How do you take care of a dutch oven?
A good dutch oven can last forever if properly cared for. Cast iron is brittle and can be broken if dropped or struck. Intense or uneven heat, such as placing on a hot stove burner, or pouring cold water into a hot dutch oven, can also cause a dutch oven to warp or crack. Aside from actually breaking your dutch oven, however, it’s hard to render them unusable, even if a dutch oven is neglected (rusty, rancid, left dirty, etc.) it can be restored to like-new condition. However, restoring a dutch oven takes time and it’s disappointing to open a dutch oven expecting to prepare a meal and discover that it was not properly cleaned or stored and now needs to be restored before it can be used.
The main consensus is that you should not use soap to clean your dutch oven. In reality, a well-seasoned dutch oven would probably hold up fine to mild dish soap, but the following waterless methods work fine and soap should not be needed.
1. Remove as much food as possible using a plastic scraper or platic scrubber
2. Pour an inch or two of clean water into your dutch oven
3. Place on low to medium heat for a few minutes with the lid on
4. Remove from heat
5. When it is warm enough to touch use plastic scraper or scrubber to remove remaining (now softened) food
6. Pour out water, wipe with paper towel, and warm the dutch oven to remove remaining moisture (with the lid askew)
Aluminum Liner method
1. Remove the liner
2. Double-check for spillage (less likely if using a quality liner like …)
3. If food has spilled remove using water-only method
Your dutch oven should be coated with vegetable oil before storing. It only needs thin layer, so wipe off excess with a paper towel. Store with the lid off or propped open. You can also place a paper towel inside. Storing in this method will reduce the possibility of rusting or of going rancid. It is still a good idea to check your dutch oven when taking it out of storage to make sure it is ready to go.
I also like to store my aluminum liners inside to protect them and then I always know where they are!
Avoid using metal utensils on your dutch oven. Yes, the cast iron is much tougher than the metal, but the seasoning is not. Think of the seasoning the same way you would the non-stick coating on your frying pan, only use plastic or wood utensils and cleaning tools. Plan in advance if you are going to be using your camping dutch oven away from home so that you have what you’ll need to prepare and serve food, and clean up afterwards.
Fortunately a rusty dutch oven can be completely restored. The rust will need to be removed with coarse steel wool or a wire brush. If there was a thick seasoning that is now damaged, this will need to be removed too. Then treat the dutch oven as you would a new one and season.
Put your nose into your dutch oven when removing from storage. If there is a rancid odor (you’ll know it when you smell it) you can fully re-season the dutch oven, or you can try a simpler method called sweetening.
The rancid smell will be burnt out, but in a controlled manner.
You’ll want a fairly high heat for this, so pretty much all the hot charcoal you can fit under and on the lid.
Leave on the heat for about 5 minutes then wipe down the inside, including the lid, to remove the liquefied oil. Gloves are a good idea at this point. Try to do this quickly so the dutch oven doesn’t cool off before you’re done.
Replace the lid and let heat an additional ten minutes. Remove from the heat and lid and let cool. Check to see if the smell has been removed. You may need several of these cycles to get all of the rancid oil/smell removed. It has to be done in these short cycles as leaving it on the high heat for too long will remove the seasoning.
To learn more about seasoning your Dutch oven click here. You can also check read more about the advantages of using Dutch oven liners by reading this article. Go to our recipes page and find something good to cook.