Cleaning Your Dutch Oven
Stains on any cookware are inevitable and that’s okay! The more you use your Dutch Oven, the dimmer the shine on the enamel will become. Look at it as a sign of being well used and well loved. Stained by twenty years of family meals or fresh out of the box, your Dutch Oven is going to cook you the same great tasting meals.
Here are the most common ways your enamel ware gets stained.
High temperatures, Low Moisture, Scratched Enamel
High temperatures: While your Dutch oven can withstand up to 500F, low and slow is the best cooking style for cast iron. The metal in your Dutch oven retains heat well, so even though the temperature of your heating element is low, the heat inside your oven will crawl higher and retain that temperature.
If you need high heat (say you are baking breads), be prepared. While your oven can take the heat, what can’t withstand those high temperatures are the spills, stains, and unseen residues already inside your oven. When they burn, the soot clings to anything it can, including your Dutch Oven.
Low moisture: Your oven needs oil or water while being heated. When in doubt, more liquid is better, particularly when preheating the Dutch Oven before baking or searing meat.
Scratched enamel: Pigments like to hide in inconvenient places, and no place is more inconvenient than a tiny scratch in the corner of a pan.
When preheating your Dutch oven, make sure there is some water or oil (to avoid scorching the enamel).
Use an oil with a high smoke point, such as avocado oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.
When cooking on a stove, use medium-low heat. The cast iron beneath the enamel coating will retain and distribute the heat throughout the oven so it does not need to have a high heat. Low and slow is the way to go.
Think of your enamel like glass. Abrasive, hard, and sharp items will scratch it. The more scratches, the more small lines and scrapes that stains get trapped into. Things that will scrap your enamel: Metal cooking utensils, highly abrasive sponges, among others.
How to remove stains
The easiest to clean stain will wash out with regular dish soap and a sponge.
- Step 1: Try to wash it normally.
Step 2: Add two tablespoons of baking soda per cup of water and put your Dutch Oven on the stove. Heat to a boil and allow to simmer. While water is simmering, the baking soda will foam and bubble. Use a wooden spoon to gently scrape stains away from the enamel.
The more stains in the oven, the harder it can be to see them as you’re boiling, so depending on how stained the oven is, you might need to repeat the process a few times to maintain visibility.
- Step 3: If the stains are persisting, make a baking soda paste out of three parts baking soda per one part water paste, rub over the stain, (including exterior). Allow to dry overnight. The next day, wet the baking soda solution and rub the stain with wooden spoon or a non-abrasive sponge and repeat the boiling step as needed.
- Step 4: For super challenging stains and baked on food, you can pull out the big guns, oven cleaner or lye drain cleaner. That’s right. The inside of most home ovens is enameled steel, just like your Dutch Oven. If you are having a hard time with a stain, you can use oven cleaner to erode the mess away. Take all the precautions on the oven or drain cleaner packaging. Use gloves, wear eye protection, and ensure your space is properly ventilated while cleaning. Once done, rewash the Dutch Oven to ensure all the tough cleaner has washed out of the oven.