The correct regulation of the oven temperature is easy, but if not done properly, you're food will either get dried out or burned, or it will be underdone ñ in both cases, likely inedible. On the upside, temperature regulation is not difficult at all, so once you have the hang of it your all set.
The first Dutch oven temperature control rule I suggest you adhere to, is always use high quality briquettes. I prefer these to regular charcoal, as they emit a constant temperature and are more dependable if you're calculating cooking times.
I also avoid using the "match-light" charcoal, as I find it burns hotter and doesn't last as long. If your recipe requires longer cooking times, simply remove the ash and replenish them with fresh briquettes after about an hour's cooking. The oven is already hot, so you'll need fewer briquettes this time.
A rule of thumb I use to determine the number of briquettes needed to produce about 350∞ heat using standard Dutch ovens, is simply double the oven diameter. This means, I will need 24 briquettes for a standard 12" oven.
Ah, but where do I place the briquettes? Above or below the oven, you ask. Well, that's really simple as well.
If you're frying the food, the heat needs to come from the bottom. Naturally, all the briquettes are placed on the bottom.
Simmering (of stews, soups, or other long-cooking meals) requires that most of the heat comes from the bottom. I usually do a 66% - 33% split, with the majority under the oven.
Roasting - requires equal heat from above and below. So simply place 50% of the briquettes above and 50% below.
Baking - requires more heat from the top, to prevent the bottom from burning. Place 75% of the briquettes on the top, and 25% below.
The general rule of thumb to produce about a 350∞ F. heat (about 180∞ C.), is to take the size of the Dutch oven in inches, double the number, and use that many total briquettes.
So, for a 12" oven you would use 24 briquettes, for a 14" oven you would use 28 briquettes, etc. Remember this is just a rule of thumb and does not work for all ovens (some may have a larger volume) or under all circumstances (if it is a windy day, for instance, you will probably require more briquettes to achieve your desired cooking temperature. (See this chart for specific Dutch oven temperature control guidelines.)
Various external factors influence cooking time and placement of briquettes. Cool air temperatures, high altitudes, and humidity decrease heat generated by the briquettes, while low altitudes, wind and direct sunlight will increase the heat. I'm sure you get my drift here. You have to play around a little to see what works best for you. But that's all part of the fun, right?
As the number and placement of the briquettes is crucial in regulating temperature, I've prepared a handy Dutch oven temperature control chart that will help you determine the number of briquettes you need for a given temperature and oven diameter (It's in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade, so wherever you are in the world you won't have much figuring out to do).
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Now that you've read all the tips and techniques, it's time for you to try your hand at preparing some dutch oven recipes.