How to Cure A Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Cast iron Dutch ovens are by far one of the most durable and versatile cookware items you could ever have in your kitchen. Their durability is literally beyond belief and it can last you a very long time, perhaps even decades if well used and cared for.
Being made of cast iron, it does require a little bit of care and maintenance. Unlike stainless steel or aluminum, cast iron is prone to rusting and since it is almost always in contact with water, you have a very high chance of losing it to rust. As some would say, rust is like cancer and you need to remove it at the slightest sign before it can rapidly spread and infect the whole utensil.
So, How Should You Take Care of a Cast Iron Dutch Oven?
There are some things you can do in terms of cleaning or washing as well as conditioning that can prevent rust or any other form of corrosion. Conditioning can also increase the durability of your Dutch oven and make it look as good as new.
Let’s look at the steps involved in curing a heavily used cast iron Dutch oven, and see how it can be brought back to life.
Steps to Cure a Cast Iron Dutch Oven
First off, you can start by cleaning the oven and getting all the accumulated food seasoning, burnt food scraps, rust and what not from the surface of the oven. For that you need to place it in a self-cleaning oven first so that all the hard-to-remove dirt and grime loosens up. You can turn the oven up to even 300 degrees and take it out after a few minutes or run one cycle. Alternatively, you can also use a charcoal fire for the same purpose.
Then you need to take it out and let it cool for a while because you don’t want the surface to crack. The crust will already be cracking and turning to ash by now. In case there is still some rust that has not loosed up you can use a steel wool pad and scrub it off.
Next you can go ahead and wash the Dutch iron with soap and water. Although you shouldn’t do this very often, you can use it this one time to save your oven’s life. You can use a regular scouring pad to scrub away the dirt. In case you are using a newly purchases cast iron Dutch oven, then you will need to remove the applied coating on top. For that you can soak your oven in hot soapy water for about 5 to 10 minutes and then scrub with a scouring pad.
Then, you need to get your cast iron oven completely dry. And when I say completely dry I mean dry to its very dense core. For this you could even place it in the oven or dry it for a whole day under the sun. You basically want the cast iron to soak in the oil you’re about to season it with and it won’t happen if there’s even the tiniest bit of moisture.
After that you can start applying the seasoning. You can use lard or cooking fat or bacon grease or any kind of oil, including corn oil and soy-based vegetable oil to coat the entire oven. Make sure to coat both the inside and outside of the oven well. Unless the exteriors are composed of other finishing material like ceramic or porcelain, you can thoroughly apply a nice layer of the seasoning on both sides of the oven. Make sure to catch all the edges as well. Ideally you can use bacon or any other kind of light-weight oil for seasoning because heavy oils tend to make the pot sticky over the course of time.
Now you need to place the oven upside down in the oven at a very high temperature. Heat the oven for at least an hour so that a considerable amount of the seasoning seeps in to the cast iron and forms a good layer that is potent enough to protect the oven from rust, and also provide a clean stick-free surface. You need to make sure that you’ve applied the right amount of seasoning for a hassle-free finish. Too much oil could make it a sticky mess and not enough could cause cracks.
You could place some foil under the pot in the oven to catch drippings. Then, after you remove it from the oven, you can let the oven sit to cool at room temperature
If necessary, you can reapply more seasoning and get it heated until you feel it is ready. Ideally you need to be following the procedure after every use. Rest assured, your Dutch oven will stay new for a long time.