I cook with cast iron daily, and have a bunch of it at our field school for students to use. There are many good reasons why I think cast iron is superior cookware, both at home and on the campfire. And with all those benefits comes one major drawback; disposable cleaning and upkeep products.
When I clean my cast iron, I use a mildly-abrasive scrubby pad to remove any food, rinse with hot water, dry, reheat, then drizzle some fat or oil into the pan and spread it around with a paper towel. (Years ago we stopped calling them paper towels in camp and began calling them dutch oven wipes, and we still do.) I’ve been doing it for 20 years and it works great. The more you use the pan, the better the seasoning gets. But I only get a few weeks out of the scrubbie pads before they’re junk, and the paper towels are junk after one use. We burn them in the rocket stove, but it’s still wasteful. Not cool in my opinion, there has to be a better and less wasteful way.
So I’m trying something new. I’m planning to spend the winter using a stainless steel chainmail instead of the scrubbie pads, and a silicone basting brush instead of the paper towels. Neither of these will last forever, but they should last much, much longer than my previous system. Since they’ll no longer be used on cast iron, kitchen scrubbies should last much longer, and I’ll no longer have to carry paper towels on expeditions or keep them around the field school. Stay tuned for the results in a few months.
Do you have a cast iron cookware maintenance system that doesn’t use disposable products such as paper towel? If so, I’d love to hear about it.