Okay, so not everyone uses their cast iron Dutch oven for every meal. This is a reality that I’ve come to accept—begrudgingly. And maybe you’ve already got a great dutch oven in your kitchen that you barely use.
So, let’s say you’re reading one of the recipes, you think, ‘that sounds delicious! I have to try it!’ You go back to dig through your cookware and you find it—and it’s got a bit of a patina. Now this isn’t an episode of American Pickers, this is your kitchen, and you accept that you’ve go to throw it out.
But don’t! That little bit of rust might be the result of poor cleaning, neglect, or letting the pot sit—but it’s certainly not ruined. In only six easy steps, you can return your dutch oven to its cooking prime and have some hot Cowboy Beans or Barbecue Brisket ready in no time.
Step 1: Wash and dry
Before you do anything else, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Next, you’ll need to get some hot soapy water for this action. And I know what you’re thinking:
Dude, you’re never, ever supposed to get soap on your cast iron!
That’s true, but you’re also never, ever supposed to let it rust. In this case, two wrongs do make a right, but let’s not make this a habit, okay? Now grab your favorite scrubbing sponge and dive in. The goal is to clear off any rust, burned on food, loose bits of seasoning, and just general unpleasantness before you move on.
Once you’ve gotten all of the nastiness off of it, you’ll need to get it dry. Moisture was part of the problem before, so we won’t leave anything to chance. I hope the oven’s hot by now, because your freshly scrubbed dutch oven is going in for about 10 minutes. That’ll evaporate all of the water that might be hiding in the nooks and crannies. Don’t worry about the pot—cast iron loves the heat.
Step 2: Seasoning Scrub
Take the pot out of the oven (careful!) and preheat it to 450 degrees.
Now remember, your cast iron cookware isn’t just a tool, it’s an ingredient! So we’re going to be doing a little bit of seasoning. Pour one quarter-cup of any kind of cooking oil you want into the pan. You can use canola oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, or whatever else you’ve got on hand. Add to that one cup of coarse kosher salt, right into the middle of the pot.
Let the pot cool until you can touch it comfortably then, with a clean cotton rag, get right into that abrasive emulsion and scrub the whole thing. Inside, outside, and whatever else you can touch with the rag. If you need more oil or salt, go ahead and throw it in.
Step 3: Acid Scrub
Rinse off the pot to get as much of the oil and salt off as you can. Then, in a separate container, mix up a diluted acid solution using one cup of white wine vinegar to one quart of water. Grab another rag and use the vinegar solution to scrub off anything else that will come off. This is going to take care of any remainder rust, loose seasoning, or other types of persistent filth.
What’s been uncovered is just plain old bare metal, and that’s what we’re after. That’s where you can apply new seasoning.
Once that’s finished, give the pot another rinse and put in back in that 450 degree oven for another 10 minutes.
Step 4: Seasoned Coating
Remove the pot from your oven and let it cool. While it’s cooling, reset your oven to 300 degrees. The seasoning is build up from fats that you’ve used to cook many meals, and this process is going to try to mimic that. Use a manageable shortening (like Crisco) to coat the entire pot in a thin layer. You’ll want to get the inside, outside, lid, handles—don’t skip on anything.
Open the windows and put the pot back in the oven facing upside down. Leave it in there for an hour. You might consider putting in a cookie tray with some parchment paper in it just underneath to catch any drippings. And you should probably prepare yourself mentally for the realization that your house will smell like a smelting plant.
Take the pot out of the oven and let it cool, wiping away any excess grease that might be condensed anywhere. Reapply your shortening and put it back in the oven for another hour.
Step 5: Finishing Up
Remove your pot from the oven. You’ve successfully restored a seasoning base! Remember, this is a living, breathing piece of cookware. The more you use it, the longer the seasoning will last and the better it will perform. Or, if you want to skip all of these steps, you could take the opportunity to buy a new dutch oven.
Have you brought your cast-iron cookware back to life? Do you have any tips, tricks, or advice for other readers who are undertaking this project? Let us know in the comments below!