LAYTON -- What makes food taste so good coming out of a Dutch oven?
For Bakin' Bill Johnson and his wife DeeAnn, it's the cast iron.
Both in their early 60s, the Dutch oven is the only way the Johnsons cook their food, saying food cooked in cast iron pans just comes out tasting better.
"Something about the heating process marries the flavors together and things just taste a lot better coming out of a Dutch oven," Bill said.
Anything that is cooked in a regular oven can be cooked in Dutch oven, Bill said.
Having spent years on the cook-off circuit throughout Utah and surrounding states, as well as competing in numerous world-championships each year in Sandy, the couple has now retired as competitors to become judges for the cook-off events.
Their experience on the Dutch oven cook-off circuit taught them a few things. During her years as a competitor, DeeAnn said she became a better cook.
"If you want to compete, you've got to keep up with it. So we learned to cook and create new things from our recipes," said DeeAnn.
Bill has lost track of how many recipe books he has purchased to get new ideas.
"I like to look for recipes with full-color illustrations and minimal ingredients. That way you don't have to spend an arm and a leg," Bill said.
He admits to using the recipes only as a guide, changing things around and using different techniques to match his taste preferences.
Bill's love of cooking didn't actually occur until later in life. When he was a kid, he didn't like food at all.
Once he moved away from home as an adult, he began experimenting with cooking. Later, in in the early 90s, he and his wife began learning how to cook with Dutch ovens, quickly becoming hooked.
"Once it's in your blood, it's a lot of hard work. But it's very satisfying," Bill said.
Unlike some cook-off events, where everyone is secretive about their recipes, the Dutch oven cook-off world proved to be the opposite for the Johnsons, as many of the competitors exchanged ideas and shared techniques.
"It gave us the chance to meet people and talk about Dutch oven cooking and things we can do with it," said DeeAnn.
Her husband agreed that the camaraderie between the competitors made the events fun.
"At some chili cook-off events, there is too much strong competition and not near the friendship," Bill said. "One of the big things we tried to do was to share our ideas and recipes and have a good time."
Not to say that their competitions weren't stress free. The couple had the somewhat complicated process down to a science; when to check something, when to stir this or that, making sure the food wasn't done too soon, or too late.
"There are a lot of things to watch for with added stress. But you develop a feel for it, and your hands and brain become part of the process," Bill said.
They enjoyed their years of competing, especially as it was something they could do together, but they now enjoy the more relaxing side of the competitions as judges, and of course, continue their daily cooking using their 50 different cast iron skillets, pots and griddles.