How to Remove Soot from Camping Cookware


Or: How to prevent soot from sticking to your camping cookware!
If you are a camper you have probably used your cast iron Dutch ovens or skillets over the campfire a time or two. Inevitably you have experienced the dreaded soot buildup that occurs when using soft woods such as pine or fir to cook with, not to say that soot buildup can’t happen with other types of campfire woods, but pine and fir are very sooty woods to use. The true solution is to use campfire coals not burning campfire wood to cook with but lets look at what else we can do.

I took a few minutes to ask a question or two on a forum and searched for a few tips and tricks to find some working solutions to the issue of soot on camp cookware. The hands are stacked on preventative maintenance before cooking to prevent soot buildup and several great tips to remove soot once it has claimed space on your cookware.

Campfire soot prevention and removal tips:
Leslie L. If it doesn’t rinse off and is sticky, try using a wet wash cloth or Scotch-Brite scour pad and a bit of soap then rinse thoroughly.

Charlie N. I think I see the dilemma here, soot will accumulate on the bottom of your DO if you use it over a wood fire instead of using charcoal briquettes. Unless you a ready to strip off the seasoning and start from scratch again, I know of no better way to make it less of a mess than to start with a dry cloth to remove as much soot as possible, then start with a clean cloth and some hot water to try to get as much of the rest as possible. I personally would not want to coat the bottom of the pot with dish soap in order to make cleanup easier next time, although that is an option.

Charlie N. What we DO hobbyists seem to forget is that the seasoning on the inside of the pot is what is important. I’m as guilty as anyone to want cast iron that is jet black, smooth and shiny all over. Photos of real working chuckwagon DO’s show a pretty rugged looking exterior and old skillets used on a wood stove are encrusted with a thick carbon scale on the bottom. You may want to check with our Australian counterparts at the COCIA website to see what they do.

Paul L. Spray on oven cleaner

Tom M. spray on some PAM and wipe off whatever will come off…let dry or set on the stovetop for a bit and you’ll be ready to go.

Chuck N. Here is a remedy to try that works on the glass windows of my fireplace. I haven’t needed to try it on a Dutch oven but it’s worth a try. Take a rag an wet it in a bowl of water. Dip the rag into wood ashes then scrub the outside of your Dutch oven with it. Sounds crazy but it remove soot and smoke stains from glass with little effort. Just keep applying ash with a wet rag until the soot it cleaned off. It shouldn’t require much elbow grease. Rinse with water when done.

Preston W. I use a potato and salt. Takes off all the rust, soot and cleans the surface sterile.

J Loomis. I cook with an aluminum pot in the fire on most of my back-country trips. I wait till I get home and clean the outside of the pot with rubbing alcohol. It takes off most the sticky residue and black soot fairly easily.

S Randall.I have found that with cast Iron and the black soot that forms on the bottom of them , If you pour some vegetable oil on a rag or some paper towel and spread it around on the cast iron mixed in with the soot then leave it on low heat or the coals of a fire , this will help to season your cast iron and blacken it really nice . I also have use melted bees wax and soot and that works real good .

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