Meet the couple who make Dutch ovens and other handcrafted cast iron cookware
Melting Dutch ovens, thick-walled pots with tight-fitting lids, are staples of the kitchen with their ability to lock in moisture and maintain constant heat for hours on end. Plus, when properly cared for, they can really last forever. Use them to create tender and tasty dishes like Meat, stewsbeans and bread. A Dutch oven is also an ideal substitute for a slow cooker or deep fryer and the perfect tool for braise since you can sear the food on the stovetop and then move the pan to the oven to finish cooking. But how is a cast iron Dutch oven made? Husband and wife team John Truex and Liz Seru from District furnace Tell us how they make these extremely useful lidded jars at their workshop in the Finger Lakes area of New York City.
First, a little glimpse of Borough Furnace. After years of designing for furniture companies, John Truex decided it needed to be more practical. Rather than sending his designs to someone else to produce them, he and Liz Seru started their own business in 2011. They design and produce melting kitchen utensils in hand, completely alone. While the two had never made cooking utensils before, they quickly settled on a modest range that included stoves and Dutch ovens. Truex studied metal casting and sculpture in school and Seru has an art background.
Ten years later, what started as a small workshop with homemade equipment grew to include a separate new building and state-of-the-art equipment in Owego, New York. They are currently switching their equipment to all-electric, with the goal of being fully solar powered in the next few years, and they have recently moved into enamelling, becoming the only company to perform the heat-intensive process. labor force in the United States. Still, Truex and Seru do everything themselves by hand – they have no other employees.
It starts with the design, of course, and Borough Furnace is sleek and functional, thanks to its lack of buttons. Truex did the designs himself, including making the lid and handle in one piece that cannot be broken (if you’ve ever had the knob on your dear dutch oven broken, you know how good this functionality is convenient). The top, which uses a three-piece mold instead of a two-piece mold, makes it too expensive for most other companies to produce, but since Borough Furnace is a small store, they can take the time to make it. perfect.
“John does the design work so we can prototype everything in-house and make tiny changes until everything is perfect,” says Seru. “Usually you hire a lot of stores or outside consultants and cost becomes a factor in the design, but we’ve managed to avoid that. “
Once they have a master model, they use it to create sand match molds. Sand is the only material you can pour molten iron into that can withstand heat without melting. And where does the iron come from? “We are using recycled brake discs because it’s a high quality font, ”says Truex. “There’s a recycling plant down the street from our store and they’ll pick up a ton of brake discs with a big magnetic crane and drop them in the back of our truck. “
Before getting to work with the oven, they don reflective silver coveralls in aluminized Kevlar, making the duo look like intrepid space explorers. While their original oven that Truex built was running recycled vegetable oil, now they are using an induction furnace to melt the rotors. “We put the metal inside a clay crucible in the middle of this induction coil and the magnetic field heats it up, getting hotter and hotter until it melts,” says Truex. The new oven can hold 200 pounds at a time, which is enough for about 15 molds, top or bottom. Once they pour the liquid metal into the matchbox mold, it solidifies in seconds.
“It’s kind of a process of pouring it in, you have to do it right so that it doesn’t come in too fast or too slow,” says Truex. It took them about a year of practice before they became experts. Once the mussels are poured, they let them cool overnight, breaking the mussels into sand the next morning. They use a special vibrating machine to return the molds to grains of sand for reuse in new molds. Next is hand finishing, which is done using belt and disc sanders to smooth the pot. Once the pot, which is a dark gray color at this point, is completely smooth, it becomes either seasoned or enameled.
Seasoned or enameled cast iron?
“For the seasoning, the process we use is something that people can easily recreate at home in case they need to. re-season it“Seru says.” We use linseed oil, and it’s just hand rubbed in a very thin layer and baked in three turns, until it gets a nice deep black finish. “L enamelling is more complex, Truex and Seru have spent the last few years perfecting their enamelling process, which they are now able to do on site. Enamel is a mixture of clay and finely ground glass which is mixed with water and then sprayed onto the pot, almost like the glaze of a ceramic pot. The duo modernized a spray line they bought from an auto parts supplier for around $ 25 in order to spray their jars. “The spray guns spray an even coat of the enamel slip, first on the inside of the jar,” says Truex. “Then we do the grips by hand, to make sure there is has a nice coating on the inside of the handles, then we flip it over and spray the outside. ”
From there it goes through a drying tunnel to remove all the water, leaving the glossy powder enamel coating on the surface of the pot. Finally, the Dutch oven goes into an oven and is fired at just over 1400 degrees so that the enamel fuses with the top surface of the iron, ensuring that it will not chip. “What’s so good about enameled cast iron is that they’re actually mechanically bonded together, it’s not like painting over something,” says Truex.
What’s next for Borough Furnace? In addition to continuing to develop their enamel projects, they plan to manufacture a special Dutch oven for baking bread with an inverted lid so that the flat plate can be put in the oven and then turned over to create a steam chamber for baking bread. Clearly Truex and Seru are skilled metal and enamel designers and workers, quality cast iron cookware under the Borough Furnace flag. And now that we know how a Dutch oven is made, we have even more admiration for this ingenious and timeless cooking tool.