So you’ve got a new dutch oven…
These are among the most worthwhile investments you could make, and you could reasonably expect to get many years of use out of them.
Of course, proper care of your cast-iron cookware is a must. One of your most important responsibilities is to learn how to season cast iron Dutch ovens properly.
Doing so will help ensure the longevity and optimum condition of your cookware, so that it will be able to provide you with years of rewarding use.
Read on to find out more about the rationale behind cast-iron Dutch oven seasoning and how you can do it yourself.
And if you didn’t get yourself a new dutch oven, take a look at our Butch Oven Buying Guide.
Seasoning Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
There are quite a number of steps involved in seasoning a cast-iron Dutch oven. Each step will have to be performed in the proper order, and care must be taken to do each one properly. Doing so will ensure that you get the maximum possible benefit from seasoning, and that you hopefully won’t have to go through the entire process too often.
There are a number important reasons for doing so, here’s a few:
- Preventing rust and corrosion from setting in
- Enhancing the non-stick properties of the cooking surface
- Ensuring the longevity of your cookware
One thing that you have to know about cast-iron cookware is that it does not handle prolonged exposure to moisture very well. As rugged and durable as cast-iron cookware is, it is remarkably susceptible to damage from rust. If you live in a humid or moist area, you might find it necessary to season your cast-iron Dutch oven more often than you would in an area with dry climate.
Of course, there are ways by which you can prevent rust from getting the best of your cookware, as well as maximizing the benefits that you derive from seasoning. Storing them in a dry place is a good start, and you may also place paper towels between pots and pans in order to absorb moisture.
Why Season Cast Your Iron Dutch Oven
If you’re new to cookware care, you may be surprised about the concept of cookware seasoning. But among the first and most important things you should know about cast-iron Dutch ovens is that they will have to be seasoned upon acquiring them. They will also have to be seasoned periodically, as needed (more on this later).
The first seasoning serves a couple of different purposes.
Firstly, it removes the protective coating that is typically applied by the manufacturer before the Dutch oven is shipped out. This waxy layer helps prevent rust buildup while the cookware is making its way from the manufacturing plant to the retail outlet.
Secondly, initial seasoning will activate the non-stick properties of the pot. This step is essential for getting optimum performance from your Dutch oven.
Keep in mind that many manufacturers now opt to pre-season their cookware. If that is the case, initial seasoning may not be necessary at all…
That being said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if you want to season it again.
Steps for Seasoning a Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Here are the steps for seasoning your cast-iron Dutch oven:
1 – Indoors vs Outdoors
Decide whether you want to season your Dutch oven indoors or outdoors.
Keep in mind that when you later bake your Dutch oven as part of the seasoning process, a considerable amount of smoke will be produced.
Seasoning outdoors on a grill is a good way to avoid filling up the house with smoke. If you do opt to season indoors, make sure that there is sufficient ventilation.
2 – Preheat your grill
In a later step, we will be baking our dutch oven on a grill. Preheat your grill or oven to 400° F. Makes sure to allot sufficient time to reach optimal temperatures before you place your Dutch oven in.
3 – Clean your dutch oven
Clean your Dutch oven with soap and water. Mix up some soap in hot water until it is nice and bubbly. With a scouring pad or steel wool, scrub the pot vigorously until all the coating is removed.
Remember to scrub every inch of the pot thoroughly, including the exterior, the bottom, and the handle. You will want to remove any manufacturer applied coating and any rust spots that may be present. When done, there should be absolutely nothing left but bare metal.
A note on using soap and water: using soap on cast-iron cookware has traditionally been frowned upon by kitchen experts. But this stems back to the time when dish soap was pretty harsh and unforgiving on cast-iron. Commercially-available dish soap nowadays is a lot gentler on cookware, and you should be able to use it on cast-iron Dutch ovens without any issues.
4 – Rinse your dutch oven
Rinse away all traces of soap and dry your Dutch oven thoroughly. You can use cotton or paper towels for this. Some even recommend placing the cookware on a heated grill.
5 – Oil Your Dutch Oven
Rub vegetable oil or shortening on your Dutch oven. As with scrubbing, you will want to do this as thoroughly as possible, getting the shortening on every inch of the pot. If necessary, use your fingers to get the stuff into every little dimple or mark in the iron.
Most any regular oil or shortening will work for this step. You could also use canola or flax oil if you wish. What you should not use however is any kind of flavored shortening, including butter.
6 – Wipe your Dutch oven
Wipe off the shortening. Again, it is important to be as through as possible during this step. You should get every last drop of oil off, using a cotton towel or as many paper towels as necessary. Any oil that is left on the pot will become a sticky mess after heating, so your pot should look totally dry and free of oil.
7 – Bake your Dutch oven
Place it in the preheated grill or oven upside down and close the lid or door. The entire baking process should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
If you are using an oven, you might want to line the bottom rack with a piece of aluminum foil. This will prevent any excess oil from getting on the coals or the burner, reducing the amount of smoke produced. Make sure to bake the lid of the pot as well.
8 – Cool your Dutch oven
Turn off the grill or the oven, but leave your Dutch oven inside to cool. Keep the lid or oven door closed, and come back to it after half an hour. By then, the Dutch oven should have cooled down enough to handle with oven mitts.
Once you’re able to handle it, remove the Dutch oven from the grill or oven.
Now set the Dutch oven aside and let it cool down further. When it has cooled down enough to handle with your bare hands, your Dutch oven is ready for use.
9 – Repeat (as needed)
You may have to repeat the seasoning process as many times as necessary until you get the optimum color and sheen. In some cases, as many as three to six seasoning cycles may be needed.
So how do you know when your dutch oven has been properly seasoned?
You will know your Dutch oven is properly seasoned when it has a glossy-black appearance and food doesn’t stick to it when you cook.
About periodic seasoning
If you have seasoned your cast-iron Dutch oven properly, you could probably get away with never seasoning it again, provided that a) you use it regularly and b) you clean it thoroughly after every use.
The reason for this is that with regular use, all the oil and grease and fat in your food will actually serve to continually season your Dutch oven. This is especially the case if you use your Dutch oven primarily for deep frying or cooking oily foods.
That being said, you certainly won’t harm your Dutch oven by periodic seasoning. Furthermore, there are cases wherein repeat seasoning might actually be necessary. Foods that have considerable acidity–such as tomatoes and beans, for example–will actually strip off the oil coating, making it necessary to season your pot again.
You might also find it necessary to re-season your Dutch oven if food begins to stick more persistently–or more often–than usual. And if you haven’t taken proper care of your cookware in the interim, re-seasoning is essential for restoring it to optimum condition.
Periodic seasoning is done in pretty much the same manner as initial seasoning, except that soap isn’t used. Of course, if your cookware seems in especially rough shape, you will need to subject it to the entire initial seasoning procedure as outlined above, in which case using soap is permissible.
In any case, the end goal is to have your cast-iron looking as dark and glossy as possible without it being sticky. It should also exhibit excellent non-stick properties, which really is one of the main goals of using this type of cookware.
The process of seasoning your Dutch oven may seem fairly involved, and in a way, it really is. There are many steps to consider, and performing each of them properly is essential for ensuring successful results.
That being said, all the steps are really fairly easy to follow. In fact, most anyone should be able to do them effectively, even without a lot of prior experience with cookware.
The good news is that properly seasoning your cast-iron Dutch oven will pay off many times over in the years to come. Devote some time and put some effort into doing it right, and your Dutch oven will reward you with a lifetime of reliable service.