If you are like me and you’re very attached to your cast iron cookware, you won’t let anything happen to it.
Even while you’re roughing it on a camping trip.
Not only that, but you also want to preserve that hard-earned seasoning that you’ve spent so much time building up.
That being said, how exactly does one go about cleaning cast iron while camping?
How to Clean Cast Iron While Camping
For simple cleaning, you don’t even need to wash your pan, but instead, you can wipe it down with a paper towel or cloth. For more stubborn particles, use a little warm water and a cast iron brush. Alternatively, make a paste with salt and warm water and use it as an abrasive to remove any stuck food.
Wiping Down your Cast Iron
If you notice that there are no sticky or burnt food bits after using your cast iron, you don’t even need to wash it.
Instead, give it a thorough wipe down with a clean, warm, damp cloth or piece of paper towel.
This should be sufficient to remove any remaining liquid, sauce, or food and preserve your cast iron’s seasoning.
Washing your Cast Iron with Warm Water
The first rule of cast iron is that you never use cold water with cast iron. Cold water to a hot pan can crack it, which would be disastrous.
If you’re trying to remove stubborn food particles, warm water is the way to go. That being said, I’m not talking about boiling water, as this can damage your seasoning.
Rather, use a little warm water on the surface of your pan and massage loose burnt and sticky food pieces with steel wool or a cast iron brush.
Once they’ve relinquished their holding power, rinse your pan once again with warm water and wipe it down with a clean cloth.
Cleaning your Cast Iron with Salt Paste
If your wipe-down or warm water efforts are not having the desired effect, you can turn to the salt paste method to help you on your way to a clean pan.
This is a simple trick. Just combine some salt with a bit of warm water until a slurry forms.
Using your cast iron brush or steel wool, rub the salt paste over tough food bits until they loosen.
Once the entire pot or pan is clean, rinse it with warm water and wipe it down.
A salt paste is a far better solution for cleaning cast iron than liquid soap. In fact, if possible, keep liquid soap away from your cast iron altogether.
After Cleaning Care
I’m sure you’ve heard of or witnessed people coating their cast iron with a thin layer of oil. This is a great idea, especially while camping and exposing your pots and pans to the elements.
Wiping the surface of your cast iron with oil will keep it smooth and help preserve your seasoning. Furthermore, it also creates a neutral taste.
It’s best to do this while your pan is still warm, as this allows the oil to absorb into the porous matter of the cast iron to its full potential.
It also protects the surface of the cast iron from drying out, especially if it’s exposed to the sun or wind for prolonged periods.
What if I Can’t Get it Clean: What to do
While camping, you don’t have the same resources as when you’re home in the comfort of your kitchen. And that’s okay.
All you need to do is keep your cast iron as clean as possible with the tools at your disposal, and the rest you can sort out when you get home.
Fortunately, cast iron is quite durable, and unless you repeatedly burn food into its surface, your cast iron is likely to survive a few days until you get home and can clean it properly.
Why is the Way you Clean Cast Iron Important
The cast iron enthusiasts among us will agree that how we clean a pot or pan goes a long way to preserving its hard-won “seasoning.”
Seasoning refers to the flavors that become embedded in cast iron’s porous material, which, over time, impart their taste to the food cooked in it.
Strangely enough, a build-up of seasoning also creates a relatively non-stick surface in your pan or pot.
For this reason, the last thing you want on your camping trip is to scrub away your cast iron’s seasoning accidentally or because you don’t have the correct cleaning resources at your disposal.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Clean Cast Iron While Camping
Why is it good to take along cast iron cookware when camping?
Cast iron can be used over an open flame or on a camping stove, making it ideal for a camping adventure. It is unlikely to suffer any damage from intense, direct heat, unlike stainless steel cookware, which is not guaranteed to recover.
How do I store my cast iron while I’m camping?
Cast iron should be stored wrapped in paper. You never want to keep cast iron in such a way that moisture can access it, as this will cause it to rust. Therefore, it’s not advisable to wrap it in a towel or plastic.
Why is it that food sticks on my cast iron pan?
Food may stick to your cast iron if you haven’t used enough fat or if it has a high sugar content, so these are two factors to look out for. The better-seasoned a pan is over time, the less likely food is to stick to it, so age and use also play a role.
When it comes to cooking while camping, cast iron is your best bet.
Not only will your food taste great, but it is also relatively easy to keep this iron cast cookware clean while on the move.