The cast iron Dutch Oven has been around for hundreds of years. Although the basic design was first discovered in the Netherlands, an Englishman in the early 1700s developed a version that was produced for England, and eventually found its way to the American Colonies.
Over the years, the Dutch Oven has endured several modifications to make them a more flexible cooking vessel. Legs were added so the pot could sit above the coals and avoid hot spots, and a rimmed lid was formed to allow coals to sit on top. Shallower pots and various accessories make today's version a versatile addition to anyone's kitchen.
Although modern Dutch Ovens come in cast iron, aluminum, and enameled, it is the non-enamel cast iron version that is found at the campground. Because coals can be used on the top and bottom, resulting in an "oven" like cooking vessel, it can be used to cook anything from chuck wagon stew to bread. Used properly, it acts like a modern day crock pot - cooking slowly and evenly over a long period of time, without the electricity, making it perfect for camping.
Cooking with a cast iron Dutch Oven takes a little time to learn. There are a lot of charts available, and most cookbooks created especially for cast iron Dutch Ovens will detail the number of coals needed and how they should be placed above and below the pot. To ensure a successful dish, it is important to follow the directions including coal counts and position, through out the entire cooking process.
Even though the Dutch Oven has evolved over time, like its pioneer predecessor, it still has to be seasoned properly. Pre-seasoned pots can be purchased, but performing the initial seasoning teaches the user why it is important to keep the pot clean and oiled, even if it's going to be stored. Improper care can cause rust and pitting of the surface of the pot. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for seasoning and care, and the cast iron pot will last for several years.