The reliable Dutch oven is a rugged heavy cooking pot, it has a snug-fitted lid that self bastes tenderizes ingredients to perfection. We use them for sauteing, braising, stewing, frying fish and steak as well as making soups and curries.
Sometimes a cast-iron Dutch oven or cast iron skillets, other cast-iron cookware may give off a foul smell. This can be very unpleasant particularly if you want to bake scones, bread, or cakes in your Dutch oven. So the question arises; “so why does my Dutch oven smell?”
A Dutch oven that smells could be the result of a meal that you have cooked previously. The seasoning may have broken down and the flavors from dishes prepared have seeped into the cast iron. Or, it could also be the result of a poor seasoning job where the seasoning may have gone tacky and rancid in storage.
Unfortunately when cast iron is not maintained well the cleaning, smell, rust removal, and seasoning process becomes laborious.
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5 Ways to Remove Odors from Cast Iron Cookware
Generally, we are advised not to use soap on our cast iron cookware or throw it in the dishwasher like other pots and pans.
If cast iron has taken on some form of smell one can scrub their skillet with water as much as they want, and the stench will stay.
Here are a few things that you should know to help you eliminate the unpleasant stench in your Dutch oven.
Scrub Your Cast Iron
To remove smells from cast-iron Dutch ovens or any other cookware you can try one of the methods below. If it is a really tough job why not use a combination of the methods below.
- Use hot water, a good quality dish soap, and a scourer or brush to scrub that pan clean.
- You can also try a mixture of seasoning oil and salt, lightly scrub, clean, dry, and lightly season. Rinse all the soap off and dry thoroughly. Lightly season before storing.
Cast Iron Cleaner
You may opt to use a commercial cast iron cleaner which may alleviate some of the scrubbing required. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Heat Up Your Cast Iron Cookware
Boiling particles off cast iron in much the same way we boil other sticky cookware can work wonders.
If there are stubborn particles boil water or water and vinegar in the Dutch oven for about 30 minutes. Then if required use a flat edge utensil to remove any remaining particles.
Lightly season and dry thoroughly before storing.
Burn/Steam That Stench Away
Do not want to get into a soapy scrubbing war? Try this burn/steam method.
Heating an empty piece of cast-iron cookware inverted inside a conventional oven at 200 degrees or 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes may do the job.
When complete turn the oven off, open the door, and let it cool before removing it. Repeat the process if required.
The Process of Sweetening Cast Iron
Although it is best practice to keep cast iron cleaned and seasoned for the best “Patina”.
Sometimes drastic measures are required to remove lingering or rancid smells that have been retained in your Dutch oven.
One such method is a process called Sweetening. Some people use this method to remove the lingering stench in cast –iron as the charcoal is believed to absorb the smells.
Sweetening is a time-consuming process.
Firstly, put your Dutch oven on top of a high flame stove or any cooktop at high heat with its lid sealed after adding a few charcoal pieces inside the oven.
Keep the Dutch oven on top of the stove for only 5 minutes tops. Once the five minutes are over, you can easily clean your Dutch oven by scrubbing and rinsing the iron.
Once your oven is clean, reheat the Dutch oven again for ten minutes this time. Repeat the Sweetening process until you feel that the stench is gone.
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Season Cast Iron Dutch Ovens and Cast Iron Cookware
Unlike other types of pots and skillets, a Dutch oven does not have a protective coating, Teflon, or similar. Thus, they have to be seasoned or food will particles tend to cling to the pan’s bottom if the seasoning has broken down.
Seasoning your Dutch oven with cooking oil or a cast iron conditioner is required to keep the stench away.
To properly season your Dutch oven it needs to be perfectly clean and dry.
You then need to apply seasoning oil or cast iron conditioner.
Use a cloth, tissue, or towel, and then spread the oil as evenly as possible using the fabric.
In a conventional oven, heated around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, place your Dutch oven or other cast iron piece on the shelf upside down. This allows any extra oil to run off the cast iron stopping it from becoming tacky.
Don’t forget to put a lined tray on a shelf below to catch excess oil.
Leave it in for about 1 hour or until the smoking has stopped and repeat if necessary.
With the regular seasoning of your Dutch oven, an added layer of protection builds up upon the pot, pan, or skillet. Store correctly and season as required.
Cast-Iron Care and Maintenance
Cleaning after every use is the best way to keep cast iron clean.
Ensure that your cast-iron pieces are never left wet as even with its seasoned protective non-stick layer a drop of water, even humidity, can cause the pan to rust.
Regular cleaning and light seasoning will not consume your time like they will when you need to carry out a total restoration of cast iron.
Seasoning, the cast iron piece will keep the smell out of your Dutch oven. A natural protective layer forms on top of the pan, which keeps food particles from sticking to it and in turn easier to keep clean.
Storing cast iron, top off great cast-iron care with appropriate storage. Clean, Dry, and Safe.
See more in my article here about how to store cast iron correctly.
Final Thoughts – Why Does My Dutch Oven Smell?
It is not typical for a Dutch oven to give off a rotten smell.
The scent is a total turn-off, and you will not feel like using your Dutch oven until you have removed any odors.
To avoid your Dutch oven taking one unpleasant smell keep your cast iron cookware seasoned to keep up the shiny repellant “Patina”.
This “Patina” not only stops food from sticking while preparing your favorite dishes but repels liquid, oil, and ingredients from getting deep into the pores of your cast iron.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks
Image: Anna Maiwald