Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn...

The other day, as I was cleaning my dutch ovens, I realized that one of them was loosing its patina.

For those that are new to dutch oven cooking, the "patina" is that deep, rich black coating that builds up on a dutch oven over time. it keeps the iron from rusting, and keeps the food from sticking. I'm dead serious when I say that a well-seasoned dutch oven is a better non-stick pan than most teflon.

The patina is made from carbonized oils. The heat bakes layer after layer of carbonized oil into the pores of the iron. I've also read that it makes for better heat transfer from the pot to the food.

But for some reason, the patina on this particular dutch oven was flaking off. That's a bit of a problem, but not too much. See, if the teflon flakes off of your skillet, you throw it away or give it to the Goodwill. If the patina flakes off your cast iron, you just remake it.

So, that's what I'd decided to do. Now,I wrote about this a while back, but I didn't have any pictures. So, I made sure that I took some this time.

Here are a couple of shots of what it looked like before:

And this is what it looked like during the process:

And here is my end result:

It occured to me as I was seasoning the oven and thinking about writing this blog post that one of the reasons why the oven needs more seasoning is because of the way that I put my ovens away. I've heard of a lot of different ways of cleaning and storing the dutch ovens.

My method is to scrape out the food (not too difficult, since it's so non-stick), then spray it off with very hot water. I'll sometimes scrub with a plastic-bristle brush. I'll wipe it off with paper towels. Then, while it's still somewhat hot, I'll spread a ery vthin layer of oil (usually canola), over the whole surface, and put it away.

I've heard of ovens going rancid with the oil, but then that's usually because of longer term storage, and I'm using these things like every other week, some of them weekly or even twice a week.

I've heard of people cleaning them out and then reheating them. I even saw one friend of mine scrub his out with salt granules. I was amazed to see that it worked really well!

What do you do? How do you clean and put away your ovens? Help me out, here...


  1. Yikes (and shame), mine is in a plastic bag on the floor of the garage awaiting our first camping trip of the season. I've got big plans for it this summer!

  2. Mark, I used to do the same thing... clean it with a brillo pad, wipe it dry and then coat it with a fine layer of oil. I never had oil go rancid, but my patina never seemed to properly developed.

    Flash forward Father's day last year... Missla bought me a dutch oven cookbook, and it said not to coat the oven after cooking, once it is seasoned, just wipe it dry and put it away with a paper towel inside. This will absorb any moisture. I wipe mine with oil before cooking and have had the best success since. I bought a cheapo DO from Army Navy, and have developed a patina an outdoor chef can be proud of.

    Good luck!

  3. And this makes a lot of sense. You put the oil on before cooking, and the heat of the coals during cooking helps develop more patina...

    And, Joie, let us know what you cook in yours once it's out of the garage!


  4. I wish you wouldn't tell folks that their black cast iron pan is better than non-stick, cause I get the best pans from flea markets and good wills and if folks new our secret, they would keep them.
    My biggest blackest, most loved pan I bought for $3. LOL

  5. I just realized right now after looking at your pans and reading your post that my mom's ovens look the same as yours.

    My mom usually will overnight soak it with soap then scrub on the next day.

  6. Selba,

    I would try to get your Mom to kick the soap habit... I only use soap on a dutch oven when I want to strip off the patina and reseason it. If you think about it, pioneers used cast iron as their primary cooking pot, and they might've had lye-based soap, but it would have been a luxury. Just get the food out, wipe it down good with warm cloth, dry it completely and store it with a paper towel inside.

    Happy Dutching!

  7. I usually rinse it out, scrub out the food particles, rinse it again, dry it off, and put it away with the lid off-center. It's worked well for me.

    I recently had to attempt at a partial reseason. The bottom of mine was losing the patina. (I think I'm cooking a bit on the acidic side) I spread a little oil in the bottom, then heated it up on the stovetop, then let it cool off. It looks fine- I just need to check on how it holds up when cooking.



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