Our Very Best Tips for Taking Care of Your Dutch Oven

published Jul 4, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Your enameled Dutch oven isn’t your most high-maintenance kitchen tool. (That award goes to … your cast iron skillet!) It doesn’t need to be seasoned or stored with paper towels or even sung to. But it does need to be cared for properly. After all, these things tend to cost a pretty penny, so you want yours to last. We can help with that! After decades of cooking in Dutch ovens, we’ve learned a thing or three. And we decided to round up our very best tips and tricks for treating your Dutch oven to some TLC. Here we go.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

1. Keep the clips that come with your pot.

Most Dutch ovens — and especially those from Le Creuset and Staub — come with these little clips that keep the pot and the lid from banging or scratching against each other during transport. Our tip? Don’t be so fast to throw them away! Keep them and slip them onto your pot’s rim whenever you put your pot away. You know, for safekeeping! Just make sure to take them off before you go to use the pot again.

2. Store it down low.

We know way too many people who have cracked their Dutch ovens (and their stone countertops!) due to mishaps involving a too-high cabinet shelf. Storing your Dutch oven in an upper cabinet is just asking for trouble. No matter how big your muscles are! It’s best to store them in lower cabinets because it’s easier to lift from below than it is to lower something heavy.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

3. Use kosher salt to clean any burnt-on bits.

Our former Tools Editor, Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm (who knows a lot about Dutch ovens), uses kosher salt on a regular basis to clean her Dutch oven and all her other enameled cast iron cookware (like her braiser). “I just sprinkle on the salt, add a little water, and scrub any burnt-on bits with a sponge,” she’s explained. “It’s one of my absolute favorite cleaning tips.” You can even add a halved lemon for extra cleaning power, if you have one hand, but know that it’s not necessary!

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

4. Or boil baking soda and some water. 

We ran some official testing to find out the very best method for cleaning a scorched Dutch oven. The winner: good ol’ water and baking soda. Simply add 4 cups of water to your pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Then, add 2 tablespoons of baking and stir with a wooden spoon. Let things simmer and scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon. 

5. Use oven cleaner for extra dirty pots.

If you have a pot that looks like it’s been put through the wringer — both inside and out — there’s hope. Just look at these before-and-after photos! Our secret weapon? Oven cleaner. That’s right. It does all of the hard work for you and really will get your pot looking good as new. Just be sure to wash it thoroughly with soap and water when you’re done.

Credit: Joe St. Pierre

6. Avoid using super-high heat.

Fun fact: Dutch ovens retain heat very well. Which means that medium-high or high heat is likely to scorch whatever you’re cooking. (And that means a mess for you to clean up!) Cook at medium heat and only use high heat when you’re boiling a full pot of water or reducing a stock or sauce. 

Credit: Marge Perry

7. Don’t use metal utensils.

Enameled Dutch ovens have a very thin layer of glass. (That’s the enameled part of the name!) Just like you wouldn’t use metal utensils on a nonstick skillet, for fear of scratching the surface, you shouldn’t use metal on that thin glass. Instead, use wood, silicone, or heat-resistant plastic utensils. 

8. Don’t put it in the dishwasher.

Even if the manufacturer’s directions for your Dutch oven say it’s OK to put it in the dishwasher from time to time, we really recommend hand-washing it every single time. The heat of the dishwasher can dull the enamel coating and you never know if something is going to end up clanging or banging around in there. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

9. Let it cool before you put it in the fridge. 

That batch of stovetop mac and cheese you just made? It’s best to let it cool for a bit before you put it in the fridge. Sudden temperature changes can cause the enamel to crack. The same holds true if you’re pulling a pot out of the fridge and want to put it on the stove — let it sit for a bit first.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Leave your tips in the comments below.