We Tried 5 Methods for Cleaning Dutch Ovens and Found a Clear Winner

updated Nov 29, 2022
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Labeled graphic showing overhead of five dutch ovens with their cleaning products and methods inside
Credit: Image: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

A good Dutch oven can handle so many cooking tasks that it can easily become your go-to pan. Whether you’re looking to perfectly braise a piece of meat, make a sauce, simmer a stew for hours, or whip up a one-pot pasta, your Dutch oven is your best bet. It’s usually pretty easy to clean, too — even after holding bubbling soup for an entire afternoon. But what happens if you, say, start to cook down some onions and get sidetracked? Or you unknowingly have the heat on too high? Well, then you’ll end up with a scorched pan. And that’s a shame because these things don’t usually come cheap! And you’ve got to be careful with the cleaning because you don’t want to chip or scratch the enamel.

Don’t worry, though — it will come clean again. We tested five Dutch oven cleaning methods and found one that was the best and easiest for getting your pan back in tip-top shape.

Credit: Image: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

How I Tested the Different Methods

That onion scenario wasn’t just a cheeky example. I’ve scorched way too many pans by burning onions, so I knew they would be the best test here. I got five onions (one for each method), sliced them up — one at a time (I only have one Dutch oven) — and put the pieces in the pot. Each time, I cooked the onions over the highest heat possible for four minutes, without stirring. Note: This is not something I’d normally do, but I wanted these pans to be DIRTY. Then, I tried each cleaning method, taking detailed notes and reference photos, before starting over to try the next method.

The ratings: Each method received a 1 to 5 rating; 5 being the best method overall, and 1 being the least effective method. Along with the rating you’ll find notes on how easy or difficult the method was, how much elbow grease it took, and how much time it took to clean the pot.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Dutch Oven Cleaning Method: Toothpaste Scrubbed with a Toothbrush

  • Total time: More than 2 hours (active time: 5 minutes) 
  • Rating: 2/5 

The method: Spread a thin layer of toothpaste over the bottom of your pan and let it sit and dry for a minimum of 2 hours; overnight is fine. Spray a bit of water into the pan and scrub with a stiff-bristled brush or toothbrush. Rinse with soap and water. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

How it went: I used a lot of effort and didn’t quite get the results I had been hoping for. I think it definitely brightened the bottom of my pan, but it didn’t remove a lot of the burnt-on food pieces. This might be a method to try if you have a clean, but stained, enamel pot, or if the hard-to-reach inside corners of your pot are stained. It definitely did something, just not enough.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Dutch Oven Cleaning Method: Lemon Juice Scrubbed with Salt

  • Total time: 5 minutes 
  • Rating: 3/5 

The method: Wait for the pan to cool, then cut a lemon in half, dip the cut side into coarse salt, and use it scour the pan. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of extra salt to help as needed.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

How it went:The salt was useful for removing some of the burnt areas, but the harder I scrubbed, the more lemon juice came out of the lemon, which made it difficult for me to get the smaller bits off the pan. I can see this being a useful step if you’re out of scrubby sponges or baking soda, but it definitely wouldn’t be my first choice. Also important to note: Hands with any sorts of cuts (at all) do not bode well with the salt and lemon juice. Yowsa! 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Dutch Oven Cleaning Method: Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide, Boiled Together

  • Total time: 5 to 20 minutes (active time: 3 minutes) 
  • Rating: 4/5 

The method: Fill the pan with a 1/2 inch of hydrogen peroxide and add 1/4 cup of baking soda, then bring to a boil. Once the mixture is foamy, turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes. Pour mixture down the drain and rinse with warm water. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

How it went: There was a lot happening in the pot while the peroxide and baking soda were boiling! Lots of active bubbles worked up the biggest burnt areas, but left quite a few smaller bits behind. I did use a scrubby sponge and a tiny bit of dish soap at the end and was able to work the last tiny bits of food off the bottom of the pan. One impressive outcome was that the peroxide definitely brightened the bottom of the pan. This is a great method to use when your pan is clean but starting to look a little dingy or stained, and it takes minimal effort on your part! 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Dutch Oven Cleaning Method: Bar Keepers Friend and a Scrubby Sponge

  • Total time: 5 to 35 minutes (depending on how dirty your pan is) 
  • Rating: 4/5

The method: Wipe out your pan and rid it of as much food debris or oil as possible, then sprinkle enough Bar Keepers Friend in the pan to cover the stained areas. Using a slightly damp scrubby sponge, scrub over the surface until the pan comes clean. For tough areas, make a paste and let it sit for up to 30 mins. Rinse clean with warm soapy water. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

How it went: I’m never without a can of BKF in my cleaning arsenal; I love it for almost everything, so I wasn’t surprised that it worked well on my enamel pan. But I was surprised that it wasn’t the easiest method. After one round of scrubbing (five minutes) I decided to make a paste and let the solution sit for about 20 minutes before going at it again. The second round came off a bit easier, but not without effort. In the end, the pan was perfectly clean, but I docked a point because it took more effort than the winning method. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

The Winning Method: Baking Soda and Water, Boiled Together

  • Total time: 10 to 15 minutes (active time: 5 minutes) 
  • Rating: 5/5

The method: Add 4 cups of water to your pot and bring it to a boil on medium heat. Once the water is boiling, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and stir with a wooden spoon. Let the solution simmer for a few minutes, scraping a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. Dump the solution down the drain, rinse with warm water, and wipe dry. (Increase the solution if you have a larger pan). Fun fact: This has been Kitchn’s preferred cleaning method for years now.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

How it went: Things started to get exciting as soon as I dumped the baking soda into the boiling water. There was lots of bubbling and fizzing and I immediately saw bits of food working their way up from the bottom of the pan. More bits emerged as I lightly scraped the wooden spoon over the burnt area; I found scraping the pan to be quite cathartic. I scraped for a few seconds, then walked away and came back a minute later to scrape some more. Then after about five minutes, I turned the burner off and dumped out the water. Wouldn’t you know, every bit of burnt food had come up from the bottom of the pan! The baking soda left behind a chalky residue, so I rinsed it out with a bit of dish soap and hot water, and it was good as new! 

Do you have a different tried-and-true method that we didn’t test? Tell us about it in the comments below.