Oh no! My dutch ovens were put away without being cleaned correctly!
Cast iron cookware such as dutch ovens need to be seasoned, otherwise their surfaces will rust, and food will stick... they look a lot nicer with the proper patina, too! 'Seasoning' is a process where fat is polymerised at high temperature. This Instructable will show you how to properly season your dutch oven at home so that it will last the entire cooking season... so long as you remember to clean it properly! This technique can also be used to season ovens for the first time, please see notes further on in the description.
We used a gas barbecue to season our ovens. This is the preferred type of oven to use. If you don't have access to one, you can use an indoor oven, but it will create a lot of smoke. Ensure that the room is very well ventilated at all times. Don't allow fumes to penetrate the house and don't work in the kitchen while there are fumes present.
Step 1: What Is Seasoning?
'Seasoning' is the process by which cast iron cookware is sealed for use. Cast iron is great for dutch ovens, because it withstands and retains heat very well. But it is also porous, especially at high temperature, which means that if it is not seasoned, it will grab at your food, making it stick. As iron is reactive, an unseasoned oven is prone to rust as it absorbs atmospheric moisture. Seasoning involves the polymerisation of oil at high temperature. This adds a protective layer to the surface of the iron, forming a barrier between the iron and the food you are cooking as well as the elements. Seasoning is also referred to as 'sealing' or 'curing' the oven.
Once seasoned, your pan will retain its seasoning so long as it is properly cared for. Each time it is used the seasoning will be enhanced, especially when cooking fatty foods. But if you slip up and need to restore the seasoning, read on! You can also use this instructable to seal your oven for the first time - ensure that you thoroughly scrub the oven beforehand, and repeat the seasoning process several times.
Step 2: Heat Your Dutch Oven
First, clear your pot of any debris. If you are seasoning a new dutch oven for the first time, you will need to scrub it with hot soapy water to remove the layer of wax that protects it during the manufacturing process and shipping, then rinse very thoroughly to remove every last trace of soap. If you are re-seasoning a misused pot, it may need a scrub, or you may just need to brush out any debris from the dry oven.
Then, heat up your dutch oven. The simplest thing to do is place it in the barbecue / oven while it heats up - you need to heat it to around 200C / 375F. Heating the oven drives out any moisture that it has absorbed, either from cleaning or from the atmosphere during storage. It makes the iron more absorbent and receptive to the oil, and will heat the oil when it is applied to the oven, making it easier to distribute.
Step 3: Apply Oil All Over to Your Dutch Oven, Including the Lid
Once the dutch oven is hot, remove it from the heat to apply the oil. It should go without saying, but your dutch oven will be very hot. So be careful when handling, and use an oven glove!
Now you need to apply oil to the entire surface of the oven - not just the inside cooking area, but all round the sides, bottom and both sides of the lid. Use rapeseed (canola) oil, lard or vegetable shortening. Fats with a low smoke point should not be used as they will burn rather than polymerise.
I use a sheet of paper and grip it with a pair of kitchen tongues. Liberally apply oil to the inside and outside of the pan and the lid.
Step 4: Cook Your Pans on High Heat
Carefully place the dutch ovens and lids back into the BBQ. Please be careful as both the pots and BBQ will be very hot.
Smoke will pour from the BBQ during this process but please monitor your temperature as you don't want it to hot.
Step 5: Allow the Pans to Cool and View Your Result
Your pans will be ready when the oil no longer looks wet on the surface and you have a nice looking finish to the pan. When I initially started this process the larger pan had rust, which could be seen inside the pan. This is now replaced by a smart looking black coating.
I have zippered bags in which I store my pans, I will apply a light coating of oil before storing them.