Words and Pictures by Joel and Jinna Baik
Here is my time-tested method of cleaning and caring for my cast iron – all done over a campfire and without needing a kitchen.
Note: There are varying cleaning products and methods, but one universal fact is to never leave moisture on the cast iron …unless you happen to enjoy the taste of rust on your food.
• Cast Iron (obviously…)
• Hot handle holder (if it’s a cast iron pan with a handle)
• Gloves (heat resisting)
• Grill brush
• Coffee Grinds (optional)
• Oil (Canola spray)
• Paper towel
After cooking is completed…
1) Scrape off burnt food (if needed) – Depending on what you cooked, some left over burnt food stuck on the cast iron is normal. Scrape off as much of the burnt food as possible with a spatula and then toss it into trash. Avoid burning food in the campfire, unless it can be completely burned up.
2) Wash with water, not soap – Put on gloves to protect against burns. Place the cast iron over the campfire and then add some water into the pan. When the water starts to sizzle, start scrapping off any remaining burnt food with a spatula. Carefully pour out the water right next to the campfire where it will eventually evaporate in the heat. Don’t pour water directly on the campfire, as we still need the fire. As mentioned before, any remaining burnt food should be tossed in the trash or campfire to completely burn.
If you happen to enjoy brewing coffee outdoors, then save the coffee grinds for cleaning. The coffee grinds act as a scrub. I’ve never heard anyone say they can taste coffee in the food that I cook …not that that would be a bad thing.
If the burnt food is especially stubborn, then you can use the grill brush instead - but I’ve found that spatula is usually sufficient.
Never use soap … unless you happen to enjoy the taste of soap in your food. Some people online say that soap is fine, but the 600 degrees Fahrenheit campfire is hot enough to kill all the bacteria. Plus soap would just make the process harder and require more water.
Depending on how badly the burnt food is stuck, you may need to repeat. If you have a well-seasoned cast iron, then there shouldn’t be much food that gets stuck.
3) Seasoning – Do a final quick rinse of the cast iron and then put on the fire until all the water has completely dried. Then remove the cast iron from the heat. While the cast iron is still hot, season the cast iron by adding a little canola oil and spreading it all over the cast iron with a paper towel. A spray can of canola oil works very well for this. This helps protect the cast iron and preps it for the next time you cook!