Dutch Oven Storage
Boy Scout units store Dutch Ovens for extended periods of time. Unlike an oven kept and used at home, our Dutch ovens can be affected by long-term storage.
No matter how a Dutch oven is cured, with lard, shortening or an oil (vegetable, canola, corn, etc.), the seasoning is organic.
All organic substances degrade over time (ok … honey is an exception). Given enough time, a Dutch oven’s seasoning will become rancid.
If you can, store your ovens in a climate controlled place (air conditioned in summer and heated in winter with an average temperature around 78 F or cooler). In those conditions, your Dutch ovens will last for longer storage times If you keep your ovens in a trailer during the summer, you probably already know how quickly an oven gets stinky when it’s warm out!
Lard and animal fats spoil the fastest, sometimes as quickly as in two weeks in some climates. If you’ve used lard or animal fat to season (which we strongly recommend Scout units do not do), you have an oven that produces the best tasting food, but you have to use it weekly to keep the seasoning from going bad.
Seasoning done with shortening lasts longer, but may start to spoil after four or five weeks. At the same time, some people have reported their ovens have never gotten rancid after curing with shortening. You should check your oven before each use, just to make sure it’s okay.
From practical experience in our unit, vegetable oils consistently seem to last upwards of eight weeks. Twelve weeks is outside the comfort zone. The other benefit is that ovens cured with oils almost always just require a good cleaning to get the oven back into use. The only drawback to using a vegetable-based oil is that the seasoning sometimes gets a little tacky, or sticky. This isn’t problem inside the oven, but can make the exterior collect dirt quicker.
So what do you do if you need to store your Dutch oven for six months and have it ready to go when you pull it out again? Buy some light-weight, food-grade Mineral Oil and coat the oven, inside and out. It’s cheap and effective. Once you’ve sealed the oven with mineral oil, no oxygen can reach the seasoning and it will last many months.
What do you do if your Dutch oven smells nasty? You’ll want to try cleaning it extra well (see CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS). If you are moderately lucky, when you dump out the water and dry the oven, you’ll be rid of the smell. Heat up the oven to force out all the moisture, recoat it with oil and go on your merry way.
If your luck is running against you and the oven still stinks, you can try boiling water in it at a hard roll for 10-15 minutes. If that doesn’t work, you will have to re-season the oven.
If food from your oven ever tastes metallic, rust has set in and your Dutch oven must be re-seasoned.