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How to keep your campfire cookware soot-free

Whether it's hot dogs on a stick, roasted corn, hobo dinners cooked in tin foil or cobbler in a Dutch oven, I love campfire cooking. I'm less thrilled about washing the dishes afterward. In particular, soot from cooking over a wood fire used to coat my pans, turning them - and my hands - a messy, jet black. The stuff was nearly impossible to remove until I remembered a trick I learned as a kid in Girl Scouts.

Liquid dish soap is your friend

To prevent soot buildup, rub a thin layer of liquid dishwashing soap on the outer surface of any piece of cookware that touches fire. You can use a paper towel if you like, but I just use my fingers. Avoid pour spouts, the rim of cookpots and any surface that will touch food, such as skewers and the prongs of your hot dog stick.

The coating should be thin, but even.

Once you've applied the soap, use the piece normally. For the best effect, apply the soap immediately before cooking and place the pan over the fire while the soap is still wet. Soot will still adhere to the surface, but will wipe off easily once it gets wet. Sometimes it wipes off with a dry paper towel.

If you miss a spot, you'll have to scrub the hard way. Try a fine abrasive cleaner such as Barkeeper's Friend or products made for glass cooktops.

This technique works for non-porous metal and enamel-coated cookware. Do not try this on the inside of your cookware, and be careful with porous metals such as cast iron. I've used this method with a Dutch oven, but I'm not sure I'd try it with something thinner, like a griddle.


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