Learn easy tips for getting your camp cookware clean without damaging your pans

When you’re on a camping trip and on dish duty, you’re likely to have dirty cast iron skillets after cooking breakfast or dinner. Conventional wisdom on how to clean cast iron cookware holds that you should not use regular soap. Instead, this simple technique teaches you how to clean cast iron pans in four easy steps.

First, pour hot water—and not any soap!—into the dirty cast iron skillet to remove stuck-on food. Cast iron cookware has a beautiful non-stick patina that builds up when you season it over time. You don’t want to clean it with soap, because the soapy water would remove that patina. Anyhow, once you’ve poured the hot water into your cast iron pan, give it a scrub with a soft sponge—not steel wool; we recommend a nylon mesh pad variety, as it won’t scratch the non-stick surface of the skillet. If you have a cast iron skillet with a lot of grease residue (from having cooked something like bacon), use paper towels to wipe out excess oil first, as that avoids a build-up of dirty water; then scrub it the same way described above.

Your second step is to rinse the skillet. Have a collapsible bucket filled with hot water on hand. Dunk your cleaned skillet inside to rinse off any dirt or murky water.

Third, place your rinsed skillet on your camping stove and heat it to dry off the moisture so that the skillet does not rust.

Lastly, with a paper towel, rub a little bit of oil (canola oil would suffice) all over the skillet’s cooking surface in order to seal its pores and prevent it from rusting and maintain its patina.