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SANDY, Utah (AP) -- When Scott Clawson was 12 years old, he saved his money and bought his first Dutch oven, practicing his culinary skills during camping trips with fellow Boy Scouts.
"We would do all the cooking and the rest of the Scouts would do all the eating," said the 28-year-old West Jordan man.
That youthful ingenuity paid off recently as he and younger brother Dave Clawson, 25, of Saratoga Springs, were named winners of the 2007 World Championship Dutch Oven Cook-off.
Each two-person team had six hours to cook an entrDee, bread and a dessert for a panel of local judges, which includes chefs, media and sports personalities.
The Clawsons were the youngest of the 13 teams competing in the event, part of the International Sportsmen's Exposition. The brothers impressed the judges with their entrDee of beef tenderloin with lobster tails, Philly cheese steak rolls and a layered chocolate cake with strawberry cream filling.
Before the judges' scores were tallied, the Clawsons said they had an edge on the competition because they had been lucky enough to earn a sponsorship from Omaha Steaks, which paid for the quality beef in two of their recipes.
The team earned $5,000 and cast-iron bragging rights for the year. Ben and Debbie Auxier of Orem, cooking in their fourth World Championship, were runners up, serving a maple glazed pork crown roast, Finish coffee bread and Southern pecan pie.
Third place went to Dave and Pamela Monson, law enforcement officers from Middleton, Idaho, whose friends call them the "Cast Iron Cowboys." They prepared a crab-stuffed chicken with hollandaise sauce, fireside potato bread and a tropical cowboy poke cake.
Teams representing six states -- Utah, Idaho, Oregon, California, Texas and Oklahoma -- competed in the annual competition at the South Towne Exposition Center. Teams had to win a sanctioned Dutch oven cook-off during the year to qualify. Preliminary rounds narrowed the field.
Utah seems to rule the Dutch oven kingdom. The International Dutch Oven Society was started in Utah, and its headquarters are here. The Dutch oven is the official state cooking pot and more people per capita own a Dutch oven in Utah than in any other state, according to IDOS.
Lately, Dutch oven cooking has experienced a revival in other parts of the country as well, said Randy Macari, IDOS president. Membership in the group has nearly doubled in the past four years with six new groups in the Washington-Oregon area and three in California.
"People are really trying to bring back some of their history," said Macari.
And if the competition is any indication, they are cooking more than their grandmother's soups and stews.
The list of foods at the world competition read like the menu of a top-rated restaurant: beer-braised rabbit, flank steak roulade with wild mushroom sauce, crawfish etouffee and teriyaki salmon with citrus salsa.
"I'm surprised at the complexity of the food," said Mark Eaton, a former Utah Jazz basketball player-turned-local restaurateur and one of the judges. "It's difficult to pick one over the other, especially when you see the pride the cooks have in their food and their presentation."
Competitions help bring the simplicity of the cast iron pot to the masses, explained Allen Jones of Idaho Falls.
"A lot of people don't think you can go gourmet cooking in cast iron," said Jones, who along with Huey Hooks, of Vidor, Texas, were the 2006 World Champions. "They are so versatile, anything you can do in an oven at home, you can do in a Dutch oven."
Many cooks first learn to prepare food in a Dutch oven on camping trips with scouting groups or families. But some folks just can't wait for those outdoor trips, so they begin preparing Dutch oven meals for family and friends right in the backyard.
It's all because the food tastes better when cooked in these heavy black pots, enthusiasts say. Cast iron is an ideal heat conductor, cooking foods evenly and making even the toughest cuts of meat fall-off-the-bone tender.
"There's something about these black pots that are magical," said competitor Todd Carter of West Valley City. And for some people, cast-iron cooking becomes an addiction. Carter and his wife and cooking partner, Cindy, own more than 30 different cast iron cookware pieces in a variety of sizes and shapes.
"It's fun to experiment," said Cindy Carter.
Participating in cook-offs and the less stressful DOGS -- Dutch oven gatherings -- creates a sense of camaraderie among Dutch oven enthusiasts that lasts well beyond competition.
"I love it," said Carol Fuller, a cement truck driver from American Fork who was competing for the third time at the Sandy event. "Everybody wants to win, but mostly I love the challenge and I love the people. They are all my friends."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)