Every October, our family hosts a Halloween and harvest celebration. We do this mostly for the kids so they can wear costumes while they build scarecrows, decorate cookies, carve pumpkins, and make caramel apples. This year, we decided to serve pork roast, and I wanted to cook it in the dutch oven.
There are two important ingredients when making a roast. The first is a good cut of meat; the second is time. While a roast works well in the kitchen, there's something special about cooking outdoors, especially as the weather turns cool. Additionally, there is a sense of theatre when your guests gather around and you pause slightly, seizing the anticipation, slowly lifting the lid of the dutch oven and having that steam come out, filling the fall air with that wonderful aroma, bringing out a collective "Mmmmmm" from your friends and family. That in itself helps make a good dish great.
Rub the roast with a thin layer of olive oil and rub in salt, pepper, and cayenne. If you are unsure about how much of the spices to add, err on the side of too little. A little here goes a long way. Put your roast into a covered deep 12-inch dutch oven. I put my oven in the bottom of an old army cook stove, but other metal containers will work for a fire pan. I've seen plenty of people have good luck with the lid from a metal garbage can. Anything that helps hold the heat and keeps the coals from burning the grass or the deck will work.
The roast should cook at a little hotter than medium, around 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course cooking outdoors makes this a bit more guesswork, but it can be done with a rule of thumb and some common sense. When using charcoal, a medium oven (about 350 F) can be approximated using the +3/-3 rule. Take the size of the oven in inches, add three to that number for the number of briquettes on top and subtract three for the number of briquettes underneath. I wanted the oven a bit hotter than medium, and it was also quite chilly when I started cooking, so I compensated with 13 briquettes underneath and 20 on the lid.
Cook the roast like this for about three hours. More coals will have to be added as the first ones die down. I added fresh coals about once an hour. Also, be sure to turn the oven every twenty to thirty minutes so the briquettes underneath don't cause hot spots and burn the meat. At about the three hour mark, chop the onion and garlic and tuck them in around the roast. Cook this for another hour or two.
When the cooking was done, I shredded the pork. The juices can be made into a delicious gravy or saved for making stock. The roast could be served in slices, but I set out the shredded meat with sourdough rolls, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard and let the guests make their own poor boys. We served these alongside potato salad, cole slaw, and apple cider which made a very enjoyable lunch for our Halloween party.