How to cure a Dutch oven (And no, it's not sick...)

We'll tell you How to cure a Dutch oven? But first...

Why should I cure it, and is it sick? 

If that's the first question that popped into your head, then relax - your Dutch oven isn't sick. 

But if you've chosen the cast-iron option, you do need to cure it. Now you can discover the four easy steps that will cure your Dutch oven forever (or just about). 

The Dutch ovens you buy today are similar to those of yesteryear, and if cured and cared for properly, they will serve your family for many generations to come. The curing process has two purposes.

The main purpose is to form a barrier between the moisture in the air and food and the oven's cast-iron surface, to prevent the metal from rusting.

The second purpose is to provide a nonstick coating to the inside of the oven, which, similar to current commercial nonstick coating, facilitates easy cleaning.

This Dutch oven curing "how to tip" relates to cast-iron Dutch ovens only. Aluminum Dutch ovens do not require curing or seasoning, as they are usually shipped with a protective coating, and a simple washing will prepare them for use. Aluminum does not rust, so no further treatment is required. 

For dutch oven cooking, here are four simple and easy steps to Dutch oven curing:

Before you use your cast-iron Dutch oven for the first time, you must season it to ensure continuous use over a long period. Most good quality Dutch ovens are shipped with a protective coating that should be removed before seasoning. To remove the coating, use some steel wool, soap and hot water and scrub the oven thoroughly. When you're done scrubbing, rinse it well then towel it down and allow to air dry. Take note that is the only time you will be using soap on the oven, unless you have to strip it down if it has rusted or gone rancid!
The seasoning process requires a source of heat. This can be your kitchen oven, but this has the slightly adverse result of smoking up your house at the same time. I season my ovens on an outdoor barbecue at 375 degree Fahrenheit (200 degree Celsius). After completing step 1, once the oven is dry, preheat it on the heat source with the lid ajar, until it is just about too hot to handle with your bare hands. The preheating will drive out any remaining moisture in the metal and open the pores of the metal. 

Remove from the heat source and apply a thin coating of vegetable oil using a paper towel. I do not use olive oil for this, because the burning point is higher than that of vegetable oil, and will therefore set up and harden at higher temperatures.
Ensure the oil layer coats every square inch of the Dutch oven, inside and out, and then return it to the heat source, only upside down this time. Rest the lid on the legs. Bake for about an hour to harden the oil and form a protective coating on the metal. Allow to cool, add an additional coating, and repeat the baking and cooling process.
When you are done, and the oven is cool enough to touch, apply an additional thin coating of oil. Ensure you do not leave any oil residue in the oven, as this can turn rancid and ruin your protective coating. You should now have three layers of oil, two that were baked and one applied when the oven was warm. Once it cools down completely, the oven is ready for use.

There is no need to go through the seasoning procedure again, unless rust form or the protective coating becomes damaged. Cooking foods with a high acid or sugar content should be avoided the first 2 - 3 times you use your oven, as this may break down the protective coating before it has had time to harden sufficiently.

More Dutch Oven Tips

Select the topic of interest from the list of links below.

How to choose a Dutch Oven that works best for you

How to cure your Dutch Oven

How to clean and store your Dutch Oven

How to control Dutch Oven temperature

How to tips for cooking a perfect Dutch Oven meal

Now that you've read all the tips and techniques, it's time for you to try your hand at preparing some dutch oven recipes.