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Volcanic Rocks to Clean Cooking Pans

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SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- The rough, jagged surface of a rather large rock was being scrubbed back and forth across the top of a dirty grill in a pupusaria in Suchitoto. Suds of soap rose in the rock’s wake, and a girl stood at the helm, pushing the cleaning stone back and forth over the business surface of the dirty grill. I stood and watched as a rock was being used as a brillo pad.

Using a rock to clean a grill

The rock looked to be volcanic in origin, and was perhaps what we would refer to as a cinder bomb in the southwest of the USA. It was probably violently expended from the innards of some volcano some centuries ago. It now found its way into a pupusaria in El Salvador doing the dirty work for a piece of steel wool. The surface of the rock was rough, a little sharp, jagged, and gritty. For anyone who has ever climbed up a volcano, this rock was probably not much different than what you found tearing up your boots under foot. It was the perfect dish cleaning reinforcement.

I watched the girl scrub the grill with the rock. The burnt cheese, encrusted meat, the grit and the grime came off as though following a strict order. The solidified chunk of lava turned sponge torn every invading element from the grill in a matter of a few hearty backstrokes from the girl.

In a few moments it was all clean.

Better than a sponge

I watched on, rather impressed by the quick job this rock did on the surface of the grill. I cannot say that I ever considered using a rock to clean my dishes before. Though I must admit that it made perfect sense: rough surfaces clean the grit off of pots and pans, when you want to remove chunks of burnt matter from a cooking surface, you want the roughest implement you can find. I am sure that these volcanic rocks have some of the roughest surfaces that can be access from nature. Brillo pads, steel wool, and scrub brushes were no match for what this rock in terms of being able to clean off a dirty grill. Miraculously, perhaps, the surface of the grill did not seem at all damaged by the onslaught — though it was just a sheet of steel

Crude rocks are still in common usage as tools in El Salvador. I have noticed rocks being used for three or four different things around kitchens alone: from smashing ice to kneading dough to cleaning pots and pans. Rocks are everywhere, why not use them.

Every kitchen in El Salvador seems to have its own set of rocks.

Stone used for smashing ice

Mondern grinding slab for kneading dough

Grinding slab for kneading dough

El Salvador photos | El Salvador Wiki Vagabond

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Filed under: Central America, Culture and Society, El Salvador

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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