Monday, April 9, 2012

Wood Cooking Clean Up

Ever find yourself holding back on using a particular pot or pan for wood cooking?  I mean they do get pretty darned black if you use them on a wood fire.  Sometimes I hesitate to use a pot I usually use with gas or alcohol on a wood stove because I don't want to get the darned thing all black.

Well, hold back no longer.  There's a simple trick out there that can get your pot clean again after cooking on a wood fire.  The trick?  Dish soap.
Putting a thin layer of dish soap on a pot before cooking with wood helps tremendously with clean up
Yep, that's right, just simple old dish soap.  Smear on a thin layer before you head out.  A little dish soap makes clean up go so much easier.

Why bother you say?  It's just going to get dirty again?  Well, and that is one way to handle it.  You could just pack your blackened pot in a sealed plastic bag so soot doesn't get all over.  But I use my pots with multiple fuels (gas, liquid, alcohol, wood, and hexamine).  A coating of soot will insulate your pot from the flame, and you'll have to use more fuel to heat things up.  So, for me, when I'm done with some wood cooking and want to switch to another fuel, I clean my pot.

How well does it work?  Let's have a look.

I'm just going to use an old scrubber type sponge here.  You probably could use steel wool on a steel or titanium pot.  A word of warning:  Whatever you use to clean, you're going to get it very dirty.  You'll probably want to throw the scrubber sponge away afterwards so it won't get other things dirty.  Either that or you'll have to have a designated scrubber sponge for really dirty clean ups.

So, here's my pot.  Pretty black.  Just waiting to get all over the inside of my pack, and pretty inefficient since heat is going to have to penetrate that coating before it heats the pot.
A rather sooty pot that has been used on a wood fire
Let's try a quick scrub with some soap and hot water.
A few scrubs, and bare metal starts to appear
Say, that's not too shabby for a few quick scrubs with an old scrubber sponge.  Makes quite a difference.

Let's try to clean the worst spot, the bottom of the pot.
Quite a marked contrast between the cleaned and the uncleaned sections of the pot
Hey, now that's quite a difference between the upper half of the pot that I've cleaned and the lower half that I have not.

Now, I'd be a liar if I said that it came off like magic.  Nope; it just doesn't work that way.  It takes some real elbow grease.  And, even when I finished cleaning the pot, there were still some little spots of black in the cracks and such.  But try cleaning a pot that's been used for wood fired cooking without first putting some dish soap on it.  The soot is not going to come off anywhere near as easily.

So there's your wood cooking clean up tip:  Smear a little dish soap on the exterior of your pot before you start cooking.  You'll be glad you did come clean up time.

Thanks for joining me on another Adventure In Stoving,



  1. Around 5 or so drops of Dr. B's oil before you put the pot on the fire each time will make it sooo much easier to clean. I just leave a little water in the pot and use it to rub off the bottom of the pot after I am done eating. Almost always results in a nice clean pot going into my stuff sack.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sorry, I can't see a way to edit, but it looks like the Dr. Bronner's soap has coconut oil in it already:

      "The high foaming lather of our soaps is from their high coconut oil content, which makes a more luxurious and rich lather than any detergent can ever create."

      I may have to give this stuff a shot next time I'm out with my Ti-Tri :D

  3. Maybe that's what he meant (the regular Dr. Bonner's soap).


  4. I just returned form a trip on which I finally got to use my Bush Buddy that I had purchased over a year ago. I mated it with a Trangia 2 cup tea kettle. I think these new wood burning stoves burn so efficiently that the soot blackening is not as bad as over an open fire. Wearing a pair of gloves, I used the dry black nylon mesh storage bag and vigorously rubbed the surface. The soot readily fell dry through the mesh. The result was a black polished surface that did not get onto my hands or other gear. Now the question is...Does the black surface now have better heat transfer to the contents? If so, black is good!

  5. Axel,

    Black DOES absorb heat more readily. As long as you don't build up a thick coat, a little black will ADD to your efficiency. If, however, the build up gets thick, the thick build up will act as an insulator and cause you to lose efficiency. In short, keep the build up to a minimum.


  6. I find that the alcohol fuel has a second task. It takes a lot of elbow greas away from the scrubbing. Try it on your sooty pans.
    /John in Umea, Sweden.

  7. Hi, John,

    That sounds like a good idea. I'll have to try it.



My apologies to real people, but due to Spammers I have to moderate comments. I'll get to this as rapidly as possible but do understand that I like to hike and there's no internet in the wilderness. Take care and stove on!