Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cast Iron Chef: Beef & Barley Stew

So far during Cast Iron Chef week, I've used a cast iron grill grate and the cast iron skillet. Last night, we brought out the "big gun", the venerable dutch oven.

The dutch oven, especially the "camp" dutch oven that I use, has been around for centuries. The thing I love about it is that you can use it on a stove top, in an oven, over a fire, in a Big Green Egg or topped with lit charcoal briquettes. I think the latter is my favorite, especially when "nesting" two or more ovens like below when we were camping with my parents in Cades Cove this past summer.

What really sold me on the idea of dutch ovens was my mother's mixed fruit cobbler that she baked in a campground when all the other campers were just eating burnt hot dogs.

But before I keep going, I want to cover seasoning or more importantly, REseasoning of cast iron. Donna of My Tasty Treasures mentioned that she had gotten her hands on some used cast iron cookware but one of the pieces had slight rust and asked if there was a remedy for that.

Take a bit of very fine sandpaper or steel wool and rub off the rust spot as lightly as possible. Then wash and reseason the pot/pan as described below by the good folks at Lodge Manufacturing. Lodge is a local company (South Pittsburg, TN) and in my opinion, the premier cast iron cookware company. If that's not good enough for you, my mom says it is the best too.....so take it up with her:)

How To Re-season Cast Iron

Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).

Rinse and dry completely.

Apply a thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware (inside and out).

Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any dripping.

Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.

Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven.

Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.

Since it has snowed all day yesterday and we haven't had temperatures above freezing in 4 days, I decided to make Pam's (For The Love Of Cooking) Beef & Barley Stew in my #12 Lodge cast iron dutch oven. The green text is copied and pasted from her kick ass food blog. I might have altered the credit a bit. The pics are mine, you can tell, they don't look as good as her's :)

Beef and Barley Stew:
Recipe BLATANTLY STOLEN FROM For the Love of Cooking.net
Adapted recipe from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
  • 2 tsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 lbs of lean chuck, diced
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef broth
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz of mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 5-6 fingerling potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup of pearled barley
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with a little water
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the beef in batches and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until caramelized. Once the beef is cooked, add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef broth, bay leaves and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and place into the oven for 2-3 hours.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, fingerling potatoes and pearled barley to the beef soup. Cover and cook on the stove top over medium low heat for 45-60 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the pearled barley is cooked through. Mix a bit of cornstarch with some water and stir until completely dissolved. Add the cornstarch slurry to the boiling soup and stir. Remove from the heat and serve. Enjoy.

Make sure you don't crowd the beef while browning. We did ours in about 4 small batches.

I like this recipe because it starts on the stove top...

Then gets covered and goes into the oven for a few hours where the magic happens inside the dutch oven. (I think there's something like the Keebler Elves inside there making it 12 kinds of awesome but I haven't been able to get a picture of them.)

Finally it ends up back on the stove top.

Mine wasn't near as pretty as Pam's, but it was the absolute best beef stew I've ever had in my life and Alexis agreed.

Just a bowl of that and a chunk of bread slathered with some gorgonzola cheese butter was the absolute perfect cold night meal.

Time for a game of "Versus" in the comments:
1) dutch oven versus crock pot
2) enamel covered dutch oven versus plain
3) On a cold, cold night: chili versus stew


  1. Awesome! I love the double decker action...I want one of these in my arsenal! 1)dutch oven 2)depends. seriously. what am I making? 3) which ones in the pot right now?

  2. Nothing cooks like cast iron. I think everything tastes better. I love visiting the Lodge store and usually try to make a trip every summer.

  3. MMM that looks delicious! 1)dutch oven 2)I only have an enameled dutch oven (that I got for Christmas - I'm a neophyte dutch oven user) and 3)I've been told I make the best venison chili, but I love my beef or pork stew. Great photos!

  4. Looks good Chris - I need to break out the dutch oven and cook something in the fireplace coals - free fuel that way - pretend I'm Daniel Boone. The way the weather is going I may have lots of opportunities - I thought we lived in the south.

  5. A dutch oven...how can one do without it? I really like the mushrooms in your stew. Great double decker idea Chris.

  6. Thank you for your answer, Chris, I will try it.

    I am so going to try this stew seriosly this weekend. You and Pam both love it, I know we will.

    Dutch oven, plain, stew.

    I am adding Lodge stuff to my Easter list.

  7. I want that Dutch oven, want to go camping in Cades Cove, want the Cobbler (and also those burnt hot dogs) The stew sounds wonderful. Great post Chris.

  8. I have dutch oven envy! I've wanted one for years and what did I get? A Martha Stewart Bean Pot. It's just not the same. Btw..I'm think your bowl is really cool how it holds that piece of bread right by the soup.
    Oh..have you ever made a pineapple upside down cake in one of those babies? an old girl scout trick and its really good

  9. I love your cast iron dutch oven. I seriously need to get one of those. The stew sounds fantastic, especially since we are seriously suffering the cold temps. Loved it when you talked about your mom's cobbler and everyone else eating burnt hot dogs. LOL!
    Right now I don't have a dutch oven, so I use my slow cooker. I've been wanting a le creuset dutch oven, but you just changed my mind :D I'm sold on the cast iron dutch oven. I would pick chili over stew, hands down.

  10. Whatever - your pictures look FANTASTIC! Spreading gorganzola cheese butter on the bread before dipping is brilliant. I am so glad you liked the stew, thanks for the shout out and link back to my site.

  11. I bought my husband quite a few pieces of Lodge cast iron for christmas. I couldn't find the dutch oven, now I need to find it. The cobbler looks so good!

  12. Love the double decker idea. Your pictures are great. I really like your dutch oven with the legs.

  13. that looks really good! I'd say 1. dutch oven 2. plain 3. it's a toss up but if pinch came to shove I'd choose stew :)

  14. I want to go camping with you and your Mom. Cobbler? Gah.

    My vs.- crockpot works for some things well, but it just can't do the awesome flavor and deep browning that a dutch oven can do.

    enamel v. plain- I have a seriously old cast iron dutch oven, very plain and basic. Enamel? Meh. Whatev.

    Chili v. stew- now that is a tough one. Chili has it's merits, and sometimes the weather simply begs for it, but stew? Thick, comforting, chock full of chunky vegetables and tender hunks of meat, a thick gravy to soak into a nice crust of bread.....well, that's got a taste, ambiance and mood all on it's own.

    Hmmm. It appears I am a fence dweller

  15. Great information! I love cooking in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven! Especially when camping! See some great ones at http://www.sightseeingreview.com/castirondutchoven.php

  16. You can indeed save a poorly treated cast iron pan. I used the techniques you mentioned on a 12 fry pan that I trash picked when the neighbors moved out. Who would throw away a cast iron pan? Anyway I brought that pan back from the brink and it has never been happier! Love the stew too. GREG

  17. You would put me to shame at a campground. I love the tips on seasoning too, as I just received my first cast iron skillet (LODGE!) for xmas!

  18. Ive got a legless model, not made by Lodge- and it is a heavier pot! I might have missed it in your post, but the 12 stands for quarts it will hold..mine is a 16..

  19. stew baby. stew.

    and a recipe on your mother's cobbler and how to work with stacked dutch ovens. Usually when i do dutch - there's more coals on top then bottom. how do you distibute heat with two stacked on each other?

  20. Nice! You're probably going to find a million ways to use this find. Cast iron is one of the best old school cooking devices!

  21. 1 - Dutch Oven
    2 - Plain
    3 - Chili

    And a great post... I got a dutch oven (Lodge brand) for Christmas... Stews a comin!!!

  22. My mom told me that stew that is not cooked on the stove is more delicious! I agree with her because our stews are far more better that those in little restaurants.

  23. Made this yesterday and blogged about it today. Thanks for showcasing this one, I had forgotten about it! Delish!

  24. The stew looks fantastic and you're right about it being a perfect cold weather meal. you did it again.

    I've never seen Dutch ovens nested with coals before...how cool.

    After using both, I prefer straight on cast-iron to enamel covered cast iron.

    The crockpot has it's place, but if you have the time to babysit and stir, cast iron is definitely the way to go.

    Stay warm!

  25. Have to get one for my husband, they're beautiful!

  26. 1~Dutch Oven 99% of the time - Crock pots have specific, but limited uses in my world.
    2~Enameled every day of the week and twice on Sundays
    3~Chili for Monday, Thursday and Saturday night football, Stew for snowy night!

    Love the versus game! Makes you think. I'm still saving up for some of my favorite pieces in Griswold brand.

  27. Dutch Oven over Crock...stew over chili...chili over soup...this one's a winner - made it last night and the mister and I loved it...although I did use a crock!

  28. Well I'm quite honored that my stew has made it to your table and that you declated it the best. Yeah. I love when people take a recipe and make it their own. Very nicely done. Nice blog to, glad I found you!


Comments are moderated and won't appear immediately.