How to Clean a Dutch Oven After Cooking

how to clean a dutch oven after cooking

This article was last updated on July 24th, 2020

You and I know that a lot of people are hesitant to own a Dutch oven because of the horror they conjure up in their minds regarding the cleaning of the ovens. Not to mention the fear of ruining a Dutch oven. 

How to clean a Dutch oven after cooking! Quick clean after use, while the Dutch oven is still warm scrape off any food particles with a wooden spoon, let cool. Stuck food particles? Boil water in the Dutch oven, let cool, while warm use a nylon scrubber. Rinse with clean warm water and dry immediately.

Never fear Dutch ovens in all forms are very tough. They just need to be cleaned and maintained correctly.  

Also the fear of having food sticking when cooking and not really understanding that if seasoned correctly Dutch ovens should not have sticky problems.

Well, today I’m here to cover the quickest and easiest ways of cleaning a Dutch oven after cooking. As well as clear up some of the concerns with the re-seasoning of cast iron Dutch ovens. I will break it down into categories so you will see quickly how to clean your particular type of Dutch oven.

If you make to the end of the article you will also be able to view a fantastic video about cleaning, restoring, and re-seasoning cast iron in general.

How to Clean a Dutch Oven After Cooking

This a big topic so I will also cover:

  • How to clean a rusty cast-iron Dutch oven
  • How to clean a cast-iron Dutch oven
  • How to clean a cast-aluminum Dutch oven
  • How to clean an enamel Dutch oven
  • How to clean discolored enamel cookware

If you have come to this page and just want to quickly directed to Dutch oven cleaning equipment. Click here and you can head over to Amazon to see what is available.

Okay before we get started with the breakdown on how to clean a Dutch oven after cooking there are a few points that should be covered.

Firstly, if you haven’t used your Dutch oven yet you should refer to your manufacturer’s instructions before use. There are so many different types of Dutch ovens out there on the market with varying degrees of quality. You must identify what sort of material your Dutch oven is made of. This will allow you to clean your oven in the safest way not to damage the oven.

Secondly, you should never ever use sharp or metal objects to chip away at the food that may be crustily burnt onto the surface of the Dutch oven.

Thirdly, we never use steel wool or anything abrasive like this to try and remove light sticky food or enamel discoloration on the surface of the enamel. Cast iron Dutch ovens do not like soapy water or to be fully submerged in water. If you avoid those two actions you will save your seasoning as well as stopping the rusting process from the beginning.

Lastly, if you have a cooking disaster with your Dutch oven try contacting the manufacturer. In this age of being able to access’s suppliers via websites or emails try contacting them before attempting to do anything drastic to your Dutch oven. After all, you are their customer and should be treated with the best possible service they can provide.

How to Clean a Dutch Oven That Is Rusted

The following instructions work for the rusty Dutch oven as well as if acidic foods have compromised the seasoning like tomatoes or vinegar. The steps for the process are listed here with further explanation below…

  1. Clean all debris from Dutch oven
  2. Scrub with hot water and dish soap for 10 minutes
  3. Place in oven at 300 degrees for 10 minutes to dry
  4. Scrub inside of the pan with 1/4 cup of oil and 1 cup of coarse kosher salt
  5. Rinse out with water
  6. Place 1 cup of white vinegar with 1 quart of water inside the pan
  7. Scrub for 5 minutes with a clean cotton towel
  8. Rinse pan out thoroughly
  9. Place in oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes to dry
  10. Take the pan out of the oven and let cook
  11. Turn down oven temperature to 300 degrees

The first step is to remove any large food particles, carbon deposits, and any other debris from the cooking surface. Then, heat up your Dutch oven to 300 degrees for 10 minutes. After that, let your pan cool enough to barely handle. Then scrub with a clean cotton cloth and hot soapy water.

If you do not have a cast-iron scrubber the one I always use in kit form from Amazon. Click here to check it out for yourself.

Next, towel dry, then place in the oven at 300 degrees for 10 minutes to rid the pan of moisture. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. Add one-quarter cup of cooking oil of your choice with one cup of coarse Kosher salt to your pan.

Next, use a clean, dry cotton cloth to thoroughly scrub oil and salt into the cooking surface. This will act as an abrasive and lubricant all in one mixture. Simply add more oil as needed.

When finished, rinse with water then add one cup of white vinegar with one quart of water to your Dutch oven. Thoroughly scrub with a clean cotton towel for 5 to 10 minutes.

Next, rinse your pan and place back in the oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes to completely dry. Finally, turn down oven temperature to 300 degrees you are now ready to re-season your Dutch oven.

Avoiding rust on your cast-iron Dutch oven is far better than the removal of rust, maintenance is relatively easy compared to the rust removal process.

Check out my article here about how to clean a Dutch oven that is rusted…

How to Clean a Cast Iron Dutch Oven After Use

It should be noted that if you are using your cast iron Dutch oven for the first time you should season the oven.

Even though it may have come pre-seasoned there is no way of knowing how long ago this could have taken place. Thus compromising the seasoning and when the seasoning is compromised you can just about guarantee that your food will stick. Or worse, burn onto the inside of your Dutch oven.

Follow these quick and easy instructions and you will be ready to go.

  1. Rub oil all over your Dutch oven – inside and out.
  2. Place the Dutch oven into an oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Carefully (the cast iron is HOT) reapply oil all over the Dutch oven and continue to heat it for another hour at 200 degrees Fahrenheit
  4. Turn off the oven, leave it in overnight. Store your Dutch oven in a dry place.
  5. Before using give the Dutch oven a final coat of oil.

how to clean a dutch oven after cooking

How Do You Clean and Reseason a Dutch Oven?

Cleaning Cast Iron

To start cleaning a Dutch oven that is made from seasoned cast-iron removing any leftover food from the Dutch oven before it cools is a great way to start.

When food is left in a cast-iron Dutch oven to go cold it tends to adhere to the cast iron. Especially if the Dutch oven has not been seasoned properly. So removing the food before it goes cold is a huge advantage.

If you have burnt food on the inside of your Dutch oven you can firstly use a plastic scraper to lift the food off. After you have removed the larger parts of the food from the oven you can then add water to the Dutch oven covering the burnt food left in the oven.

Bring the water to the boil, this should loosen this burnt on food. Let the water cool slightly tip out and wipe out any of the residue left in the oven.

If there is still residue on the inside of your oven you can use some salt. Using kosher salt sprinkle it over the oven, then using a damp cotton cloth gently remove the food that is still remaining. After all the food has been removed rinse the Dutch oven well and dry immediately.

Your cast-iron Dutch oven can now be re-seasoned, which after what it would have just been through is very important. Due to the fact that the seasoning would be compromised. Information on how to carry out this process is set out below.

Watch this video if you want some visual help with restoring and cleaning cast-iron it is a great video!

Re-Seasoning Cast Iron

Once again the re-seasoning steps are listed here with a more in-depth explanation below…

  1. Heat up the pan to 300 degrees then let cool until still very warm
  2. Apply Crisco or similar shortening oil inside of Dutch oven and coat evenly while the pan is still warm
  3. Place a cookie sheet on the bottom of the oven to catch excess oil falling from the Dutch oven
  4. Place Crisco coated Dutch oven upside down in the oven at 300 degrees for 1 hour
  5. Pull out the pan and let cool
  6. Remove excess oil from the bottom of the pan
  7. Repeat Crisco coating step and place back in the oven upside down at 300 degrees for 1 hour
  8. Take out of the oven, and remove excess oil once again
  9. Enjoy your newly restored, pre-seasoned cast-iron Dutch oven

After the cleaning process has been performed, the re-seasoning process can begin. This is an incredibly important step in maintaining your cast iron Dutch oven for years to come. If you came directly to this section because your Dutch oven simply needs reasoning, then continue reading.

First, heat your oven to 300 degrees and place your pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, take your pan out and let cool until it is somewhat comfortable to hold on to.

Your Dutch oven should be warm to slightly hot to the touch. Rub Crisco or your favorite shortening with your fingers into the cooking surface of your pan.

Next, place your pan in the oven at 300 degrees for one-hour upside down. Make sure to place a cookie sheet or large tray underneath, to catch the excess oil that melts down from the Dutch oven. Then, remove the Dutch oven and let it cool.

Remove the excess oil from the pan with a clean, dry towel. Finally, repeat this step once more, coating with Crisco and placing it back in the oven for an hour at 300 degrees. Then, wipe out excess oil and enjoy your newly re-seasoned cast iron Dutch oven for many meals to come.

If you do not have any seasoning. I love using as many natural products this is the one I use. Check it out here.

I also have an article all about the best oils for seasoning cast iron which you can have a quick look at by clicking here.

How Do You Clean Cast Aluminum Cookware?

Cast aluminum is a light metal that has its own natural luster. It is a strong metal that requires some special care when cleaning. Aluminum Dutch ovens require light cleaning so as not to damage the look or affect its useful life. But is required regularly to help prevent the build-up of aluminum oxide.

how to clean a dutch oven after cooking

Cleaning Aluminum with Mild Acidic Cleaners

  1. Let your Dutch oven cool down before attempting to clean it
  2. If you have food burned and stuck to the Dutch oven scrape the food off with a wooden spoon or steel wool soap pad
  3. If the food will not break away from the Dutch oven you then need to boil water in the bottom of the oven and then scrape the burnt residue away with a wooden spoon
  4. Stop scraping when you see the aluminum
  5. Remove oil, dirt, and grease by using warm water with dishwashing soap and wiping with a soft cotton cloth, after rinsing thoroughly, completely dry your Dutch oven
  6. Acidic Cleaning Solution – This solution reduces discoloration due to oxidation. To make up the acidic cleaning solution you will require, 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar, white vinegar, or lemon juice.
  7. Rub on gently with a soft sponge then dry with a soft cotton cloth.
  8. Fill the pot with the solution. If the whole Dutch oven inside and out needs cleaning you can try submerging it in a larger pot. You can rub the outside of the Dutch oven with a cut lemon dipped in salt if you do not have a pot large enough to submerge your oven.
  9. Bring the pot to a boil. Then let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes
  10. When you see the aluminum brighten turn off the burner. After the pot cools you can empty the water.
    Scrubbing the Dutch oven gently should remove any leftover discoloration. You should not use steel wool it is abrasive and will scratch your aluminum.

There are gentle aluminum cleaners available for cleaning cookware readily available, instead of the boiling method. 

You can also use cleaners like Bar Keeper’s Friend which is safe to use on many surfaces.

See it here. Ensure you follow instructions so you do not damage your oven.

A couple of extra tips to keep in mind when cleaning aluminum…

Try the natural approach…

You could try to deep clean with one or more of these more natural approaches. For example, rubbing the aluminum with acidic fruits or vegetables, rhubarb and apple can work well. What about using the process set out above but instead of acid you use apple peels.

Keep an eye on these…

Do not use any compound that has hydroxide or caustic soda as an ingredient as it may leave a stain or a white residue in the Dutch oven.

If you clean your aluminum Dutch oven in the dishwasher it could turn your oven gray. This can also happen if aluminum soaks in water with dishwashing soap in it for too long. If this happens you could try to use a Silver cleaning paste.

Using soft metal scourers in place of steel wool will protect your aluminum from scratches.

How to Clean an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

The question of how do I clean my enamel Dutch oven arrises constantly, due to the fact that people do not want to damage the enamel coating in the process. In this section of the article, I will cover how to clean an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven after everyday use whereby nothing has adhered to the Dutch oven.

Then I will also look at the other types of cleaning issues that can arise after cooking with an enameled Dutch oven. For example, the sticky residue that can adhere to the enamel when making jams, sauces, caramel, and other sugary types of recipes.

Also the severely burnt on foods that can be really difficult to remove.

If you want to see a kit you can purchase so you do not have to go through the following steps. This Lodge care kit is designed to be gentle and is an awesome kit. Click here to check it out for yourself.

Okay, let us start with the everyday cleaning of your enameled cast iron  Dutch oven

  1. To start with you will have to let your oven cool
  2. Submerge your Dutch oven in warm soapy water (non-citrus based dishwashing liquid)
  3. Using either a normal cotton dishcloth or nylon scouring pad gently clean your oven
  4. Rinse with clean water and dry with a cotton towel thoroughly
  5. Store your oven in a cool dry place
  6. Your manufacturer’s instructions will hopefully tell you to store your oven with the rubber pot protectors securely between the rim of the oven and the lid as this prevents chipping

how to clean a dutch oven after cooking

Removing Sticky Food

If you have cooked sticky food such as jams, sauces, and deserts the best measure to prevent sticking is to remove all the food from the oven while the oven is still warm. This prevents the food from sticking even more as the oven is totally cooled down.

Then if there is grease, food or small areas of burnt food for example on the sides of the Dutch oven use this approach.

  • Soak your oven in hot water with a citrus-free dishwashing liquid for a couple of hours
  • Gently rub anything left in the oven
  • Dry thoroughly

If this method does not work here are a couple more you can try.

  1. In 2 quarts of hot water dissolve 2 tablespoons of baking soda add to the Dutch oven. Leave it to sit for the night. (The Dutch oven should not be sitting in water) Then with a nylon scouring pad gently clean your oven taking care not to scratch the inside. If there is still a little left on the oven repeat again until the sticky residue has been removed.
  2. Adding 2 quarts of hot water to the Dutch oven then add a quarter cup of dishwashing powder, not liquid, and let it dissolve, leave overnight and repeat scouring as above.
  3. It is similar to the above but you will need laundry powder this time. The process for these stubborn sticky messes is… Add 2 quarts of water to the oven, then add a quarter cup of powdered laundry detergent. Turn up the heat and boil for 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool, leaving the water inside then use your nylon scouring pad to rub off the leftover stickiness.
  4. As previously outlined dry and store your Dutch oven.

Removing Baked-On Food

For the food that is burnt onto the enamel, you can bring to the boil 2 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of baking soda. You should only need to boil this mixture for a couple of minutes. If you have really stubborn food still attached you may need to gently prise the food off with a plastic pan scraper.

You can then remove the last of the residue using your nylon scourer and warm citrus free soapy water.

Dry thoroughly storing as previously outlined above.

More about cleaning enamel cast-iron Dutch ovens and cookware can be found in my article here.

How to Clean Discolored Enamel Cookware

After prolonged use, you may find that you have discoloration on your Dutch oven inside and out. The main reason this happens is due to the type of food you cook.

Some examples of these would be tomato-based foods like pasta, chili, bean, stews, and some soups. The other culprit would be those sugary foods like jams, caramels, and desserts.

One way to remove stains and discoloration from enamel cookware is to follow the previous steps for cleaning your dutch oven after cooking.

  • Submerge your Dutch oven in warm soapy water (non-citrus based)
  • Using either a normal cotton dishcloth or nylon scouring pads gently clean your oven
  • Rinse with clean water and dry with a cotton towel thoroughly

Then mix together household bleach and water the required ratio is 3 tablespoons of bleach per quart of water. Let your Dutch oven soak for 2/3 hours. Upon emptying the water your Dutch oven should be a little brighter.

Occasionally you can remove stains with an enamel cleaner, adhering to the instructions on the bottle.

One thing I always remember is that a well used and cared for piece of cooking equipment will have slight marks on it over time. These marks or discolorations will not affect its ability to prepare wonderful meals.

Caring for Enamel Cast Iron Cookware

Here are a couple of extra tips to keep in mind to help preserve your enamel cast-iron Dutch ovens and other enamel cookware.

Avoid using utensils or metal pad (steel wool) to clean your Dutch oven as this could lead to scratching or chipping the enamel.

It should be noted that citrus-based cleaners can dull the interior and exterior gloss of your enameled Dutch oven. This citrus base can be found in cleaners but also some dishwashing detergents use citrus for the fresh smell.

The label attached to any enameled cookware will tell you that it is dishwasher safe but I believe that anything delicate should not be put in the dishwasher. Handwashing with warm non-citrus based soapy water is best.

Not stacking your cookware will prolong its life, so give your oven a special cool dry place on its own.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Season a Dutch Oven?

It takes approximately 60 minutes to bake the seasoning onto a Dutch oven.

This time does not include the amount of time you need to clean the Dutch oven before applying any seasoning.

I would also season and bake cast-iron cookware at least twice if the iron responds well to the process. Your cast-iron may need more than two applications.

How Do You Strip a Dutch Oven?

Stripping cast-iron is simply removing any oil, food, crud, and anything else that has adhered to the cast-iron making it non-stick.

Strip the Dutch oven by using a scourer and scarper, if required, to remove any substance covering the cast-iron.

There are other methods used for stripping cast-iron these include, vinegar, oven cleaner, or an electrolysis bath.

After cleaning the cast-iron it is very important to get it dry as soon as possible and thoroughly before you apply any seasoning.

How to Clean Outside of Dutch Oven?

If your Dutch oven is seasoned cast-iron a scourer and water.

If your Dutch oven is enamel cast-iron you need to take great care not scratch and cause the enamel to go dull on the outside. Use warm soapy water and a cloth that will not scratch the surface. If needed let the enamel soak for a short time in between attempts at cleaning.

Again, dry that enamel cast-iron thoroughly after cleaning.

Final Thoughts – How to Clean a Dutch Oven After Cooking

It is my hope that you will try some of the cleaning options laid out above. And that you have great success! There is absolutely no need to discard your old Dutch oven whether it is traditional cast iron or enamel.

If your Dutch oven cannot be revived as you would like. Why not keep your old workhorse and use it for those messy cooking jobs. Like the jams, sauces, caramels, and desserts. Then get yourself a new Dutch oven just to spoil yourself…

Or maybe you would like to try cooking with a Dutch oven in a metal that you do not currently have.

Recommended Reading

Check out some of my favorite and very popular enameled Dutch ovens. Below are some in-depth articles I have written about these popular brands.

You can check out the Lodge EC6D93 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven which is available in three sizes – 3-Quart, 6-Quart, and 7.5 Quart. One of the best features of this enameled cast iron Dutch oven is that it is available in 9 – yes 9 – fantastic colors. Perfect for cooking and then serving at your table straight from the Dutch oven.

If you are after something large for those bigger cuts of meat. You might be after an oval enameled Dutch oven. You can go here Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 6.75 Quart Oval French Dutch Oven to see my review of this beautiful Le Creuset Dutch oven.

Maybe you are after a traditional cast iron Dutch oven of which we have many extensive reviews. Here is just a couple you may be interested in to help you choose your next cast iron Dutch oven.

Firstly, the Lodge L8DO3 Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Pre-Seasoned, 5-Quart which is easy to carry because it has a built-in wire handle attached to the oven itself.

Or maybe the Lodge 6-Quart L12CO3 Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven which is great for camping.

You can find Dutch Ovens pretty much anywhere online – but for the best deal and product range, I would go to Amazon, where you will buy for a great price.

Click here to go through to Amazon

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