Generally speaking, each briquette will produce about 25° F. worth of heat on a moderately warm day with no wind. However, do not use this number to try and formulate how many briquettes you should use to generate internal oven temperatures. Instead, use the general rule of thumb outlined in the charcoal calculator below to calculate the number of briquettes to reach 325° F. and then add or subtract briquettes to reach the temperature you desire.
For recipes that take more than an hour to cook, after an hour remove the remaining briquettes and ash from the oven and replenish them with new briquettes.
Note: Because the Dutch oven is already hot, you may not need as many briquettes as when you started cooking. Sometimes you can remove 1-2 briquettes from the top and bottom the first time you replenish them. This is dependent on how the dish is cooking at the time. Use your best judgment.
Why shouldn’t you use the heat values to determine temperature? The answer is, other factors such as the amount of metal used to manufacture the oven, the size of the oven (volume), and the amount of free airspace inside the oven affect the final internal temperature the oven will reach when using a set number of briquettes. The more metal, volume of food, and internal air space you have to heat up, the more heat will be
required to bring your oven to the desired temperature.
Heat placement around the Dutch oven is crucial to yield the best cooking results. Briquettes placed under the oven should be arranged in a circular pattern with the briquettes half under and half out from beneath the bottom edge of the oven. Briquettes placed on the lid should be spread out in an evenly spaced ring around the edge of the oven lid. Try to avoid bunching the briquettes as this causes hot spots. Space them as evenly as possible.
The number one question asked is “How many briquettes should I put on the lid and how many should go underneath the oven?” The answer is “It depends on what you are cooking”. Rule of thumb is, you take the diameter of your oven and multiply it by 2 to create a temperature of 325°F. For example, a 12” oven would be 24 briquettes would equal 325°F. One briquette added to that total adds 25 degrees. So, to get 350°F for a 12” oven, you need 25 briquettes.
To know how many briquettes you need on top of the oven and how many on the bottom you need to decide how you want to cook your dish.
For food you wish to simmer such as soups, stews, and chili’s; place 1/3 of the total briquettes on the lid and 2/3 under the oven.
For food you wish to bake such as breads and rolls, biscuits, cakes, pies and cobblers (rising); the golden rule is to take the diameter of the oven and the 3 up, 3 down equation, add 3 to the number for the top and take away 3 from the number of briquettes for the bottom. For example, for a 12” oven, this would be 15 on top and 9 on the bottom to get 325 degrees. For 350 degrees it would be 16 on top and 9 on the bottom and so on.
For food you wish to roast such as meats, poultry, casseroles, quiche, vegetables, and cobblers (non-rising); use an even distribution of briquettes on the lid and underneath the oven.
The golden rule of Dutch oven cooking is “go easy with the heat”. If the oven isn’t hot enough you can always add more briquettes, but once food is burnt, it’s burnt. Try as you may, you can’t unburn the dish. Well, you can try to cut the bottom off burnt bread but you know you burnt it.
Many problems can be avoided by watching your ovens while you are cooking so don’t be afraid to lift your oven lids to check on your food but do so infrequently because removing the lid will reduce the heat very quickly. If you see steam escaping from around your oven lids then one of two things is going on. If the dish is nowhere near done your ovens are too hot. However, if you’ve managed your heat well the steam could be an indication that your dish is nearly done. Dutch ovens act as a sort of pressure cooker steaming the food from the inside out making it more tender. If you let the steam out of your Dutch oven, it doesn’t help the food and more often than not the top or bottom will be burned.
Aroma is another excellent indicator and should be considered along with steam. If you are getting no smells then your dish needs to continue to cook. If there is no aroma at all and no steam then you should not be worried. Once you smell that delightful aroma and you detect some steam your dish is nearly done. If it smells burnt, steam or not, it’s burnt.