A Dutch oven is a large cooking vessel often used to make stews and roasts. Most of these pots are made from cast iron, and many are coated with enamel for easier clean-up. These pots can be used on a stovetop, in an oven or over an open fire. A Dutch oven roast is made by selecting a large cut of pork, beef or lamb, adding vegetables and seasonings, and then cooking the roast at a low temperature for several hours. Despite the name, most recipes for this type of dish involve a process of braising rather than roasting.
A Dutch oven roast is typically made from large, tough cuts of meat, such as chuck or shoulder. During the cooking process, the proteins in the meat will break down and end up being tender and flavorful. Some recipes call for trimming most of the fat from the roast prior to cooking, although a little fat will enhance the flavor of the dish. Other recipes recommend browning the meat before roasting, so it retains more of its juices during the cooking process. Some cooks like to buy the largest roast that will fit into their pots, because it will shrink — sometimes a surprising amount.
Once the meat has been prepped, most recipes call for the addition of several vegetables to cook along with the roast. One popular combination is onions, carrots and potatoes, although vegetables such as turnips, celery and peppers may also be used. Typically, these are cut into bite-size pieces and placed at the bottom of the Dutch oven. The meat is then placed on top of the vegetables so its juices will run out and flavor them. Some vegetables may need to be added later in the process to avoid overcooking.
A Dutch oven roast will need to be well seasoned before cooking. At a minimum, cooks will typically add salt and pepper to the dish. Many recipes in the United States also call for the addition of condensed or dehydrated soup mixes to complement the flavor of the meat. Some cooks may add flavor through a liquid such as tomato juice or wine, along with some water.
Once the Dutch oven roast is ready for cooking, it should be covered and placed over low heat on a stovetop or in a 350° (177° Celsius) oven. The roast should cook until the meat is tender, usually from two to three hours, depending on the size of the meat. Check the roast a few times to make sure it hasn’t cooked dry. Once the roast is tender, remove it from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes before carving. Some cooks make gravy from the leftover pan juices to serve along with the roast and vegetables.