Ask the Gear Guy

How to keep pots clean

blackpotsHow do you keep pots from your mess kit from turning black when using them over a fire?

– Seared Sandi in Hamburg, N.Y.

A: Don’t cook over a fire! Just kidding — sort of. Actually, cooking over a camp stove is the best way to avoid blackened pots. Plus it’s more efficient and better for the environment. That said, we asked Mike Glavin of GSI Outdoors Inc., which makes some of the best camp pots, for tips on keeping your pots clean when cooking over campfires: “Rub bar soap on the pots before use, and try to keep your pots on a coal-bed, away from open flames. They will still get sooty, but the soap helps keep the soot from sticking — allowing for easier cleanup.

Comments about “How to keep pots clean”

  1. Lizardman says:

    Here’s a backwoods trick; let it get black. Simply soap and water off the loose stuff. The darker it gets, the more evenly it heats. Also, the darker it gets, the more outdoor expert you look. The “tenderfoot / greenhorn” has shiny everything (shoes, pack, tools, etc). I keep my black bottomed cookware in a pull string pouch.

  2. Anonymous says:

    what gets it off if you havent done the soap trick?

  3. Sly Fox says:

    Soap your good pots: Dawn works best, Camp Suds works so-so. To avoid all of this, I have our boys use food-service cans with bail wire handles. That way once the campout is over, simply toss the can; no washing.

  4. cardeju says:

    what I need to know is what to do if a coating of liquid dish soap did not work well & tha pan is borrowed. we would like to return as it came to us & so that is not possible. have used soap & water, baking soda, SOS pads, green scrubbers &

    Scotchbrite erasing pads. any ideas?

    • eagle7-25-10 says:

      my troop does coat the bottom and the sides of our pots with dishsoap before cooking to prevent the pot itself from turning black. it does char the soap, but it is a lot easier to remove the soap from the pot rather than the char from the pot itself

  5. NeoCamper says:

    When hubby & I were first dating he went to the BWCA and brought back the blackened pots for me to clean (gee thanks hon) and the soap trick did wonders! Only they didn’t put it up the sides far enough and there was still some scorching, but the soap did wonders. They used liquid soap and put on a good thick coat.

    Its just too bad that cast iron is so heavy .. there’s nothing quite like cast iron cooking! But if you have to pack it to your campsite, it gets too heavy too quickly

  6. young scouter says:

    i agree with prez down there leave them be

  7. Old Scouter says:

    Anakin – the black soot from a campfire tends to stick on whatever it touches. If you coat the outside of your pot with soap (we always used liquid soap when I was a kid) the campfire soot will stick to the soap. The pot will still look a mess, but when it comes to clean-up time the soap washes right off the pot and the soot goes away with the soap.

  8. anakin says:

    why does soap help

  9. Baddog in Brandon,SD says:

    Soap anyware except for cleaning is a mess and eventually gets into the food! My solution is to cover the grill the pots and pans go on with foil. The heat will go thru it the soot will pass around. Remember, foil is your friend. Use it often. We line the inside of our dutch ovens with it when baking and clean up is a breeze! Also, do not throw it away! Foil is 100% recyclable, add it to your soda cans and other aluminum to be recycled and earn funds for that next camp out! Oh, don’t forget to feed the Dog!

  10. Prez says:

    Let your pots blacken. It makes them heat more efficiently, especially if they are shiny uncoated aluminum or steel. Darker colors absorb more heat, try wearing a black t-shirt, and then switch to a white one on a hot day. You can feel the difference. Thats why they make solar panels black, so they take in more energy from the sun. The soot might get on your stuff inside your pack, but to solve that problem just put them in a trash bag.


    Try using dish degergent as twotall2 said also

    try army mess kits as well my friend has one they don’t blackin as easily

  12. Running in the back country says:

    Liquid or bar soap will work, however you must stress to the Scouts to soap only the OUTSIDE of the pot!

  13. Sanhak says:

    I have never used that!

  14. twotall2 says:

    Liquid Dish soap works as well,that’s what I’ve been taught and teach,Straight out of the bottle rubbing it all over just the outside of pots/pans BEFORE EACH use.

  15. awsomescout says:

    i dosent really matter if the bottom of the kit is black it wont hurt it…and i think army mess kits are the best

  16. scout boy says:

    buy an army mess kit

  17. agent doolin, C.I.A. says:

    perfect for backpacking

  18. 007 says:

    My father bought me 2 metal mess kits and they bend easily. Then we went to the store and bought me a thick metal mess kit. Now my new mess kit shouldn’t bend at all.

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