How to Clean a Dutch Oven

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The first time you clean the ode to versatility that is an enameled Dutch oven, simply wash it in soapy water and let it air dry. With a bare cast iron version, wash similarly -- but actively dry the oven with a towel and coat it promptly, using a paper towel or dishcloth, with a light layer of cooking oil or melted shortening.

Cleaning after you make a wonderful beef stew or casserole depends on whether you have:

  • Enameled cast iron -- such as those made by Le Creuset, Staub, Cuisinart, Lodge and Calphalon.
  • Bare cast iron -- Lodge is a leading maker.
  • Whether you've accidentally burned food onto the bottom.

Porcelain Enamelware

To avoid scorching, don't heat empty porcelain enamel Dutch ovens, and keep the heat in the Low to Medium range. Cast iron gains and holds heat terrifically well, so you won't need High settings.

When you're ready to clean it, let the Dutch oven cool until it is no longer hot, and fill it halfway with water. Leave it to soak for 15 to 20 minutes if it has thick baked-on material on the base. Otherwise, go ahead and clean it with a nylon-bristle brush or sponge.

Warning

  • Avoid abrasive cleaning pads or cleaners, as well as metal pads or scourers.

You can also check the manufacturer's instructions for whether the Dutch oven is dishwasher safe. Even if it is, hand washing is often preferable -- it keeps the enamel glossy.

Bare Cast Iron

Bare cast iron needs to be kept out of the dishwasher. Hand wash it in plain water, advises the Lodge website -- since soap isn't critical, given the sterilizing effects of high heat on foods. If you encounter rust, wash the pan thoroughly and immerse it in an electrolyte bath to remove the rust, and then reseason it.

Burned-On Food

Customize your approach depending on the kind of Dutch oven you have:

  • With bare cast iron, remove baked-on food by scouring it with a paste of water and kosher salt, or gently simmer water in the Dutch oven to loosen the particles.
  • With porcelain enamel, gently simmer water mixed with 2 or 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the Dutch oven. Push off the carbonized material with a wooden spoon. If need be, repeat the process with more baking soda, or vinegar or hydrogen peroxide added to the water.

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