Its Nearly Time – Cathedral Gorge Dutch Oven Cookoff

Final preparations are going on for me today.  Loading the trailer and taking inventory of camping gear and cooking utensils.  We are cooking in competition associated with out sister website and the facebook group Las Vegas Dutch Oven Enthusiasts

This coming weekend is the annual Cathedral Gorge Dutch Oven Cookoff (Saturday September 16th, 2017).  Sponsored by the Nevada State Park and surrounding businesses.  The weather is looking to be near perfect.

This cookoff is a big deal.  At least for the competitions we normally attend.  There are normally around 50 cooks, and some of those preparing multiple recipes.  We have seen crowds of people (250+) showing up to taste, vote on their favorite, and just plain enjoy the day.

If you are in the area, be sure to come out and support the event.  Enjoy the food, enter the raffle, and enjoy the beautiful Nevada State Park.


Recipe: Cake Cherry Bundt done in a Dutch Oven

 Recipe & Photos: Rick Beach
This is a box cake version.  I have a “scratch’ recipe too.

12 inch Dutch Oven and Bundt Cake pan that fits inside.  A deep Dutch Oven helps.

Hot Coals for 350°F


1   Chocolate Cake Mix (Devils Food that calls for 1/3 cup oil & 3 eggs)

Zest of 1 orange

Juice of 1 orange           Combine juice and water to equal liquid

Water                               called for on cake mix

1/3 Cup Oil  (amount of oil called for on cake mix box

3 eggs           (called for on cake mix box)

½ Can   Cherry Pie filling chopped coarsely

1 Can of your favorite icing ( or prepare your own homemade) (I use Cream cheese Vanilla)

½ Can Cherry Pie Filling – leave cherries whole

Prepare cake mix (The type that on the box it indicates 1 Cup water, 1/3 Cup Oil, and 3 eggs.  Do not use the total water indicated.  Fresh squeezed Orange Juice is used in place of some of the water.

Dump the cake mix in a mixing bowl.  Zest the orange peel into the mix.  Squeeze the juice from the orange you just grated the peel.  Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup.  Add enough water to the juice to equal 1 cup total liquid (or whatever the total liquid is on the cake mix.  Pour this into the mixing bowl with the cake mix and zest.  Add the oil and 3 eggs.

Chop ½ the can of cherry pie filling until the cherries are in course pieces.   Add the chopped cherries to the mix and using a mixer beat the cake batter per the instructions on the cake mix.

Reserve the other ½ of can of filling for topping after the cake is baked.

Spray oil the bundt cake pan, then pour in the beaten batter.

Pre-heat the Dutch Oven and lid with coals for 350°

Once the Dutch Oven is hot place the bundt pan in, cover and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.  Gently raise the lid and test for doneness with a knife or tooth pick.  Mine normally take 35 minutes.  Bake and test every 5 minutes until tooth pick comes out clean.

Cool completely.  Ice the top and about ¼ the way down.  Spoon the remaining Cherry pie filling on top of the icing allowing it to ooze down the sides.  Serve


Chuckwagon Supply Cook Table

Gear Review:  Dutch Oven Cooking table from Chuckwagon Supply

We love gear reviews that our readers submit or allow us to share with you.  Tom from 1960HikerDude graciously allowed me to re-post his video. If you are in the market for a Dutch Oven Cooking table this certainly needs your review.  This table has options you won’t find on others.  I particularly like the high wind screen and the collapsible side tables.

Please check out other video’s from Tom from 1960HikerDude 

You can click here to follow to the Chuckwagon Supply Website.


One if by Sea – Dutch Oven Cooking on the water

Winter seems to put a damper on many traditionally summer-time enjoyed outdoors activities.  Dutch Oven Cooking is one such activity.  Though many of us do cook throughout the year.  Perhaps on the Patio or in the shelter of an open garage?  Others do not let anything get them down.

I get a personal annual invite to join in with about 30 other friends and acquaintances to make a 3 day Kayak/Canoe/Dory adventure that takes place the month of January.  This is not one of my own organized events.  This takes place on the lower Colorado River.  Somewhere roughly in an area between Blythe California, and Yuma Arizona.

It is enjoyable to be a participant rather being than the person attending to the details.  My many thanks to the person that puts this all together….and you know who you are!  I would really like to put a plug in for the organizer of all this fun, but I am not sure all the details can go public?

You have to be a special breed to enjoy such an adventure.  It can be cold.  Almost guaranteed to have cold nights.  Easily dropping in the twenty degree Fahrenheit range.  Some years the days are delightfully warm.  Other years its hard to squeeze 40°F out of the daytime highs.  Winds can be unpredictable and brutal trying to paddle the miles to the take out point.

This is a lonely and for the most part, a very desolate stretch of country.  Even 4-wheel drive type roads can be many miles away.  So once you commit, you are pretty much on your own for 3 days.  But the water, the waterfowl, birds of prey, and the reed lined banks of the river, pass by at such and enjoyable pace.  It allows you to slow down and decompress from  the stress we call the “normal” today.

It is definitely not all about the paddling, or enjoying the Colorado River.  Or all the beauty nature offers along the way.  Interestingly enough the river in this area is pretty much as it has always been.  There are some additions a lifetime ago, perhaps several lifetimes ago,  You can explore several old miners shacks up on the banks, and an old mining area/town that once was.

Cast Iron Dutch ovens are hauled along in any fashion that works.  There is warm food, and warm friendship around the campfire.  One evening is set aside for a “Trash Can” cooked turkey.  That evenings feast comes with all the fixings.  Foil-packed veggies and potatoes, are fire roasted in the coals.  All the goodies a laid out Thanksgiving spread would have.

Often the campfire evening is enjoyed around the fire with someone picking a guitar, and all of us become the best singers you ever heard.  Though I am not sure why that good singing gets the coyotes howling….hmmm.

The  morning sunrises will knock your socks off.  Though your thoughts might focus more on enjoying the warmth of your sleeping bag.  The sunrises are something to have you jumping up for.  Just put on the coffee and enjoy God’s gift as it unfolds in front of you.  On a brisk morning the warming rays of the sun on your face is better than perhaps that cup of coffee.  Having them both from the comfort of a folding camp chair, while the birds start singing….well it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Please check back for the follow-up article on the January 2016 trip.  We will talk about some of the highlights and new memories created in 2016


Bread Rolls & Artichoke Spinach Dip Bake


Recipe & photos by:  Rick Beach

By combining two of our favorite recipes you can bake this fabulous Dutch Oven treat.  This creation is great as an appetizer.

Old Fashioned White Bread Recipe
Artichoke Spinach Dip

Use a 14 inch Dutch Oven that has been well greased.  Grease up a relatively straight sided bowl to be placed right side up in the center of the Dutch Oven.  Size it properly to get 2 rows of finished rolls.  The dip will fill this space created by the bowl once removed.

Preheat oven to 375°F  if using the kitchen oven.

The rolls are from our OldFashioned White Bread recipe.  Use 1 Tbsp Agave or 1 ½ Tbsp white sugar in the recipe where it calls for Agave.  Follow the recipe through the first rise of the dough.  Turn out on a floured board and divide into 24 – 28 equal chunks of dough.  Tuck each piece of dough into itself to form a roll.   Arrange two rows of buns between the bowl and the side of the Dutch Oven.  Spray the tops with cooking spray such as Pam, or brush with melted butter.

Cover the Dutch Oven with Plastic wrap and set in a warm draft free area (top of the pre-warming stove) to allow the dough (now rolls) raise the second time.  This can take anywhere from a 1/2hr to 1hr.  Allow the dough to double in size.

In the meantime prepare the ArtichokeSpinach Dip up to the point of baking.  But do not bake it.  Refrigerate the dip while waiting for the buns to rise.

If baking with charcoal start your coals 15 minutes prior to the following steps.

Once the buns have risen, heat the dip until warm using a sauce pan or microwave.  Just to the warm point.  Do not cook it.

Once the dip is just warm, gently slide the bowl out of the center of the rolls.  Spoon the dip into the center hole the bowl created.  Pack the dip up against the raised rolls circling the interior of the Dutch Oven.  The center hole should now be filled with dip about 1 ½ to 2 inches deep.  Do this gently so you don’t make the raised rolls deflate and go flat.

In a standard kitchen Oven bake uncovered at 375°F for about 40 minutes or until the rolls become golden brown.

Baking with charcoal, bake covered; applying more heat to the 14 inch Dutch Oven lid, and less underneath to get 375°F (Generally 19 coals on the top lid.  11 coals underneath the Dutch Oven.  Arranged coals just inside the outer perimeter –  If using a different sized Dutch Oven adjust accordingly)  Bake around 40 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown.

Per the Artichoke Spinach Dip recipe remove from the heat and garnish with Mozzarella Cheese and Fresh Ground Pepper.

Serve hot.



with Dutch Oven Baking Technique)

Recipe and Photos: Rick Beach

6-7 cups of medium tart apples (Granny Green), cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt  + a few shakes on top of apple mixture before placing the top crust on
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. butter

2 Pie Crusts

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl except the butter and pie crusts.
Then pour the mixed ingredients into the pie crust lined plate/tin. Dot with chunks of the butter.

Add a few shakes of salt on top of the apple mixture now in the bottom pie shell.

Top with the other crust. Cut steam slits in the top crust and sprinkle the top with some additional sugar.

Foil protect/tent the exposed crust edge to prevent premature browning

Preheat Oven to 450°F (For charcoal use the 3 uppy down rule for coal counting)

Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes. Remove the foil that is tented over the crust edge.

Reduce heat/coals to 350°F and bake for 35-45 minutes, until apples are tender and juices are bubbling out of the steam slits.

Dutch Oven baking for pies in general.  Whether using a glass pie plate or metal tin plate (Not deep dish pies with crust directly in the Dutch Oven) raise the plate/tin off the bottom of the Dutch Ovens cast iron.  Several methods are used.  Any type of trivet works.  I personally use an adjustable leg trivet with very short legs.  Mason jar metal rings work too.  The trivet or spacer goes in the bottom of the Dutch Oven before the pie plate/tin is placed in the DO.

I always tent my outer perimeter exposed pie crust with foil for the first 15 minutes of any recipe.  This avoids premature crust browning. Use the normal recipe for a conventional oven and adjust your charcoal coals to equal the heat settings.

A long piece of foil (double it if using cheap thin stuff) is draped in the Dutch Oven prior to the pie being placed in.  The ends of this foil can be rolled up or left hanging out under the DO lid.  This foil is used for lifting the pie out after baking.  This foil lifter is especially useful when the pie plate/tin and the Dutch Oven sides are a tight fit.

Glass pie plate shown on an adjustable leg trivet (shown with 1 1/2 inch legs

When pie baking in a Dutch Oven the bolt legs would be removed an 1/2 inch bolts/legs used

Ready to bake
Ready for the ice cream


Dutch Oven Cook Table for a Weber Charcoal Grill

Article & Photos are courtesy of Ted Meland – Apache Junction, AZ

Article & Photos ©Ted Meland  Written permission required to reproduce.

This DIY DO table article, and all photos it contains are courtesy of Ted Meland – Apache Junction AZ
This DIY DO table article, and all photos it contains are courtesy of Ted Meland – Apache Junction AZ

Here is another DIY project to create a Dutch Oven cooking surface at countertop height.  While this project was adapted to a round shaped charcoal grill, it could easily be adapted to a rectangular grill.

Here is what Ted has to say on this Project.

I was finding it more and more difficult getting up and down to do my DO cooking, with the pot on the ground. I looked at DO tables and they seem to run in the $125 range. I could do that, but thinking over the situation I realized I may had a different solution using some items I had on hand.

In my case I used an existing round Weber Kettle BBQ.  I think you could adapt this to any make and shape of BBQ.

Next I visited a local metal fabricating shop and they agreed to make a 21″ round, 12 gauge sheet metal plate, with two handles.

I am able to place the plate right on the grates in the BBQ, add charcoal on the metal plate surface, and my DO. Voila!  I am now working at a much more comfortable level. Total cost: $35 and change for the metal plate and fabrication.. And don’t forget the Weber top hangs on the kettle and could provide a little extra wind protection. Not much, but you shouldn’t be DO cooking in a tornado anyway.



Seafood Enchilada’s

 (Idea from Kathleen Leblanc but this is my version ~Rick Beach)

Greased Glass baking dish (1) 6X8 & (1) 6X10 Or (1) Greased 12 0r 14 inch Dutch Oven


8 oz                  Uncooked White Fish, Shrimp, Crab, Crawdad tails, etc (Chopped or shredded)

2 Cups             Cooked White Rice

10 ½ oz Can    Use half the can Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp Soup (Do not add water) (Save 1/2 Can)

15 oz Can        Use half the can Green Chili Enchilada Sauce (Mild) (Save 1/2 the can for the topping)

14.5 oz Can     Fire Roasted Chopped Tomatoes (Drain and save the liquid)

¼ Bunch           Fresh Cilantro chopped

¼ tsp                Sea Salt

¼ tsp                Black Pepper fresh ground

½ tsp                Onion Powder

½ tsp                Garlic Powder

Juice of 1 Lime

½ Cup              Mex Blend Cheese Shredded (Cheddar could be used)

½ Cup              Parmesan Cheese Shredded

14                    6 inch soft flour tortillas

Topping Sauce

½ the above can of Cream of Shrimp Soup

½ the above can of Enchilada sauce

Part of the reserved/drained tomato liquid

Topping Cheese

¼                      Parmesan Cheese Shredded

½ Cup              Mex Blend Cheese shredded (Cheddar could be used)

In a mixing bowl combine the Filling ingredients and fold and mix together with a rubber spatula.

Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup and place a 1/3 scoop of the mixed filling in the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla and place seam side down in a greased glass baking dish or greased Dutch Oven.

Pack the filled and rolled tortilla’s in the bottom to create a full layer.

Make the topping sauce by adding the ½ can of Cream of Shrimp soup to the ½ can of the remaining Enchilada sauce.  This won’t quite fill the 15 oz Enchilada Sauce can all the way up.  Top the can off with the reserved/drained tomato liquid.  Stir the Soup, Enchilada sauce, and tomato liquid until combined and a uniform color.   This should fill the 15 oz can.   Pour and spread this sauce over the tops of the filled and rolled tortillas.

Bake Covered (Foil or glass top cover for kitchen oven) for 45-60 minutes in a 350°F oven or Dutch Oven.   When checked at the ending cook time they should be stemming hot.

In the case of a foil cover, remove the foil.  Sprinkle with the topping Parmesan Cheese, then the topping Mex blend cheese.  Return to the heat until the cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

Variation: In place of seafood, cubed or ground chicken or turkey could be used.

Makes 14


CRISBEE PUCK (Cast Iron Seasoning) Product Testing/Review

CRISBEE PUCK (Cast Iron Seasoning Product)

This is a product test and our opinions (this is not a paid advertisement)

We are starting our initial testing of one of the various CRISBEE products for seasoning Cast Iron.  Check back to see updates on how we feel about the product.

We received via UPS the (2) Puck Box for testing.  2 – 3.25oz Pucks of the Original formula.  On the Crisbee website it indicates the ingredients are a proprietary blend of Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, and Beeswax.

This product and others they offer (like apple pie scented) can be found on their website   Please mention you found them through the Toponautic Blog.

I want to pause here and say over many years, decades actually, I have used a wide variety of oils, lard, shortening etc.  Anything someone might say works better.  Years ago I stopped messing with oils, and settled on vegetable shortening.  I have to say for a long while I like the results I get with plain old white vegetable shortening (Crisco).

Of course stating what you actually use then starts a whole huge debate.  I rank cast iron conditioning methods right up there with talking religion or politics.  You can’t win no matter what sways your particular notion of things.  There are also a whole pot full of ways on doing things.  With that said, I keep an open mind and am open to something new that might come along.  That puts me at the place I am at today testing the Crisbee product that is new to me.

For testing purposes I will be seasoning a raw cast iron Dutch Oven as one of our tests.  This is an 8qt Texsport Deep Dutch Oven that was recently picked up at a garage sale.  It is the only thing I have hanging around without at least one layer of season already on it.  This Dutch Oven still had its tags attached.  It also had its factory layer of wax or paraffin.  I have since burned that factory layer off and will be proceeding with baking on a first coat of seasoning using the Crisbee product.

I normally collect vintage Cast Iron and have over 150 pieces.  This Texsport is not anything special.  But when you run across them at a garage sale for $5 or $10 they are hard to pass up.  They are rather rough compared to some of my coveted Griswold.  So if something rough seasons well, image what some of the nice vintage cast iron might do.

My other test piece of cast iron is a rectangular griddle we use over coals or a gas stove.  This has been seasoned and well used.  The seasoning in the center looks rather porous and worn (too many pancakes flipped from those spots).  I am not removing any old seasoning on this piece.  A new layer using the Crisbee product will be baked on.  The true test is putting this to an egg and pancake “stick” test after a new layer or two.  I am looking for this griddle to come out glossy black since the original cast iron surface is extremely smooth.

Categories to be rated:

Ease of application


Can we get black colored seasoning by the second coat?

Slickness of the finished seasoning

Cook Surface rating

The products No “Rancid” claim can not be compared and evaluated by us.

I followed the Crisbee’s directions when seasoning the first piece.   Used 400°F heat.  The finish was a dark caramel brown.  Not quite black.  Same results I get on a first coat with my own choice of shortening seasoning material.  I let the cast iron cool until just warm to the touch.  I applied a second layer at this time in preparation of the second coat.  I do like the way it adheres in this stage.  I was able to rub it in as the iron cooled down.  I give the product high marks for this.  The piece was completely cooled.

On the second test piece (the Griddle) I upped the temperature to 450°F.   That is the same temp I use for my standard seasoning choice.  I wanted to compare to what I am familiar with.  The Crisbee product handled the higher temperature very well.  I didn’t experience any smoking to note.  The first coat, covering existing seasoning, came out nice and black.  The smooth surface of the griddle is about 75% slick at this point.  But remember this griddle had prior seasoning on it.  I am impressed with the color and the slickness obtained.  I also rubbed this down with a very thin coat of Crisbee when it was nearly cooled.  Prepping for a second coat.  It was cooled completely.

Both pieces now have had two coats of Crisbee seasoning applied.

Ease of Application: I do like that “waxy” consistency it has when handling.  I feel the bee’s wax may fill cast iron pores at a quicker rate.  (Some call it pores.  a.k.a rough surface).  The product liquefies instantly on pre-warmed cast iron.  A little goes a long way. As with other methods avoid using paper towels.  Paper towels tend to leave little particles that end up in your finished seasoning.  I learned this years ago with shortening and even oil products.  For superior results use a lint free absorbent cloth.  A horse hair/natural bristle brush can be used to work the liquefied product under handles and hard to wipe spots.

Smoking:  Even at 450°F it did not set off the smoke detectors in the house with any noticeable smoking.  Some oil products will cause issues not seen with the Crisbee product.  High marks given for this.

Can we get black colored seasoning by the second coat?  Both the cast iron pieces were a dark black at the end of the second coating.  The oven temperature had been upped to 450°F.  It could just be the difference in ovens though?  I was not using a secondary thermometer in the oven to be more scientific.  Just the setting on the oven.   The product gets rated high for obtaining dark color quickly, since some methods take longer to progress from the golden dark brown stage to black.

Slickness of the finished seasoning  Texsport Dutch Oven is a pretty rough cast pot.  The Crisbee seasoning did do an excellent job of filling the pores/smoothing roughness.  It appears to have a similar appearing seasoned surface, I tend to see when using Crisco.  It could be superior as more layers are built up?

There is excellent slickness on the griddle.  At least eye balling it.  The true test to come, is frying some eggs.  Also pouring out a couple pancakes onto the surface.

Summary of the Seasoning process: From testing the opinion is this product gives very similar results to vegetable shortening (Crisco).  Application and the pore/roughness filling ability slightly better than vegetable shortening.  The product can handle higher seasoning temperatures than stated in its directions without excessive smoking.  The amount of coats to achieve the black finish is pretty much the same as the vegetable shortening method, though Crisbee appears to have a slight advantage in this category too.

Cook Surface rating:  Follow-up evaluation will be done and added on.

The Texsport Dutch Oven has a rough surface from its foundry casting.  The Crisbee seasoning has filled the pores/roughness. and the surface looks real good.  The test will be baking a sticky Dump Cake in the DO, then seeing how easy or not it cleans up.

The griddle came out with a smooth looking slick surface.  Eggs and pancakes will give it a real world test. We hope to cook on the griddle this coming week.

Griddle  with some old seasoning left on – 2 coats of Crisbee re-seasoning

Check back in a week or so after we have attended our Ghost Town Dutch Oven cooking event and see our final comments.

The cost factor verses other products was not a consideration or an objective of this testing.

I have never experienced problems with a pot going “rancid” during storage.  So I will not be able to rate the products claim that this will not happen using the Crisbee product.  If others have experience with Crisbee in this regard, please send us your opinions.

The “rancid” issue I have only read about.  There may be 4 factors while I never have had this experience

1. My opinion and the most important reason I have never experienced the “rancid” issue is I never just “wipe” my cast iron with a product.  I always use a complete “heat seasoning” cycle before storing my cast iron for any length of time.

2.  I live in a very arid climate in the desert southwest/USA

3.  My cookware gets used continuously year round.  Either over charcoal or in my kitchen oven.

4.  I learned a tip from a friend some time back.  Drape an old but clean cotton sock over the edge of your Dutch Ovens before putting the lid on.  In the toe of that sock place one new charcoal briquette.  The Charcoal toe end is draped in the pot.  The leg end draped over the outside.  The lid placed on top of the sock.  The charcoal keeps things fresh, and the sock provides an air gap between the pot and lid.

Follow-up comments:

This evaluation is all very un-scientific.  Only opinions based on lots of experience, and a wide variety products used on my cast iron over several decades.

Our week long camping and cooking event is over.  I am happy to report the Crisbee seasoned pieces performed very well.  Both pieces of Crisbee seasoned cast iron performed as well as any seasoned surface  created using my go to product, vegetable shortening (Crisco).  I can not report any issue that rates this Crisbee product lower.  Cost may be the only factor that differs negatively.  But we did not use cost as a determining factor.

Food did not stick any more or less.  One Dutch Oven recipe was scalloped potatoes and ham that was cooked with charcoal for about 3 hours in the Dutch Oven.  Nice browned top with some stuck on baked food especially around the top edge.  The pot cleaned up easily with hot water.  There was no noticeable effect on the seasoning.

A loaf of bread was also baked in the Dutch Oven and the bottom came out golden brown.  The bread lifted right out and did not stick.

Eggs and pancakes came off the flat rectangular griddle with the ease of any well seasoned piece of cast iron.

In summary.  I feel this product has real value as a cast iron seasoning product.  People new to seasoning might find it easier to obtain quick results?   But be sure to wipe off any excess product with a  lint free cloth before baking the seasoning on.  You do not want the product to drip or pool during the baking process.

This Blog article welcomes your add on opinions and comments should you try the product.  Please email us your info, opinions, and photos.

Also review our article on Reconditioning & Seasoning.  It includes helpful info on a variety of techniques for restoring vintage, or  what to do with new that needs its first coat.

Update a year Later (November 2016)

We promised a follow-up to our original test of October 2015.  Here it is.

Both our Texsport Dutch Oven and the griddle have had no negative issues concerning the seasoning. Both have several more layers of seasoning, than they did back a year ago.  Since our test in 2015 we have only used Crisbee product on these two pieces.  Both have only been used over hot charcoal and never open wood fires.  The griddle at times has been used with direct contact laying on hot charcoal coals.

For the most part the pieces have had thin layers of Crisbee applied immediately after cooking, cleaning, and drying.

Both pieces of cast iron maintain a glossy slick black finish.  No de-lamination or any evidence of flaking.  No rancid smells or “off” taste.

We certainly can recommend this product if you are in the market for a seasoning product.

Update 2 years Later (October 2017)

As with our one year follow-up we can say “ditto” for sure.  We have maintained these two pieces of cast iron with Crisbee only.  Even with lots of use they maintain a slick black appearance.  No de-lamination or any evidence of flaking.  No rancid smells or “off” taste.