Cooking Steak in a Dutch Oven

By on December 29, 2015

Steak in a Dutch Oven

Here’s how a cowboy goes about cooking steak in a Dutch Oven

C.C.: How does a cowboy camp cook cook a steak? – Jett N. – Cumming, Georgia

Jett – You settin’ ol’ Cooky up for a punch line? Or teaching your young ‘un about the letter “C”?

We told y’all awhile back how to conduct your own backyard pitchfork fondue, and that’s one good way to go about cooking a steak cowboy style. The results are delicious and different from the average backyard barbecue for sure, but you have to deal with all that oil – peanut oil don’t sell for peanuts – and the whole thing’s a passel of work.

When I’m cooking for myself or the regular crew, here’s what I generally do:

I get out a couple of well-seasoned Dutch Ovens, and put them both on the campfire coals to et ‘em good and hot. The first one, I cover and just let go get the bottom and sides hot as blazes; 500-600 degrees is not too hot! In the second one, I place a rack that will support meat off the bottom of the oven, and cover it. Once this one’s good and hot, I kind of set it off on the edge of the fire pit and pile some coals on top of the lid.

Then I season a steak that’s cut about 1 inch to 1 ½ inches thick and has been set out for an hour to come up to air temperature. All I generally use is salt or garlic salt and coarse, fresh ground black pepper. Lately though, I’ve been messing around with smoked salts and loving the results. You ought to try these yourself!

When all is ready, I carefully remove the lid from the screaming hot Dutch Oven, and slam that steak down in the bottom. Now I don’t touch it for at least a minute. If I try to move it too soon, it will stick in place and pull off that beautiful crust we’re trying so hard to get.

After I count to 60 Mississippi (or 30 Mississippi twice) I use my tongs to see if I can easily slide the steak from its position. Total cook time on the first side is 2 minutes for a 1 ½-inch thick steak.

Now I lift that bad boy out of the Dutch Oven with my tongs and hold it while I count to 60 Mississippi again to let the surface come back to full temperature. Then I place the uncooked side of the steak facedown in the bottom of the Dutch Oven for another 2 minutes – maximum. Better just until it releases like the first side did.

Now comes the maneuver that separates real cowboy cooks from wannabes. With one hand I snatch the steak from the first Dutch Oven with the tongs. With a lid lifter in the other hand, carefully uncover the second Dutch Oven as not to dislodge any of the coals on the lid or get ash in the kettle.

Place the steak on the grate in the second Dutch Oven, insert the probe of a remote reading thermometer so that the tip is centered in the thickest part of the steak and not touching any bone, and carefully replace the lid.

Now just sit back 5-7 minutes and watch the thermometer. When it reads 10 degrees shy of your preferred doneness, remove the steak.

As a refresher:

Rare                                 120-125°F   Remove at: 110-115°F
Medium Rare                  130-140°F   Remove at: 120-130°F
Medium                           140-150°F   Remove at: 130-140°F
Medium Well                  150-155°F   Remove at: 140-145°F
Well (Heaven help us!) 160-212°F   Remove at: 150°F and up

I have to put it my two cents about doneness. Personally, I consider a prime piece of steak ruint if it gets past medium rare. However, I been around a lot of honest to gosh real cowboys who actually want their steaks cooked medium well or even well done. I always try to get ‘em to try a properly cooked steak, but if they enjoy shoe leather who am I to tell ‘em they can’t have it? Must be something about being around the beeves all the time makes ‘em want the meat cooked through and through—I dunno. Besides – I can serve them boys cuts of steak a whole lot cheaper and save the tomahawk rib eyes for myself.

Finally, put that steak on a plate, cover it loosely with foil and let it sit for 10 minutes. Believe it or not, the temp will continue to rise and come perfectly to your preferred doneness. Then ring the dinner bell and get the heck out of the way! That’s how cowboys cook steaks! – C.C.

Check out other ways to prepare and cook steak:

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