How to Care for Dutch Ovens
- Dutch Oven Cleaning & Care
- Dutch Oven Seasoning
- Top 10 Storage Tips
Dutch Oven Care
Proper cleaning and care of your Dutch oven will allow you to enjoy years of use. Over time, properly cared for Dutch ovens will develop a natural non-stick surface. There are two simple steps to perform before putting your oven away, cleaning and oiling.
Cleaning your Dutch oven, especially a properly cared for oven, should not be difficult. Remove any large pieces of food that are left and wipe out any loose particles. With the oven warm (it opens the pores of the metal), pour a little hot water into the oven - do not use soap. Using a stiff nylon brush or plastic scrubbee clean out any stuck-on bits. Do not use any cleaning tools or scrapers made of metal. Metallic cleaning tools will harm your oven's finish and may even gouge your Dutch oven. Wipe out your oven with a cleaning cloth, rinse and dry the oven. If you have some stubborn stuff stuck to the oven try scouring with a salt paste. Use a couple tablespoons of Kosher salt and add a little hot water to make a paste. Use half of a potato or a plastic scrubbee and simply scrub the stuck on bits. The abrasiveness of the salt will help to remove the stuck-on grime without harming the surface of your Dutch oven.
Oiling of your Dutch oven helps to maintain the oven's non-stick surface and prevents rust. The first step is to heat your cleaned Dutch oven to open the pores of the metal. Once warm to the touch (not hot), wipe the oven inside and out with a vegetable oil (I exclusively use olive oil). Do not use so much oil that it pools up inside your oven, all you want to do is coat the oven. Once oiled, place a couple pieces of cardboard or rolled up tin foil between the oven and lid to allow air to circulate. This helps to prevent rust. You can now put your oven in its bag or storage container, ready to use next time.
The Way NOT to Clean
There are those who believe the way to clean a Dutch oven is by placing it upside down in a fire to burn out the remnants of a meal. I do not recommend this method. Sure, fire will burn out a stuck-on mess. It will also remove any non-stick surface or seasoning, replacing it with tars and other fire byproducts. This can't put a good flavor into future meals. Also, this practice can easily over heat the metal which can warp or otherwise damage your Dutch oven. This technique should only be considered as a last ditch effort for a severely fouled Dutch oven. However you may want to check our Dutch Oven Restoration page for some other ideas.
Cautionary Note: Be careful not to use cold water on a hot oven and do not place a hot oven or lid onto snow or ice. The temperature differential may very well result in a cracked oven or lid.
Seasoning Dutch Ovens & Cast Iron Cookware
Dutch ovens, frying pans and other cast iron cookware can now be purchased pre-seasoned from multiple manufacturers. This has greatly reduced the need for us to be seasoning Dutch ovens and other cast iron cookware. However it is still a good to know how to season Dutch ovens and other cast iron cookware. After all, unseasoned cast iron cookware is still available.
There is also the used market. Occasionally, used cast iron in need of special care can be found at garage sales or flea markets at really good prices. There is also the occasional neglected oven that gets a bit of rust. It doesn’t matter if an oven is old or new, Dutch oven seasoning is really a simple process.
The first step is cleaning of the oven. Bare metal ovens fresh from the factory are the only ones that should be cleaned with soap and water. You need to remove any foundry dirt or grime as well as the rust preventative coating that the factory put on the Dutch oven to protect it during shipment. Wash the oven inside and out with hot, soapy water. Once cleaned, rinse the Dutch oven well and dry it thoroughly. Review the "Dutch Oven Restoration" link for tips on cleaning or resurrecting neglected or damaged ovens.
Once your Dutch oven is thoroughly cleaned you will need to coat it and the lid inside and out with a thin film of shortening. More is not better, you do not want to slather a thick layer on the piece to be seasoned. Next, if you have a good exhaust system in you kitchen, place a cookie pan on the grate of your kitchen oven. Otherwise you can use your barbeque grill. Place supports on the cookie pan or grill that will hold the Dutch oven upside down and up off of the pan. Place the lid upside down on the feet of your oven. Bake your oven on medium heat (350 deg.) until the oven stops smoking. You can then turn off the heat and let the oven cool. Do not remove your Dutch oven until it has cooled.
Congratulations – you have just seasoned your first Dutch oven! As you see, seasoning is really a pretty simple process. Heating of the Dutch oven opens the pores of the metal allowing the shortening to penetrate the metal. It is then baked into a protective coating, the beginning of what will be a natural no-stick surface. This is not just limited to Dutch ovens, the process is the same whether you are seasoning cast iron frying pans, muffin pans, skillets, etc.
Top 10 Dutch Oven Storage Tips
- Never store a wet Dutch oven. A Dutch oven that is put away wet is going to rust.
- Never store a dirty Dutch oven. A dirty oven will rust and grow mold resulting in a nasty mess.
- Be sure your oven has been seasoned before storing. Dutch oven seasoning should have been done right after cleaning but be sure to check anyway before storing, especially if someone else cleaned your oven.
- Be sure your oven has not been over-oiled. There should only be a thin coating of oil, not a pooling of vegetable oil in the bottom of your Dutch oven. Oil pooled in the bottom of an oven will turn rancid and foul your Dutch oven.
- Store your Dutch oven with the lid ajar to allow airflow. Prop the lid open with pieces of cardboard, rolled up foil or paper towels. This helps prevent rust.
- Place a perforated baggie of dry raw rice in your oven before storing. The rice will absorb moisture and help prevent rust.
- Store your Dutch ovens indoors in a clean, dry area.
- Store in a bag, box or cupboard to keep your Dutch ovens protected.
- Store on a lower shelf, Dutch ovens can be heavy!
- If you have multiple Dutch ovens (we're all collectors) be sure to rotate the usage of your ovens. An ignored oven that sits on a shelf for long periods is bound to rust.