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How to Care for Your Dutch Oven

Ensure that you truly get your money’s worth from your new piece of cookware by learning how to properly care for it.

By Izzy Johnson
Oct 4, 2023
dutch oven on stove
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Although a new Dutch oven is a sight to behold, it’s a piece of cookware and deserves to be used. These multipurpose tools can last a lifetime, but it’s important to know how to properly care for them.

While you don't need to season them (as you would a cast iron or carbon steel pan) and their enamel coating is forgiving to a point, here are some dos and don’ts for how to make sure you are getting the most out of your new Dutch oven.

Always Use Cooking Fat

slow cooker vs dutch

Despite the fact that the enamel coating provides a naturally non-stick surface, make no mistake, cooking fat is your friend. Oils and butters not only add crucial (and delicious) flavor to your dish, they also help evenly distribute heat around the bottom of the pan.

Especially if you are doing a stove-to-oven dish, it’s important that you insulate your Dutch oven from the oven’s intense heat. Cooking without a layer of fat can cause either the bottom or outside of the pan to scorch, which can lead to cracks in the enamel and/or food getting stuck—which in turn leads to a more labor intensive clean-up.

Save yourself the trouble by making sure your Dutch oven is sufficiently oiled before you start cooking.

Be Conscious of Heat Levels

dutch oven in oven

Enameled Dutch ovens are great at retaining heat. This means that you don’t need to overdo it on heat—in fact, you should rarely raise it above medium. The use of high heat can damage your enamel coating, leading to the same scorching and burning that can occur when the pan is heated while empty.

This means you should always preheat your Dutch oven. Start by adding a drizzle of fat or oil to the bottom of the pan, then heat on low until the pan is fully warmed. After this, you can increase the heat to medium to achieve the perfect sear. When baking things like bread, place the cold Dutch Oven in the oven and let them slowly preheat together.

It’s also important to avoid thermal shock, or drastic changes in temperature. Just as you are cautious with enamel or porcelain bakeware, make sure you are not taking your Dutch Oven off the stove and plunging it directly into cold water. This can cause chips or cracks in the enamel, damaging the longevity and functionality of the piece.

Be mindful of setting your hot pot on cold stone countertops or wooden tables, as they may be damaged from this residual heat as well.

Avoid Using Metal Utensils

chili colorado in dutch oven

While it is durable, the enamel coating of your Dutch Oven is not impervious to damage, and,  If you want to maximize the life and appearance of your prized piece of cookware, opt for silicone or wooden cooking implements. Silicone’s flexibility lends itself to delicate food and sauces, while wood is best for scraping and lifting.

Wash by Hand

dutch hero

We recommend only washing your Dutch Oven by hand. To do so, we recommend using a sponge—the soft variety or a plastic scrubby one but never steel wool or anything too abrasive. Do not soak your Dutch oven overnight, as the lip of both the pot and the lid is usually unfinished and can rust if left in water for a prolonged period of time.

If you are dealing with tough stains or stuck food, check out this more in-depth article about cleaning your Dutch Oven.

Handle With Care

fried chicken in dutch oven

The easiest way to damage your Dutch Oven is to chip the enamel on something else in your kitchen. While Stainless Clad stacks easily, it is best to store your Dutch Oven away from other pieces of cookware. Leaving it in a cabinet among  metal and even other enamel pieces exposes it to unnecessary risks.

You could also store it inside the oven, but remember to take it out before you start preheating on pizza night.

However, our opinion is that the stove top is really the best place to keep it. Seeing this beautiful piece of cookware everyday will remind you to cook in it, and after all, who says a Dutch oven can’t be a useful piece of art anyway?

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As you've learned, caring for a Dutch oven isn't nearly as tricky as it may seem from the outside. With a little conscious care, you can keep this heirloom piece looking its best for years to come.