Quick: Where is your Dutch oven right now? Is it tucked away in the back of a corner cabinet? On display on the top shelf of your oh-so-organized open shelving situation? Turns out, those aren't the smartest — or safest — places to store it.
A cast iron Dutch oven isn't just a heavy-duty cooker — it's actually heavy. Some can weigh upwards of 20 pounds! And while it might not sound like that much, if you've ever tried to lose 20 pounds or carried around a toddler, you know that's a lot. So you should be careful!
"A good rule of thumb is to be careful any time you're lifting something that weighs more than 10 percent of your body weight. For the average 150-pound person, that's 15 pounds," says Dr. Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, a chiropractor in Griffin, GA.
That means you have to be careful when storing heavy things. Shelves in high cabinets are precarious because you can strain yourself lifting that weight above your head, and if you drop it in the meantime, you could seriously injure yourself and break something, too. "The act of reaching above your head to lift something as heavy as 15 to 20 pounds is particularly stressful to the lower back," says Dr. Hayden. "It's really all about angles. Lifting something from a high starting point usually involves overextending the low back where it joins the pelvis."
Storing heavy items too deep in your base cabinet can be tricky, too, because over-extending, twisting to get deep in there, and then yanking out a heavy object, can also put major strain on your back. "An item of this weight in a low place may invite us to bend over to lift it, but lifting in that position may also injure or strain the low back muscles. Leaning over at the waist and extending the arms to lift something from below can greatly increase the forces on the lumbar spine and associated muscles," says Dr. Hayden.
Where Should You Store Your Dutch Oven?
The ideal space to store your Dutch oven is between knee and shoulder height: on a higher shelf in a base cabinet, or a lower shelf above your counters. You could also try a shelf around waist height in your pantry or in a stand-alone piece, like a buffet. Any of these places should be easy to access and won't cause you to twist or overextend your arms.
When lifting your Dutch oven from below, practice the same safety you would with a heavy box or other heavy object: Keep your back straight, bend from the knees, and lift with your legs instead of your back. Because while we certainly want you to use your Dutch oven, we don't want you to hurt yourself for it!
If you don't use your Dutch oven that often and want to store it deep inside a cabinet, make sure it's easy to slide forward to get into a safe position before you lift it. "Pulling the object closer to your body prior to lifting decreases the length of the levers involved, so the risk of injury decreases," says Dr. Hayden.
With all of this in mind, we ask you: What's the midway point between your knees and your shoulders? Your waist, right? So maybe the safest place to store your lovely dutch oven is … on top of the stove. If you've invested in a pretty one in your favorite color, why not?
Where do you store your Dutch oven? Have you ever injured yourself while trying to pull it out?