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On Dutch Oven (preheating and alternatives)

2865 Views 24 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  ordo
Hi guys,

An absolute beginner here. Tried googling for the answer but I couldn't find any, so here I am.

I want to start learning how to cook and I'm using Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Chef as a guide. The first recipe calls for the use of Dutch oven to cook Osso "Buko".

He mentioned to preheat the dutch oven to 350 Fahrenheit. How do I do this? Put it on a stove top or into the oven? How do I check the temperature to make sure it's 350F?

If I have a stock pot with a glass lid, can I use it to substitute Dutch oven?

Thank you!

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It could be a typo/editing mistake.  Does he continue to cook in the oven or on the stove top? That would be the best guide to what he meant.

From the way it's phrased, I think he means to heat the dutch oven  in an oven set to 350. Probably take about 20-30 minutes from cold, varying some by oven. 
He might have meant a dutch oven insert.
He might have meant a flame tamer/diffuser disk, but that would have been used under the oven.
My favorites for this purpose are:

Cooking by James Peterson. The older version of this is good too, Essentials of Cooking. This will give you technique and sample recipes using the technique. This is a great starting point because while you think you want just want to make food, learning the techniques that underlie food lets you improvise more on your own and get better faster. Use this book first. Then come back to this book at 6 months and 12 months. You'll learn something new each time as your own experience lets you understand what the book really has to offer.  Cook's Illustrated Cooking School is OK for this too. I think Peterson is better though. 

In between your uses of Cooking, recipe books are good practice and help you explore different flavors and cuisines. The Joy of Cooking is a classic and covers lots of good things. If you want to try more specific cuisines we can make more detailed recommendations. I also like the Cook's Illustrated books at this point in someone learning cooking. The Cook's Illustrated books have well tested recipes and explain the different things they tried in building the recipe as well as useful explanations of why the recipe works the way it does. You'll pick up some food science and some good dishes. The latest edition of their The Best Recipe is a good start with Cook's Illustrated. 

Then back to Petersons Cooking. This time ask yourself questions about why did he do it that way? What's the benefit of this pan or that knife or this much heat, or whatever thing he's doing. Try to explain it to yourself.

After that, get more cuisine specific. Italian, Greek, Middle East, China, India, Thai. Whatever cuisine appeals to you. i do encourage you to look at the classic continental cuisines of Europe. Most of the technique that Peterson discusses arose from these cuisines. While Asian cuisine does a lot of the same kinds of things, they also do some things quite differently. 
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Personally, just not a fan of Bittman's work. I've had way too many failures from his recipes and also dislike his writing style. 
A lot of my Bittman bias comes from a book about 20 years ago. It was yellow and had Minimalist in big letters. This doesn't match anything I can find on Amazon right now. This was supposed to be simple, fast great dishes, usually with a minimum of ingredients (5 seems to ring a bell in my memory, though water, oil, salt and pepper didn't count). It was fairly early in my cooking and I had seen how simplicity treated right could be great. But this wasn't it.

Then he made it to PBS and I became more disappointed. Bitman takes on America's Great Chef's. He was humiliated in episode after episode where his dishes were just lame. Then Best Recipes of the World there's a particularly egregious episode with Mario Batali. They're out in the Italian countryside to cook beef steak florentine. Batali does the classic thing with olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs, rosemary as I recall. Simple, Italian, great flavors. (Though he totally botches the beans in a flask--no clue how to get them out. My guess is he hadn't ever done it before and thought it would be simpler than it was).

Bittman steps up to the grill and does this, even keeping the Bisteca Fiorentina label.
Mark Bittman's Bistecca Fiorentina (Tuscan Grilled Steak) with Soy Butter


In front of a grill in the idyllic Tuscan countryside, Mario accused me of heresy when I whipped up soy sauce-butter and spooned it over a gorgeously charred steak. ("Butter?" he scoffed, "In Tuscany?") But trust me, it's delicious, and that's what matters. You probably won't be able to find the Moby Dick-size steaks cut from Chianina cattle that we cooked, so just use the best, thickest ones you can find.

1 2-pound porterhouse or T-bone steak, about 1 ¾ inches thick
Extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
1. Start a charcoal or gas grill or preheat the broiler; the fire should be quite hot and the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Brush lightly with olive oil, and grill the steak for about 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium rare, turning only once (an instant-read thermometer should read about 125 F when inserted into the thickest part); cooking time, of course, will depend on the thickness of the steak and the heat of the fire.
2. While the steak is cooking, add the butter to a small saucepan over the grill or on the stovetop over a medium heat. When butter just begins to foam, add the soy sauce and remove the pan from the heat.
3. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and cut against the grain into 1/3-inch thick slices. Transfer the slices to a platter, drizzle with butter sauce, and serve.
Notice it's not even seasoned before cooking except with olive oil. Which isn't going to do much against the high heat of the fire. And Batali wasn't that impressed. Bittman had to keep coaching him to say how good it was. I use soy on my steaks routinely. I like it. But this is Bisteca Fiorentina wer're talking about. it's a classic defined dish. Bittman exhibits low cluefulness in much of his cooking when you get right down to it.

Or the Batali/Bittman/Paltrow series. The episodes with Bittman are all about Bittman and they drag. The episodes with just Paltrow and Batali are all about the food and cooking.
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