From stovetop to oven and back again, a good Dutch oven is the heavyweight champion of cookware. Because they’re known to evenly distribute and retain heat, Dutch ovens are excellent at searing and slow-cooking everything from short ribs to meatballs to stews. Once you learn how to cook with a Dutch oven and keep it clean, you’ll never have enough Dutch oven recipes in your dinner lineup.
If you take proper care of a cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven, it can last a lifetime. Hot water, dish soap and a swipe of the sponge are usually all it takes to clean a Dutch oven after meal prep. But if the heat gets too high or you’ve left food unattended inside for too long, you may be staring at stuck-on bits or stains that leave you second-guessing.
To make sure you’re removing food residue without removing the seasoning or accidentally scratching the surface, follow these step-by-step instructions carefully for the type of Dutch oven you have at home.
Expert Tip: Though many Dutch ovens are technically dishwasher safe, we recommend washing by hand to avoid dulling. Cast iron Dutch ovens are also prone to rust, so avoid the dishwasher and dry them promptly after washing.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Cast iron Dutch ovens are incredibly durable and easy to bring back to life if they get rusty or dull, but they do require more TLC than other types of Dutch ovens since they need to be seasoned to help food release easily when cooking and cleaning. If you’re wondering if it’s okay to use soap on cast iron, the answer is yes! While today’s dish soaps can dissolve fresh grease, they won’t remove the layers of seasoning on their own.
What You’ll Need
Plastic food scraper
Non-metal cooking utensil
Non-abrasive sponge or nylon scrubbing pad
Wipe away grease and food bits. Use a paper towel or plastic food scraper to remove any stuck-on food and grease from the Dutch oven once it’s cool. If you can easily wash away what’s left, skip to step three.
Loosen stuck-on food on the stove. Avoid scrubbing with steel wool or soaking in water, which can damage the seasoning. Instead, fill the Dutch oven halfway with water and add baking soda (about 1 tablespoon for every 1 cup of water), then bring to a boil on the stovetop. This will help release bits of food and stains so you can rinse them away. Use a non-metal cooking utensil to agitate the surface as needed, then pour the baking soda water solution down the drain. Let cool completely.
Gently remove any remaining residue. Use dish soap and a nylon scrubbing pad or the scrubby side of a kitchen sponge to remove any food or residue that’s left and rinse well with running water. Never use steel wool or steel sponges!
Dry immediately with a dishcloth and heat. If water sits on a cast iron Dutch oven it can cause surface rust. To prevent this, wipe away visible water droplets as soon as you’re done washing, then place the Dutch oven back on the burner for about 30 seconds to evaporate any leftover water completely.
Season before storing. If your Dutch oven looks dull, apply a light layer of cooking oil to the inside with a paper towel while it’s still warm, then pop in a 350ºF oven upside down for about an hour to set. (Don’t forget to add a tray or foil underneath to catch any oil drips.) Once cool, buff away visible grease and store in a dry place.
Expert Tip: When you store a cast iron Dutch oven, keep the lid off to prevent a buildup of moisture which can cause the cookware to rust.
How to Clean an Enameled Dutch Oven
Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are popular because they are non-stick, easy to clean and don’t require seasoning. Always hand-wash an enameled Dutch oven and avoid abrasive cleaners, which can leave surface scratches that compromise the coating.
What You’ll Need
Plastic food scraper
Non-abrasive sponge or nylon scrubbing pad
Wipe out the inside with a paper towel. As soon as your Dutch oven has cooled, use a paper towel or plastic food scraper to remove any leftover food or grease. If you wait too long, you may face more scrubbing.
Fill with hot soapy water. Adding cold water to a hot pan can cause the enamel to crack, so take care. Let the Dutch oven cool completely before adding warm water, or let the water run hot before you add it to still-warm cookware. Let it soak for anything from a few minutes to overnight to help loosen stuck-on foods and make cleaning easier.
Gently scrub away leftover food. Apply a squirt or two of dish soap to your kitchen sponge then scrub in a circular motion. Target stubborn spots with a plastic scraper or nylon scrubbing pad. Enamel can still scratch, so steer clear of abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool. Rinse well with warm water.
Dry promptly with a dishcloth. While the enamel inside the Dutch oven won’t rust, the cast iron rim can, so you need to towel dry it quickly and completely. Like cast iron Dutch ovens, make sure you store it in a dry place away from water.
Expert Tip: Remove stains promptly. As soon as you see stains on the inside of your enamel Dutch oven, fill it with a mixture of 3 tablespoons of household bleach per quart of water and soak for 2-3 hours. Wash thoroughly and rinse.
How to Clean a Ceramic Dutch Oven
Like enamel, ceramic coatings are sensitive to temperature changes so it’s important to let a ceramic Dutch oven cool completely and heat up slowly. Ceramic Dutch ovens can be cleaned following the same step-by-step instructions above, except you can let your ceramic Dutch oven air dry since it’s not prone to rusting like cast iron.
How to Clean a Non-Stick Dutch Oven
Since non-stick cookware is designed so food slides right out of the pan, it should be very easy to clean. Follow the same enamel and ceramic Dutch oven cleaning steps, avoiding the use of scouring pads, steel wool or abrasives. If you find that cooking oils leave a residue on the nonstick surface, fill the Dutch oven with water and 1/2 cup white vinegar and it bring to a boil. The residue should float to the top. Skim it off with a paper towel, pour out the liquid, then wash according to the directions above.
How to Clean a Stainless Steel Dutch Oven
Without any natural or synthetic coating, stainless steel Dutch ovens can be tougher to clean. But the good news is that there are GH-tested stainless steel cleaners that can help you get the job done quickly.
What You’ll Need
Remove grease and food bits. With a paper towel or a plastic food scraper, scrape what you can into the trash, then rinse with warm water to loosen what’s left.
Start scrubbing with dish soap. A squirt of your regular dish soap may be all the cleaning power you need. Rub a nylon scrubbing pad or the scrubby side of your kitchen sponge in a circular motion to remove any food residue. If larger pieces of food remain stuck on, fill the Dutch oven with warm soapy water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing again.
Tackle stubborn stains. If you’re still left with spots or stains, you may need to call in a stainless steel cleaner like Brillo Cameo Cleaner or Barkeepers Friend. Both are designed to target tough stains and restore shine.
Rinse and dry before storing. Use warm water to rinse away soap and cleaners completely and dry with a dishcloth to avoid water spots, then return your Dutch oven to storage.
Expert Tip: Stainless steel cookware can still scratch. If you’re storing another pot inside your Dutch oven, use a pan protector to protect the surface between uses.
How to remove rust from a Dutch oven
Rust can be removed with a non-metallic scrubber and a mild dish soap like GH Seal star Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid. Scrub in a circular motion, then rinse well and quickly dry completely. When all of the rust is removed from a cast iron Dutch oven, place it back on the stovetop to evaporate any remaining water droplets, then follow the steps below to season it to prevent future rust from forming.
How do I season my Dutch oven?
Seasoning a cast iron Dutch oven creates a natural non-stick coating on the surface, which is essential for cooking and cleaning. Some cast iron Dutch ovens come pre-seasoned, while enameled cast iron and ceramic Dutch ovens don’t require seasoning at all. If you have a cast iron Dutch oven that needs to be seasoned, first heat it on the stove so the pores open and allow for more absorption of oil. Use a paper towel to apply a thin layer of neutral oil across the entire surface of the Dutch oven, inside and out. Pop the pan in the oven upside down at 350ºF for an hour with a baking sheet or foil underneath to catch any oil drips, then let cool completely. Wipe away excess oil before storing it to avoid a buildup of residue.
How do you store a Dutch oven properly?
For cast iron and enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, it’s important to dry them completely before returning them to storage. Heating the pan on the stovetop after washing can help ensure water droplets completely evaporate. Cast iron Dutch ovens also need to be properly seasoned before storing to prevent rust, which can form simply due to air exposure. It’s also a good idea to store the Dutch oven lid separately so moisture doesn’t build up inside.
Taryn Mohrman is a freelance writer with over 15 years of experience writing for major consumer magazines, retailers and digital outlets, including buybuyBABY, Woman’s Day, Parents and Redbook. She also specializes in content strategy and business development for B2Cs and startups, and has served as a consultant for companies in the home, fashion, beauty, tech, kids and gifts industries.