This article was last updated on March 31st, 2020
A pot – the Dutch oven – that originated hundreds of years ago and it is renowned for its wonderful non-stick cooking abilities – sometimes gets sticky who knew!
Everyone wants to avoid food sticking to a Dutch oven – the ruined meal, the mess, the cleanup, and the cleanup…
Read on it is easy to achieve…
Why Does My Dutch Oven Stick? The three main reasons why your Dutch oven’s food sticks and burns on the inside of the oven are that there is too much heat and not enough oil while cooking. Also, poor maintenance of the inside of the oven.
Applying the following easy tips will stop food from sticking to the inside of your Dutch oven while preparing your favorite dishes. You will also be protecting your oven so it can be passed down through the generations so others can enjoy this awesome way of preparing food.
Just to be clear we are talking about enamel cast-iron Dutch ovens in this instance but the same basic principles apply to a seasoned Dutch oven as well.
Why Does My Dutch Oven Stick?
A defining feature of any Dutch oven is that it retains heat better than any other cookware. It is for that reason that most people actually use cast iron for their cooking.
It facilitates slow cooking and ensures that most nutrients are retained in food, because of the tight lid.
However, a tiny detail that far too many people take for granted – and it normally happens because they are only human – is that the heat used on the Dutch oven might be too high.
That is often compounded by the fact that most in-store Dutch ovens already have the enamel coating both on the inside and outside of the pot.
Let us all face it. The chances are that you bought the Dutch oven because it has the non-stick coating. It is, therefore, human nature to take for granted that the heat on the Dutch oven might be too high. It does not take a considerable amount to make that mistake either.
The average cooking session with a Dutch oven only really requires that you cook at a level somewhere near or just above medium heat. Again, that has to do with the heat retention that takes place over a sustained period.
When the heat level is too high while cooking with your Dutch oven, it becomes like any other ordinary pot. As is the case with any ordinary pot or pan, the food burns when it is too hot.
Invariably, when food burns in a pot it will stick to the surface of the pot or pan in question.
Dutch ovens are not immune to this phenomenon. If the heat is too high, the food will burn and stick. However, that is not even the worst of it.
Once a pot of any kind starts sticking, it will keep sticking. Any hopes of getting the Dutch oven to work properly again will require some of the old “cast iron restoration”.
However, not everybody really has the time or desire to do that restoration work.
Truthfully speaking, there is nothing wrong with restoration. In fact, once restored and seasoned, you can get your Dutch oven to come out looking and working like it was brand new.
Top Tips to Prevent Your Dutch Oven from Sticking!
If you follow the correct steps, that could actually prove a blessing in disguise, depending on how long you have owned the cast iron.
1. Control The Temperature
Given what we have just said about heat retention on a Dutch oven, the solution to this problem is to cook at a lower heat then what you would in a pot not made from cast-iron.
When using a Dutch oven always try to cook on medium heat at the very least. I would actually suggest that you cook on low heat most of the time.
If that means it takes a little longer to complete your cooking session, it will give the best result. After all, the whole point of cast iron cooking is that it means cooking slowly and for long periods. The non-stick element is merely a by-product of that.
That cast iron cooking principle should be adopted even when you are frying or searing on the hot plate.
2. Preheating an Empty Enamel Dutch Oven
There is also the temptation to preheat an empty Dutch oven – sometimes people just do it absentmindedly.
The other temptation is to preheat your Dutch oven, particularly at high heat. Doing either of those two things will make your Dutch oven sticky.
Your Dutch oven will become sticky because the surface of the cast iron invariably heats up too quickly under those circumstances.
If it does heat up too quickly, as is the case in the above scenario, your food will burn and stick.
In addition to that, there is the small matter of the enamel coating on the inside of your Dutch oven. Because it is there, people tend to ignore measures that ought to be taken to look after your Dutch oven.
Preheating your Dutch oven, regardless of what heat you have it on can contribute to the cracking of the enamel coating. If you are going to preheat a Dutch oven, always try to make sure you have some kind of cooking oil, fat or even water in there.
Cracking the enamel coating will ultimately defeat the objective. Your Dutch oven will become distressingly sticky.
Again, it is not a problem that cannot be solved. A little cleaning and restoration will get you across the finish line. The caveat, of course, being that you ought to do both things correctly.
3. To Avoid a Sticky Dutch Oven, More Is Best
Once again, it will become increasingly apparent that complacency will be the primary reason for your Dutch oven becoming sticky. We have already touched on complacency with heat.
Another area in which people are often found wanting is the use of cooking oil.
Do not be fooled by the shiny enamel coating on the inside (and outside) of the Dutch oven, it is easy to believe that nothing will stick to it but behind that enamel coating is the cast-iron that gets hot.
If you are going to slap in a block of butter, you should probably slap in a little more butter than you actually need or pour in a little more oil than you actually need. If you put in less fat than you need, the food will invariably stick on your Dutch oven surface.
However, Dutch oven enamel coating also has its limits and it is ultimately in your best interests to not have those limits tested. That is if you do not want a sticky Dutch oven.
Make sure the surface of your Dutch oven is completely covered in fat, especially before frying food. An example of this would be when you need to saute your onions or garlic, among other cooking options.
4. Using Metal Utensils on an Enamel Dutch Oven Is Actually a Sin
I once lived with a woman who used to scramble eggs relentlessly. She always used to scramble those eggs in my non-stick pan…with a metal fork and not nearly enough butter or oil to prevent sticking…
There is honestly no feeling worse than listening to that cooking session because you know just how much damage and misery is being inflicted on that non-stick pan.
By equal measure, using metal utensils while cooking with your Dutch oven is a “crime” of epic proportions. It is quite possibly the easiest way to ensure that your Dutch oven becomes sticky.
There is no quicker way to ruin the quality of a Dutch oven – and curse the person who ever encouraged it in the first place.
We now live in an age where almost everything is available in the markets. There is absolutely no excuse for you not purchasing and owning silicon or wooden utensils.
Likewise, there is no excuse for your failure to use utensils like that on your Dutch oven.
Metal will always scrape your Dutch oven. Just avoid using it, period.
A list of appropriate utensils and accessories perfect for Dutch oven cooking can be found in my article here
5. Dry Your Dutch Oven Thoroughly
In a previous blog post, I have published about Dutch ovens, I addressed the small matter of rust on your cast iron.
The thing about rust is that it is always associated with moisture. More often than not – although people tend to take this for granted – moisture on a Dutch oven gets trapped behind any baked-on food or sticky build-up on the surface and just below.
That build-up normally develops because the owner of the Dutch oven has regularly failed to wash it thoroughly or simply neglected the cast iron.
Sometimes – and this is also taken for granted far too often – people simply do not understand how important it is to keep cast-iron dry and even away from any humidity if possible.
I understand that the idea of washing a Dutch oven by hand can be a little daunting (distressing even), especially if you have been using the product over high heat.
But even if you do not wash the Dutch oven properly, you should at least dry the cast iron properly. Moisture will invariably do more damage in both the short and long term.
A rusted Dutch oven is also likely to be a sticky Dutch oven. Again, you can avoid sticking on your cast iron with just a little thought and the correct maintenance for your cast-iron.
Even though manufacturers sometimes advise that you can clean your enamel Dutch oven in a dishwasher I would strongly advise against this. Keep it working perfectly by washing in warm soapy water and dry it thoughly by hand.
Final Thoughts – Why Does My Dutch Oven Stick? Top Tips to Prevent It Sticking!
As is the case with most things in life, the failure to properly look after your Dutch oven will be a source of tremendous misery when you least expect it. That is when you need to use it quickly.
We have already established that cast iron Dutch ovens can last you several generations. Meanwhile, destroying one will not require a considerable amount of time or effort.
Follow my tips above and you will be preparing food that does not stick in your Dutch oven. The pot itself will work well for many years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Put a Cold Dutch Oven in the Oven
You can but you risk cracking the enamel of the oven because of thermal shock. Enamel should be treated like glass when considering mixing hot and cold elements.
The best way to use a Dutch oven inside an oven is to place the Dutch oven inside an unheated oven. Then turn the oven on and let them heat up together.
How to Use a Dutch Oven in a Conventional Oven
Read my article here about using a Dutch oven inside a conventional oven.