We all love to camp here: setting up the tent, cooking around the fireplace.
However, which of us really likes to scrape out food gunk from our camping cookware?
Our wager would be nobody.
How do you make the cleaning process easier? May there be a way to avoid it entirely?
We have come to your rescue with our cleaning guide below, including some avoidance tactics.
In order to help you out further, this first short guide is specifically for removing burnt food from any of your equipment in your camp kitchen.
*Pro tip: Remember, whether backpacking in the wilderness or car camping, your impact on that environment is your choice. Opt for biodegradable soap to keep it clean.
Titanium Camping Cookware
Fill the titanium pan with water and bring it to a boil. This allows the burnt material to soften through.
Take the titanium pan off and add small amounts of liquid detergent.
When you clean out the titanium pan, do it with a nylon scouring pad to reduce the negative impact on your cookware.
Boil water in the titanium pan once more to keep the TiO2 coating on the pan effective.
When using titanium cookware over a camping stove, which is recommended, try to keep an eye on the food.
Obviously, mistakes may be made, food could burn, and then following these tips will give you a way out from a hard deep clean at the end of your trip.
To clean cast iron pans, simply make sure that you have some sea salt packed into your supplies.
When it comes time, sprinkle a healthy dose of the salt into the cast iron pan and scrub the pan out with a non-abrasive pad or washcloth.
Cast iron cookware can be a bit touchy when it comes to being cleaned out with any sort of harsh cleaner.
Stainless Steel Camping Cookware
Stainless steel cookware tends to present easier solutions than some other varieties.
Similar to titanium cookware, fill the stainless steel pan with water, except this time add baking soda before bringing it to a boil.
Allow it to boil for about half an hour. If you have limited fuel, bring it to a boil for a couple of minutes and then let the stainless steel pot or pan and water mix sit and soak in for another half hour without the heat.
Afterwards, it should come off easily with a non-abrasive towel.
Enamel Camping Cookware
Absolutely avoid using any sort of chemicals when it comes to enameled cookware.
Instead, use the easy fix that was cited above with the stainless steel cookware.
Add some baking soda to water.
Let it simmer.
Gently wash out the enamel pot.
Aluminum Camping Cookware
Mix together some baking soda with your biodegradable soap. Pour it into the aluminum pan, mix up some water and let it soak in for a while.
If this doesn’t work, grab some vinegar and fill your aluminum pot or pan ⅔ of the way.
Allow this to boil, but not for more than 15 minutes.
Brushing out the burnt food with a non-abrasive material should be easy from here.
Since, several different ingredients can be used to effectively clean out burnt food from aluminum camping cookware it is one of the easiest to get clean.
If your fuel supply is limited, be patient and let it soak for longer in the baking soda and soap mix.
Similar to the methods used for aluminum cookware above, gather some water, vinegar and baking soda together.
Add equal parts water and white vinegar into the hard-anodized aluminum pan so that it covers all of the leftover residue.
Add some baking soda.
Boil for about 10 minutes, not more than 15 minutes.
Brush out the remaining residue. Wah-lah!
Titanium Camping Cookware
Regarding titanium camping cookware, you can go all-natural with a mixture of lemon juice and table salt. Soak a rag in lemon juice, sprinkle the titanium pan with a large helping of table salt and get to work.
Another great option is “Bar Keepers Friend”. This is an extremely handy kitchen cleaner, more natural and proven to be 100% safe for use on cookware.
If this is your chosen weapon, follow the instructions on the container to get the best results.
An easy trick when cleaning cast iron cookware is to take a paper towel and spray it down with cooking oil.
Wipe down the cast iron pan repeatedly until there isn’t any black soot coming off with the paper towel.
Paper towels will be easy to pack into your supplies if car camping.
If you are backpacking with a cast iron pan, bring a bag to keep your pan in until you return home and can clean the cast iron pan off thoroughly.
If black soot is remaining stubbornly stuck to the exterior of your steel pan, soaking the stainless steel pan in water with a little biodegradable dish soap may be effective.
If not, this is another great job for “Bar Keeper’s Friend”. Follow the provided directions and wipe the stainless steel pan clean within minutes when cleaning stainless steel.
Enamel Camping Cookware
When you use enamel cookware, soak the exterior in a mixture of water with a little soap in it.
Due to the smooth enamel layer on the outside, the enamel pots will generally be easier to wipe free the soot.
Feel free to add in some white vinegar if you think it is a particularly difficult job.
Dip a cloth rag into the paste and scrub it around your aluminum pot or pan to allow it to soak in. Brush the aluminum pan off with the clean part of the rag or a seperate one.
Hard-Anodized Aluminum Camping Cookware
Taking some dish soap and water after the hard-anodized aluminum with some good old-fashioned elbow grease should work well.
If not, you know what our next answer would be already…
Hard-anodized aluminum has quite a porous nature and should be kept consistently clean. Otherwise, the build-up may become almost undoable.
- Use biodegradable soap
- Pack baking soda and vinegar if you have space in your supplies
- Use Bar-Keeper’s friend to clean off particularly nasty food residue or soot
- Use harsh chemicals on any camping cookware
- Use any abrasive material when washing your cookware out
- Cook over an open fire to avoid soot stains
Cook in Freezer Bags
This is an incredible trick to cooking dishes like egg, fish and vegetable-based recipes. Instead of cooking directly in the pot or pan, add water to it.
Then, add your ingredients into the freezer bag, seal it, and drop it into the pot.
The only thing to clean will be the freezer bag, just to reuse and reduce waste.
Cover Outside of the Pot with Soap Invisible Film
This may be one of the oldest Boy Scout tricks in the book.
Before you put the pan on your cooking stove or over the fire, coat the outside of it with your biodegradable soap.
Then, when it inevitably becomes sooty, it won’t be the pan that is affected, but the soap.
When you go to wash it, the soot will wash off with the soapy layer underneath.
Consider Cast Iron or Titanium Cookware
Cast iron and titanium cookware are regarded as some of the best additions to a camping cookware set.
Titanium pots and pans are a must for backpackers or through hikers.
They are extremely lightweight, being up to 45% lighter than steel and aluminum.
Even with the lightweight quality, you don’t sacrifice strength, meaning that you will have a durable, lightweight addition to your camping kitchen.
Cast iron may be a little heavy to consider as an addition to the kitchen for a backpacker. However, cast iron pans are a perfect fit for car camping.
Cast iron is highly regarded due to its even heat distribution and naturally non-stick surface.
The best thing about cast iron, though, is its durability. If you invest in a cast iron pan then you will be guaranteed to have that pan for a lifetime.
One of the best ways to avoid soot and black tar burning to the outside of your pan is to use a camping stove.
This completely separates you from the materials that commonly cause these stains on the outside of your cooking supplies.
It is just as important in your camping kitchen as it is at home: add oil to your pan before cooking to help ensure a non-stick surface.
It doesn’t take a lot. Allow your pan to heat up slightly. Then, add in just enough oil to coat the entire bottom of your pan.
This keeps flames from licking up the side of your cookware.
Any spilled liquid or solid material that has rested on the outside pan will burn to the side if the flames touch it directly.
It will also help you to avoid discoloration on the outside of titanium cookware.
If you don’t have the exact fit, try to find a camping stove whose burner will be smaller than the bottom surface of most of your pots and pans.
Patience is a key virtue.
Absolutely applicable to remember while cooking!
Give yourself more time and cook it at a lower heat to avoid parts of it to burn to the bottom of the pan.
Your meal will cook through more evenly as well.
The short answer is that you can. But really, you shouldn’t.
Avoiding chemicals helps to increase the life of your cookware, keeps you safer, and keeps the environment cleaner.
When you are backpacking or car camping, it isn’t just important to keep your dishes clean, but to keep the environment clean too.
To do this:
1. Try to keep dirty dishes to a minimum
2. Use biodegradable soap
3. Dig a hole to bury food residue and soap water. This will also help them to break down faster.
4. Use dirt or sand to scour the outside of your cookware.
5. Don’t clean directly in a lake or stream. It will only contaminate the water, even with biodegradable soap.
Arguably, it would be “Bar Keeper’s Friend.”
If you don’t have this on hand, then boil water in a pan to soften any burnt materials and free them with a non-abrasive pan and a small amount of biodegradable soap.
Each material that cookware can be made out of has its own specific qualities.
Knowing what your cookware is made from will help you know how to clean it better.
If you don’t know what material your pot or pan is, try these tips to figure it out.
The difference between stainless steel and aluminum is easy to tell with a magnet test. A magnet will stick to stainless steel, but not aluminum.
Cast iron is easy to figure out since it is one of the heaviest materials and will have a deep black coloring.
Enamel cookware is also easy since it will have an enamel coating on the outside. It won’t have a metal appearance, but instead almost a painted one.
To differentiate between aluminum and titanium, try the scratch test.
Aluminum is a soft metal. Pick an obscure spot and with a hard fingernail or nail, try to scratch a small part of your pot or pan.
If it scratches easily, it is aluminium. If it doesn’t, you have a titanium pot.