Dutch oven cooking can produce some of the best, most flavorful food in the world, food that will satisfy all who taste it and make all appreciate the style of cooking. When the meal is over, however, there is still a bit of work to be done in cleaning the Dutch oven. This part of the process is not nearly so appetizing or exciting, but it does not have to be the pure drudgery that some make it out to be. Cleaning a Dutch oven can, in fact, be quite easy. If done the right way, one can have the oven cleaned in no time, and will be free to get back to the joys of camping or sitting around and talking in the wake of a great meal.
If using an aluminum pan to cook over a campfire in the Dutch oven style, cleaning is fairly typical. This is already an easy process; it just requires a bit of strength and determination. Water and soap are the best things to use, and then one must just scrub the pan as hard as possible. This may take some time, but is a pretty easy and simple way to clean. Letting the pan soak first will not hurt, and could in fact make the cleaning very much easier. The sitting water will break up whatever residue is left in the pan, and will almost make it float off when the water is dumped out. There will still be some harder material on the bottom, where it will have burned or cooked to the pan, but this is unavoidable. Soaking will even help this hardest of residue, though, as it will be partially broken up and will then be able to be scrubbed out faster.
Using a cast iron cooking pan, as so many people do, is where there are new and different steps that will make the cleaning process easier than it has ever been. The first step, though it may sound strange, is to put the oven back onto the coals. Some people will feel that this is just going to burn the food further, causing it to stick, and they are partially correct. It certainly will burn the food further. If one leaves the oven on the coals for a half an hour, though, it will burn the food so far that it will turn into ash. This ash can then be scrapped out with a metal spatula in very little time at all.
Next, one wants to fill the oven with water. It is important not to use soap at this stage, even if that sounds like a good way to break up the stubborn material. Soap has a way of seeping into the pours of a cast iron oven, where the taste will linger and then leak into the next meal. This could ruin a great bit of food when one again tries to use the Dutch oven. Instead, one should add water alone, and then set the oven again into the fire. The coals themselves are one’s biggest asset in the cleaning process. The water will start to show small bubbles, just before the point when it wants to start boiling, and will be ready.
Take the oven back out of the fire as soon as the small bubbles appear. Dump the water, and be careful; it will be very hot! After it has been dumped out, all of that material on the pan will have been broken up almost entirely, and a little scrubbing with a metal spatula or a scouring pad should get the rest of it. Dry the pan after it is clean, either with paper towel or just with the open air, and then oil it so that it is ready to be used again.
Using the fire to one’s advantage, cleaning a Dutch oven takes only a little time and very little effort.