Restoring a Smoke-Covered Pan

Restoring a Smoke-Covered PanIf you want to keep your aluminum pans looking like new but you use them for camping, one problem is how to undo years of smoke damage. It isn't too difficult; all it takes are some household items.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Large pan with enough water to cover dirty pans
  • Cream of tartar or vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Damp rag
  • Dish detergent
Step 1
Boil the pan in water and vinegar, or cream of tartar. This will remove soot with virtually no scrubbing. (Cream of tartar is actually a powder, sold in the spice aisle.) Put the pans in a pot, pour in water until the pans are covered, and stir in about 2 tbsp. cream of tartar or vinegar for every 1 qt. water. Bring this to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
Step 2
After about a half hour, pull the pans out carefully and wipe them with a wet rag. Most, if not all, of the soot will wipe off. Repeat this as needed, changing to a fresh solution if the current one seems to have lost its effectiveness.
Step 3
Pay attention to inside corners and the area just below the lip of the pot when cleaning. These are often the toughest areas to clean. Wipe gently with a damp rag dipped in baking soda, and the stains should wipe off easily.
Step 4
Consider another technique, although it's not recommended for everyone: Rub the pans with steel wool to make them look brand new, albeit dented. Give everything a good washing in dish detergent and hot water to finish cleaning the inside and to wash away stainless steel particles that will rust if left on the outside.

Tips & Warnings

If you never want to have this problem again, wipe the outside of the pan in liquid dish detergent before you put it over a fire. After that, you can put the pan over the fire as many times as you want, and the whole mess washes off like a dream when you get home. Re-coat the next time you put the pan over a fire.
Stay away from the dishwasher. At best, the detergent will take away the shine. At worst, the pans will come out black.
Do not use oven cleaner.

Article Written By Jeff Day

Jeff Day is a backbacker, fly fisherman and former canoe guide. He is a full-time freelance writer in Bucks County, Pa. and recently won the Robert Traver Award for fly-fishing writing.

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