kitchenware a lot cheaper if he used a cheaper metal: cast iron. He tried and failed to produce cast iron appliances using the Dutch sand moulds. However, with the help of a Welshman, one James Thomas; a worker at his foundry, Darby eventually succeeded in casting iron appliances using the sand moulds.
Darby obtained a patent for the process of casting iron in sand around the year 1707. Since this was based on the original Dutch process, the term “Dutch oven” was popularised and has been in regular use since 1710 - so for more than 300 years!
Global love for Dutch ovens
Dutch ovens have become a staple kitchen appliance all over the world due to their versatility, and throughout history have been prized possessions. Not only have they been adapted by various cultures throughout the world, but they have been the cooking method of choice for explorers and campers for centuries. Cowboys in America adapted Dutch ovens to have three legs and a handle, so they were better suited to their needs.
Outside of the world of cowboys, Dutch ovens have actually long been popular in America. They were brought over during the colonial era and were vital cooking appliances due to their versatility. Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark even brought a Dutch oven on their expedition through the American Northwest.
Dutch ovens became so popular and valuable that they were left to specific recipients in people’s wills. Mary Bell Washington (the mother of George Washington) left several Dutch ovens to her grandson and granddaughter in her will. In fact, the Dutch oven is the official cooking pot of the states of Texas, Utah and Arkansas.
In South Africa, indigenous people use phutu pots (named after the popular maize flour porridge) to prepare large amounts of food during holidays and at special occasions like weddings. This tradition actually originated in the Netherlands during the Siege of Leiden (1573-1574) in the midst of the Eighty Years’ War. It was brought to South Africa by Dutch immigrants.
Another question answered
So there you have it, the reason why Dutch ovens are called Dutch ovens. Despite having originally been made in England, the pots got their name from the Dutch process of casting metal in sand - who would have thought?
If you have any more questions about the Netherlands, or anything else you’d like to know about the homeland of the Dutch, sound off in the comments below!