How to Use and Cook with a Dutch Oven?

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

A dutch oven could possibly be the most versatile piece of cookware that a person could own. These thick-walled cast iron cooking pots have tight-fitting lids. Some metal varieties of dutch ovens have an enamel coating or are sometimes made from ceramic. This cookware has been around for hundreds of years and is sometimes called a casserole dish.

Cast iron cookware can be intimidating. In this handy guide, we’ll go over how to use a dutch oven. How to cook with it, and how to keep your dutch oven cooking for years

Dutch oven on a table with a chicken figure popping out.

What is a dutch oven used for?

Dutch ovens are versatile. No matter what material they are made from, these baking dishes can use various cooking applications. They can withstand stovetop and oven temperatures.

  • Roasting. Dutch ovens can conduct heat and disperse it evenly to the food inside. This cooking method can help with slow cooking, and the ovenproof lid helps retain moisture over the long cook times.
  • Soups or Stews. The thick material helps to keep food warm for long periods of time. Being able to hold heat for such a long time is perfect for soups that need to be simmered for a long time. 
  • Bread. These cooking dishes radiate heat works similarly to how a pizza stone operates. Dutch ovens have been used for a long time to bake bread. The lid helps to hold the moisture that escapes as steam to help create a crisp crust. 
  • Frying. Unlike traditional pans, dutch ovens can keep the temperature of the oil consistent. Some coated dutch ovens cannot be used with high-temperature deep frying. The manufacturer will have the specifics about temperature limits for individual dutch ovens.
  • Casseroles. The versatile ability to go from stovetop to the oven allows for full meals to be assembled in the same dish.  

Being able to transfer a dutch oven from the stovetop into the oven is great to have. It gives the food a chance to cook evenly and prevents the foodstuffs on the bottom not to burn even if the dish is being cooked for an extended time. 

How to Properly Season Your Dutch Oven.

Seasoning a dutch oven is the process that uses oil to create a protective, non-stick surface. By seasoning cast-iron, it helps to prevent rust. The pan’s first seasoning is the most important as it removes any residue from the processing process. 

Not all dutch ovens have to be seasoned. Those that are already coated with enamel protect them from rusting and give them a non-stick surface. Even if the dutch oven comes pre-seasoned, it won’t damage the cookware to season it again

Some companies even put a layer of wax over their new products that you will want to remove before using it for cooking. If you notice that your pan has a wax coating, place it in the oven, upside down on top of an aluminum foil-covered baking sheet, and bake at 400F for an hour. This process will melt the wax off and ready the pan for seasoning. 

How to season a new dutch oven

The process itself isn’t complicated, and you should already have the equipment you need around the house. 

You’ll need:

  • Baking sheet lined with aluminum foil
  • Stiff scrub brush
  • Hot, soapy water
  • Paper towel
  • Vegetable oil (you can also use shortening or canola oil)

Directions:

Begin by lining a baking sheet with foil and place it on the bottom rack of your oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

With the brush and soapy water, scrub the dutch oven and then thoroughly dry it with a towel. You could even place it in the warm oven for a moment to remove any excess moisture. Water is the quickest way to have your pan rust.

Use a paper towel that has been dipped in oil and apply a layer of oil to the entire dutch oven, including the lid, bottom, and handles. 

Place the entire oiled dutch oven upside down on the oven’s upper rack?Bake for one hour. There may be some smoke. It’s just from the oil. Open a window for ventilation.

After an hour, turn off the oven and let the dutch oven cool in the warm oven. Don’t remove it right away, as that can cause it to crack.

How to reseason your dutch oven?

Your dutch oven will only get better over time, but things like tomatoes can be harsh on cast iron and eat away as the seasoned layer of oil. Between uses, as long as there’s no rust, you can repeat the process above as needed. 

If your dutch oven begins to rust, there is a way to strip down the pan and reseason it. Here is a video that goes over the process. 

How to care for your dutch oven

While a cast iron dutch oven is basically indestructible, there are some things that you can do to keep it around for a long time, perhaps for your entire life. Start with a good quality dutch oven. The aluminum ones don’t conduct heat the same way cast iron does. Even an enameled dutch oven will last a long time. Be aware the enamel can chip and may discolor after years of use. 

Outside of regularly seasoning your dutch oven, there are a few things that you can do to keep it cooking like new for many years to come. Seasoning alone will not just produce a non-stick finish but also helps to prevent rusting.

How to Wash a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Enamel-coated dutch ovens are generally dishwasher safe, but cast iron needs its own care. Before cleaning any type of dutch oven, enamel-coated or not, be sure it is at room temperature. Otherwise, you could cause damage to the cookware. 

For a well-seasoned cast iron, dutch oven washing with soap should be a last resort. Most everyday debris from cooking can be scraped away with a spatula and wiped with a cloth. If you need a bit more abrasion, salt is a great alternative. Don’t be afraid to scrub your cast iron. It can take it. Never soak cast iron cookware, dutch ovens included!

Cleaning tips for Dutch Ovens

  • For stubborn messes, add some water to the dutch oven and boil it on the stovetop. You should then be able to scrap food residue off.
  • If you do have to use soap, be sure to reseason your pan afterward.
  • The more you use your dutch oven and season it, the better protected it will become. 
Chili in a dutch oven

Dutch oven cooking tips

To give your dutch oven the best life it can have, here are some tips for using your most versatile piece of cookware. 

  • Wash it first. After you buy your dutch oven, be sure to give it a thorough wash before using it for the first time to remove any debris from processing and shipping. This initial cleaning will also give your pan the best surface for its initial seasoning. 
  • Avoid high temps. While cast iron can withstand them, that doesn’t mean that high temps are suitable for your pan. Low and slow is the best way to heat your dutch oven.
  • Cast iron holds heat. Once it gets hot, it stays hot. Great for second helpings but can still be hot when serving. Be sure to keep trivets under your dutch oven to prevent them from burning the table.
  • It holds cold temperatures as well. Refrain from taking your dutch oven from one temperature to another (that can cause damage!). Your dutch oven can also go into the freezer or refrigerator. It will hold and distribute the chill in the same way it does for heat.
  • Marinating. Marinating is something more suited for enamel-coated dutch ovens as their surface isn’t porous. 
  • Oil matters. You shouldn’t put food into a dutch oven without some form of liquid or fat before you add anything else to stop it from sticking, or worse, burning. Be sure to coat the entire bottom of the pan as well.
  • Don’t scratch it. Again, this is more so in reference to the enamel-coated dutch ovens. By using wooden or silicone cooking utensils, you can help keep the coating from chipping. Once the enamel is chipped, or scratched food may stick and make it harder to clean.
  • Keep it dry. Don’t store your dutch oven if it’s still wet at all, and be sure to keep it somewhere away from moisture to prevent it from rusting. You could even keep it right in your oven.

What NOT to do with your Dutch Oven

You can do a lot with your dutch oven, but there are some key things to avoid when it comes to these fantastic pieces of cookware. 

Don’t use high heat on it. While it can retain the heat well, having a burner on high can scorch it and cause damage to the surface. Medium heat is much more efficient for these types of cookware. Once the dutch oven is warmed up, you can raise the heat level if you need to boil a pot of water or reduce a liquid. 

While preheating a dutch oven is excellent for the pan, do not preheat it empty or on high heat. Be sure there is some form of liquid or oil in the dutch oven and apply medium heat to preheat the cookware. Without this crucial step, it can cause cracking or other damage

Some enamel-coated dutch ovens are dishwasher safe. However, it is always best to handwash your dutch oven, coated or not. Washing your dutch oven by hand helps to prevent rusting. A quick tip to fully dry it is to place it in the oven and heat it at a low temp to remove all of the moisture. Never let it sit in water.

Dutch oven near a fire pit

FAQ

How do you cook with a Dutch oven?

A dutch oven is a versatile piece of cookware that can utilize many different cooking applications. You can saut? and simmer, sear, fry, braze, and even bake in a dutch oven. This type of cookware is great for long, slow cooking applications or situations where you need to move it from the stove to the range.

Can you use a Dutch oven on the stove?

Yes! You can use a dutch oven on a cooktop or in the oven. You can even use it on a grill or open flame. Dutch ovens can benefit from low or medium heat as opposed to high. The cast-iron ones will hold heat and disperse it evenly.?

Do you put water in a Dutch oven?

You should never use your dutch oven without some form of liquid in it. Water is acceptable when making stock or to boil water for other cooking needs. Never let your dutch oven soak in water or store them with remaining moisture. That can lead to rust and damage.?

How do you use a Dutch oven for the first time?

Be sure to scrub down your dutch oven well to remove any imperfections from its production process. Then you can season it with a layer of oil to protect the cast iron from rust and give it a non-stick coating. Then you are ready to cook with your dutch oven.?

What is the best thing to cook in a Dutch oven?

Everything! Searing meat is a great place to start. Add some broth and vegetables, and you can then transfer it into the oven. You can bake bread. Chili and baked homemade mac and cheese are also great options. You could even braise short ribs or cook risotto. The possibilities are endless.

Conclusion

A good dutch oven can be a lifesaver in the kitchen. Making for easy transfers, warm second helpings, and overall versatility, dutch ovens are fantastic cookware. It can take a little work to season a dutch oven, but the results are second to none. These investments are sturdy and can last beyond a lifetime if they are correctly cared for.