I Cleaned My Best Friend’s Impossibly Gross Dutch Oven with Oven Cleaner — Here’s How it Went

published Nov 1, 2021
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Dirty dutch oven

Perhaps the best perk of being friends with me is that sometimes I’ll spot something that’s dirty in your kitchen and I’ll offer to take it home with me and clean it. I’ll do the work, and I’ll return it. You? Well, you get a like-new, freshly cleaned item! The only drawback is that I might want to write a story about it for work, which is why we’re here today.

See, my best friend had an impossibly gross Le Creuset Dutch oven sitting on his stovetop. I understand that those two words — “impossibly gross” — could be offensive, yes. But I think they’re justified here! I would have thought that he found it buried in his backyard if he hadn’t just cooked a meal in it. When questioned, he said it was fine! He’d had it for almost 10 years and thought it was just normal wear and tear. I told him it was not and that I’d fix it. (I don’t want to place blame or anything, but I’ll just say this was not Le Creuset’s fault!) He did warn me that he had sentimental attachment to the pot: He bought it using wedding gift money when he married his high school sweetheart! No pressure.

Back home, looking at it in natural light the next day, I worried I had bitten off more than I could chew! There were brown splotches all over it, a chip in the enamel (which I sadly can’t do anything about, but did inspect), and scorch marks that looked almost as baked on as the paint itself.

As a baseline test, to see what I was working with, I washed the pot with regular soap and water. I know my friend does do this, but again, this was just so I could see what was going on. What happened? Literally nothing. I wasn’t going to make any progress that way.

Next, I decided to tackle the inside of the pot using Kitchn’s tried-and-true method, featuring boiling water and baking soda. I put the lid aside, filled the pot with two quarts of water and put it on my biggest burner. When the water started boiling, I added four tablespoons of baking soda and stirred with a wooden spoon. The baking soda fizzed, and although the brown bits didn’t magically start floating in the water as I’d hoped, I was able to scrape some of them up with my spoon. After a few minutes of simmering on the stovetop, I dumped the water and washed the inside of the pot with a scrubby sponge and dish soap.

The baking soda solution had clearly done something because the soapy sponge was giving me better results than that initial wash I had tried! It worked so well that I put two more quarts of water in the pot and put it back on the stove for a second round!

Meanwhile, I made a paste (three parts baking soda, one part water) and slathered it all over the top of the lid, per the official Kitchn directions. I put it aside to sit and turned my attention back to the inside of the pot. After a second stint on the burner, I dumped the solution and scrubbed again.

At this point, the inside of the pot was looking pretty good! I’d removed all the burnt-on bits and stains. There’s still the chip in the enamel and lots of scratches, but I was feeling pretty proud of the transformation. Now it was time to tackle the outside of the pot.

I’d been wanting to try this Reddit tip, which calls for using oven cleaner, and this felt like the perfect opportunity. I didn’t want to risk ruining the whole pot (remember, wedding gift!), so I turned it upside down and sprayed a little spot under one of the handles and waited 30 minutes.

I used a paper towel to wipe up the test spot and WOW. The pot looked brand new where the spray had been! (See that clean spot at the top where the handle meets the pot?) The enamel was super shiny and it seemed safe to move forward.

It was time to cover the entire pot with oven cleaner. I took it outside, sprayed, and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Tips: Put the pot on cardboard scraps, definitely do it outside, and wear gloves when you spray and when you wipe! And of course, wash the pot super well with soap and water (inside and out!) when you’re done.

Look at how great this pot is now! I’m almost worried because my friend is going to think I spent hours and hours scrubbing his pot and I really didn’t have to do much at all! It’s important to note that I would not suggest using oven cleaner on your pot’s exterior on a regular basis, as it could ruin the enamel, but once in a while (or once every 10 years, in this case!) is absolutely fine.

With the pot (inside and outside!) looking good, it was time to go back to the lid. At this point, the lid had been sitting with the baking soda paste for several hours. I could see that parts of the baking soda, which had gotten very hard by now, had turned brown and that seemed like a good sign!

I’ve used this method before and it works very well. However. This pot was clearly just too far gone and, while the baking soda would have gotten me there eventually, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my day scrubbing. So I washed the lid and covered the top with, you guessed it, oven cleaner. A half-hour later, the stains wiped away just like they had with the pot.

The bottom of the lid had very similar issues as the inside of the pot, but I couldn’t exactly boil baking soda in it. Instead, I reached for a Magic Eraser Sheet and it really did magically erase the stains. With that, the pot was fully cleaned! Wanna see it?? Of course, you do!

Isn’t it beautiful? It almost looks like it’s fresh out of the box (minus some dings and that enamel chip!). It even shines once again.

I can’t wait to show my friend! And I can’t wait to clean it again for him in another 10 years.

How do you clean your Dutch oven? Tell us in the comments below!