Cooking over a fire in cast iron pots dates back centuries to the time at which humankind first learned to forge tools out of the Earth’s metals. Cast iron camp ovens gained in popularity and helped to feed the American expansion west, from Lewis & Clark to early American settlers. Cooking in a Dutch oven can be done in the kitchen in an oven, buried in the ground in a pit of hot coals, over a campfire, or on the grill. There are numerous methods for using a cast iron Dutch oven and special care must be taken to properly season an oven. You can make anything from breakfast to desserts in this classic cooking vessel.
On a cold winter’s day this recipe for homemade baked beans in the Dutch oven is one you can make easily on the grill, requiring some time yet very little effort, and resulting in a fantastic dish everyone will love. If using a new Dutch oven, consult standard instructions for seasoning your pot before its initial use. To get started, you will need:
- 1 pound dried Great Northern Beans
- 1 pound dried Pinto Beans
- 3 cups barbecue sauce
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pound bacon, cut into 1/2'” pieces
- ¼ cup brown sugar
Place beans in a large pot on the stove (twice the size in volume as the beans themselves) in water, covering at least 2” higher than the beans. Bring beans to a boil and continue cooking for an hour. Remove beans from heat and allow them to soak in the same water for an additional 1 ½ to 2 hours. Rinse beans, place back in pot and bring beans back to a boil on the stove and cook for an additional ½ hour to an hour, or until beans begin to tender (this is a quick-method for preparing dried beans, the alternative is to soak the beans in water for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight). When beans are done, drain and add chopped onion, brown sugar and barbecue sauce and mix thoroughly. Place sliced and chopped bacon in the bottom of the Dutch oven and add bean mixture on top of bacon.
Prepare your grill to a medium heat around 350°F using lump hardwood charcoal and chunks of hardwood for additional smoke and flavor. If using a gas grill, add a smoker box or foil pouch with wood chips for the same effect. The entire intent of making these beans on the grill is to impart the flavors of the grill to the beans; don’t be stingy with the smoke! Place Dutch oven on the grill, uncovered, and continue to cook for an additional 2-3 hours, or until beans have reached the desired tenderness, stirring beans every ½ hour.
This is a faster (albeit still a little time-consuming) method than cooking beans traditionally with the lid in place. By boiling the beans on the stovetop ahead of time, you do not need to cook the beans for 8 hours on the grill, and you allow the smoke of the charcoal and wood to become infused within the beans themselves. Perfect for a cold winter’s day, this recipe for Dutch oven baked beans is sure to warm the body and please the tastebuds. Harkening back to the earliest days of the American frontier, the wagon-train Cookie would be proud to serve these beans and jealous of the ease in cooking them.
Keep on grillin’!