I’m going to share a deep dark secret with you. I have put my enameled Dutch oven in the dishwasher. Whew! it feels good to get that off my chest.
Is it the best practice? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take a look at what happens when you put Dutch ovens in the dishwasher, and if it’s worth the risk.
Are Dutch Ovens Dishwasher Safe?
It depends. Natural or seasoned cast iron Dutch ovens should never go in the dishwasher. Enameled cast iron is dishwasher safe according to most manufacturers, although the dishwasher detergent can dull the enamel. Best practice is to wash enameled cast iron (like Le Creuset) by hand to keep it in great shape.
What Do the Manufacturers Say?
When you take a look at the product insert that comes with your Dutch oven, it can be a little confusing. Manufacturers often say products are “dishwasher safe” – because it’s great marketing – but then recommend against using the dishwasher.
For instance, Le Creuset writes “dishwasher safe” on its product page, but a little digging reveals that the company recommends hand-washing its enameled cast iron.
The enamel should be able to handle the heat and abrasion of the dishwasher, but hand-washing keeps it more vibrant. It also is less likely to knock against something and chip if you carefully hand wash it.
Staub, similarly, says you can wash its products in the dishwasher, but recommends dish detergent and a sponge for everyday cleaning.
Stainless steel Dutch ovens may go in the dishwasher with no concerns. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations if you have an enameled aluminum or nonstick-coated Dutch oven (like Caraway). In my experience, it’s much safer to hand-wash any kind of nonstick-coated pan.
Why Are Dishwashers Bad for Dutch Ovens?
Most dishwashers reach a maximum temperature of 140-155F (60-68.3C). Most Dutch ovens are rated to 500°F (260°C), so why can’t you just chuck them into the dishwasher? Turns out the water heat isn’t the problem.
Dishwasher detergents are harsher than regular dish soap. They may contain bleach and surfactants, among other ingredients. These will strip the seasoning from your raw cast iron, leaving it unprotected and trapped in a humid environment. This is a recipe for rust. The abrasive detergent will also dull the color of enameled Dutch ovens.
Dishwashers are also violent places! Maybe I don’t load it correctly, but I often hear my dishes knocking together inside the machine while it’s running. This movement could scratch or chip the enamel on a Dutch oven.
How Do You Clean a Dutch Oven?
If you opt not to risk putting your enameled Dutch oven in the dishwasher, or you have a raw cast iron Dutch oven, hand washing is relatively simple. We have a great guide on how to hand wash your Dutch oven and one on how to remove stains from it, too. Essentially, you can wash any Dutch oven with a soft cloth and mild dish soap!
A chainmail-wrapped sponge should never be used on enamel, but it can be used on your raw cast iron Dutch oven to remove stuck-on bits of food.
Your enameled Dutch oven may require boiling water and a few tablespoons of baking soda to get out tricky stains or stuck-on food. There are a few things you can do to make it easier to clean your enameled Dutch oven.
Tips And Tricks For Easier Clean-Up!
- Use parchment paper. When braising, cover the top of the pot with aluminum foil or parchment paper before you put the lid on. Not only does this make your seal tighter, but it also prevents staining on your lid. (If you have a Staub with a steam-cycling lid, you’ll want to skip this step.)
- Don’t use metal utensils. They are likely to scratch your enamel, and food loves to stick to scratched surfaces.
- Wipe it out as soon as it’s cooled! Don’t allow leftover food or grease to hang out in your Dutch oven. As soon as it has cooled, give it a swipe with paper towels to remove leftover bits. This may save you some scrubbing later, and reduce the risk of staining.
- Don’t be afraid to soak it! It’s perfectly ok to soak your enameled Dutch oven. In the case of super-stuck-on food, where soaking alone isn’t doing the trick, I drop half a dryer sheet into the pot. Let it soak for an hour or so and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to remove the burnt-on food. Then just wash it as you normally would.
- Keep it seasoned. Your raw cast iron Dutch oven will benefit from seasoning just like your other cast iron pieces. If food begins to stick, make sure you season the Dutch oven before your next use.
- Try a specially formulated cleanser. Le Creuset and Lodge sell enameled cast iron cleaners. They claim it removes stains and protects the finish. It’s worth a try if soap, water, and baking soda aren’t doing the trick for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get stains or burnt marks off my Dutch oven?
If soap and water aren’t doing the trick, there is an inexpensive way to get stains or marks off your enameled Dutch oven. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, then add 2 heaping tbsp of baking soda. Simmer the mixture for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid and let sit for 15 minutes. Empty the pot and use a nylon scraper to scrub any troublesome spots. After the Dutch oven cools, wash with soap and water.
Is it okay to use dish soap in a Dutch oven?
Yes! You can use dish soap on both cast iron and enameled cast iron Dutch ovens. Just remember that a large amount of soap may strip the seasoning from your cast iron, but it’s easy enough to reseason it, if necessary. For a gentler clean, try an oil-based cast iron soap.
Can you ruin the enamel on a Dutch oven?
There are several ways you can ruin the enamel on your Dutch Oven. Drastic temperature changes can cause it to crack. Heating a dry pot or letting it boil dry can ruin your Dutch oven. Sharp utensils or abrasive cleaning tools, such as steel wool or chain mail, can scratch the enamel. This may cause food to stick or expose the cast iron underneath the enamel. Be careful when storing your Dutch oven, as other pots and pans banging into it can chip the enamel.
Can I put Le Creuset in the dishwasher?
You absolutely can! I have a friend who has washed her Le Creuset Dutch oven in the dishwasher for nearly 18 years now! It still works well and is undamaged. However, repeated cleaning in the dishwasher will dull the color of the enamel, so I prefer to hand-wash mine.
So – are you a bad person if you put your enameled cast iron Dutch oven in the dishwasher? No, definitely not!
Although standard advice is to hand-wash Le Creuset and competitors, many users have been throwing it in the dishwasher for years without significant damage. Just keep in mind that convenience comes with a price – the color of the enamel will fade over time if you use the dishwasher. Never put uncoated or seasoned cast iron in the dishwasher.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments!
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