Baked potatoes!

A couple of years ago, I was given a new slow cooker. I wanted to cook a chicken in it but couldn’t find a recipe. I typed ‘How do you cook a chicken in a slow cooker?’ into Google and found the best recipe ever on a forum (it was so long ago I have forgotten where). It went like this.

  1. Put chicken in slow cooker.
  2. Turn slow cooker on.

I know it must have sounded like a stupid question, (though someone else had obviously asked the question before so I was not alone), but I had been worried about things like:

  • Would the slow cooker blow up if I didn’t add any liquid?
  • Would the chicken cook on the inside given the lower temperature setting of the slow cooker?

I found the answer on the forum both amusing and reassuring (if it was you who posted it, let me know!) and I cooked my chicken with confidence.

This is a post for the people like me out there. My question was, can you cook potatoes in a Dutch oven? Of course, you can cook potatoes in tin foil on the embers of a fire (remember shiney side of the tin foil in), but when you have twelve plus potatoes to cook, that’s quite a lot of embers needed, and all the potatoes decide to cook at different speeds as the embers are at different temperatures in different places in the fire. While one member of the family is eating a perfect potato, another is crunching on undercooked middle and another is scraping in the charred remains for something edible. I also have worries about the tinfoil being coated with anti microbials these days, and about just how much tin foil I was using each meal to cook so many potatoes. I wondered if I could find a recipe that confirmed I could successfully cook baked potatoes in the Dutch oven. I didn’t find one, so one day, when we had no guests up at the wood, I tried and found that you can. Here’s my instructions in the spirit of the slow cooker chicken recipe:

  1. Place potatoes in Dutch oven.
  2. Cook in embers

There are a few extra notes just for the sake of completeness:

  • If you have a lot of potatoes, stand them on end.
  • Mound embers beneath and on top of the Dutch oven. The potatoes do more evenly that way, don’t need turning and cook faster. Don’t go mad with the embers though – you are only aiming for a 180 degree, gas mark 4 oven temperature – you don’t want to burn the potatoes to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
  • Remember to twist your Dutch oven lid 1/4 turn one way, and the base 1/4 the other every 15 minutes or so.
  • The potatoes take around an hour to cook, depending on the heat of your embers.
  • If you have children (or adults come to think of it) that just like to poke the fire and knock all the embers off your Dutch oven, make a big fire for them, and use a fire shovel to transfer embers to a small fireplace nearby, but out of harms way, where your Dutch oven can do it’s job while the enthusiastic fire pokers can do their worst un-nagged.

If you do decide to make baked potatoes here is what you will need:

Kit list

Dutch oven, Dutch oven stand and lid lifter; or tin foil
Heat proof gloves
Fire shovel
Beans, grated cheese, butter or any other potato fillings
Pan if you want to heat up beans
Tin opener if you need one to open your tin of beans
Wooden spoon for stirring beans
Tripod or other way of holding the Dutch oven and pan over the fire

Note: When I was a Guide, we used to punch holes in the lid of tins of beans and cook them in the embers.  However, I have been told this is no longer recommended because of the coatings that are put on the inside of the tins now.

When you are outdoors ready to cook

  1. Light fire, then wait for the fire to be strong, then die down to embers. Alternatively, keep removing embers to a nearby secondary cooking fire as needed.
  2. Cut a cross into the tops of your potatoes.
  3. Place potatoes in Dutch oven, on end if you have a lot. Or wrap each potato in tin foil (shiney side facing into the potato).
  4. Place either your wrapped potatoes or Dutch oven onto the embers. Mound embers on the top of the Dutch oven or round the wrapped potatoes.
  5. Keep turning your foil wrapped potatoes, or give the Dutch oven lid and base a 1/4 turn in opposition directions, every quarter of an hour. Our potatoes usually take around an hour but it depends on the size of your potatoes, heat of the embers etc.
  6. The potatoes are cooked when the centres are soft – test with a knife.
  7. Serve with fillings.