Soils contaminated with organic chemicals are now widespread in industrialized and developing countries, and the risk assessment and remediation of such contaminated sites is a priority. However, containment and remediation strategies are complicated in many cases by the range of contaminants present and the historical nature of the contamination. Research has increased our understanding of the behaviour of organic contaminants in soil and the factors that control their behaviour. There is a fundamental need to understand and, where possible, quantify the bioavailable fraction as well as the total concentration of contaminant present in soil: the bioavailable fraction is key to toxicity or biodegradation. To quantify these fractions, a large number of techniques have been employed, ranging from organic and aqueous based solvent extractions to the use of biota. Many studies have been carried out investigating the use of chemical techniques to describe bioavailability, which could be used in the assessment and remediation of contaminated land. The aim of this review is to consider the behaviour of organic contaminants in soil, highlighting issues of bioavailability, and then to discuss the relevance of the various methods for assessing risk and potential remediation of organic contaminants in soil.