Restoring Your Dutch Oven
So, you cooked a great peach cobbler and everyone oohed and aahed about how wonderful it tasted. Then there were some great stories around the campfire and then it suddenly started raining - as you zip your tent shut, you remember the dutch oven is still sitting out on the picnic table.
Oh well, we'll just have to take care of it in the morning.
If you've built up a solid seasoning layer, your dutch oven should be just fine in the morning and a normal cleaning will take care of the dried on left-overs. But, if it is still new or the seasoning wasn't thick yet, then you'll most likely have a rusty dutch oven like the photo above. Removing rust isn't too difficult, so don't sweat it. I cleaned up the neglected oven on this page in just an hour and it looks fine now.
To fix up a rusty dutch oven, you really need to scrub all the rust off with coarse steel wool or a metal scouring pad and then re-season it to fix up the protective coating against more rusting.
A worse problem is letting your friend borrow your dutch oven and he doesn't clean out the left-over goulash that he burned to the bottom of the oven for a week while it was sitting in the back of his pickup and now it's covered with fuzzy mold. Now, what are you going to do?
Well, you've got a job ahead of you to clean out all the crud and then re-season. The best way I've found to handle this job is:
- Scrape out what you can with whatever utensil works best - butterknife, putty knife, food scraper, whatever.
- Once you have the big, hairy chunks out, then you'll need to burn out all the stuff that is stubborn. Use your propane grill to turn the crusty stuff to ash. Place the oven upside down over the propane burner, close the grill, and turn it on. The idea here is to heat up the oven to burn everything on it to ash, including the seasoning coating that you worked so hard to make over the last few years.
- Historically, the dutch oven was thrown upside down onto the hot coals of a campfire to burn off residue. I still prefer to do that when I want to redo the seasoning after a cooking disaster. This is because it usually happens on a campout and I want the people (read Boy Scouts) responsible to learn how to fix it. :-)
- Once the foodstuff and seasoning has smoked, burned, and dried to ash, you can carefully remove the dutch oven from the heat to cool down.
- When you can handle it, scrape off what you can with a metal scraper.
- Use coarse steel wool and water to scrub everything off down to metal.
Now, you've got a dutch oven just as it was when shipped from the factory. Follow the steps to season your dutch oven
immediately and you're back in business.
You really need to season it right away - waiting even a few hours in humid weather will let rust form all over the bare metal.