DUTCH OVEN SEASONING
A Dutch oven needs to be seasoned before its first use. Once done, you needn’t re-season a cast-iron Dutch oven again unless the coating is damaged or contaminated with soap. You might want to season (or cure) your Dutch oven on a nice day when you can open windows and doors to air out your house as baking on the seasoning generates smoke and odors. With just a little care, a single seasoning can last a lifetime and it will just keep getting better with age.
Before starting on the Dutch oven, prepare your kitchen oven by lining the bottom with aluminum foil to catch any excess oil that drains off the oven later. Then, pre-heat your kitchen oven to 150ºF.
Wash a new Dutch oven in hot, soapy water to wash off the clear, food-grade protective wax coating the factory applies to prevent rusting. A green 3M scrub pad works well to get down to the bare metal and remove any rust (if you don’t have one, you can use steel wool, but we prefer to not use metal inside a Dutch oven). Do not be bashful about scrubbing the oven … inside and out … you must remove ALL of the wax! Wash it two or three times, rinsing well between.
If you are reconditioning an older Dutch oven, after cleaning it with soap and water, get some fine grit sandpaper (400 or so) and sand all the metal, inside and out, legs and handle, too. You want to remove as much of the old seasoning as is reasonable (a rotary wire brush on a drill works, too, but sure creates a mess). Wash the oven again with soap and water to get all traces of metal particles and oils off the metal.
Immediately after washing, dry the oven thoroughly by putting it in the 150 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Don’t let the oven sit around after washing … go straight from draining the rinse water into the oven. Cast iron starts to rust instantly. Once it is visibly dry in the oven, remove it and let it cool a few minutes until it is just warm enough to handle without burning yourself.
Use a good grade of olive or vegetable oil. Canola oil and corn oil work very well. [Some people use lard or another shortening like Crisco. In fact, Lodge recommends using lard. Lard and Crisco both produce superior coatings. However, we strongly suggest Scouts and Scouters use oil instead as lard and shortening become rancid over time if the oven is not used often enough … see LONG TERM STORAGE]. Do not use butter or margarine to season a Dutch oven!
Soak a paper towel with oil and spread it all over the inside and outside of the entire Dutch Oven, including the lid, legs and corners. Place the lid and oven inside your kitchen oven, with the Dutch oven base upside down. Close the kitchen oven door. Raise the oven’s temperature to 350 degrees F.
Let the Dutch oven bake for at least an hour (an hour and a half is perfect). Reduce the temperature to 200 F and bake another hour. Turn off the oven and let everything cool back down to room temperature with the oven door closed (if you open the oven door, you’ll just fill your house with smoke). It takes a couple hours for the Dutch oven to cool down enough to remove from the oven.
Your Dutch oven is now seasoned and ready for use. Once the metal is at room temperature, place a couple folded paper towels inside the Dutch oven with just a little sticking out to raise the lid just a hair so air can circulate..
A few Dutch oven owners are a bit more fanatical about seasoning their Dutch ovens and repeat the seasoning process (recoating with oil and baking) two more times to give the Dutch oven an extra thick first coating. Ovens given this treatment seem to hold up better in the outdoor environment. It’s not essential; however, the seasoned coating will naturally build over time with use.